Major: Paralegal Studies
As a teenager, Julianne Di Benedetto enjoyed debating with teachers and playing “devil’s advocate” with friends.
“I was told by family members and friends that I should go into law,” she said. “But before enrolling in the program at College of DuPage, I didn’t realize that there were career paths in law other than becoming an attorney or judge.”
In fact, when Di Benedetto initially attended COD, her focus was on foreign language. But she took a hiatus from school when she was promoted at her job in retail. She decided to return to school upon realizing she wanted a career change.
“After doing some research, I found the paralegal career, and it sounded perfect! It combined my interest in law with my skill set—writing, organization and attention to detail,” she said. “Soon thereafter I enrolled in my first paralegal class, and I immediately knew that this was the career for me.”
While COD offered a flexible class schedule and was conveniently located near her home and work, Di Benedetto was impressed that the Paralegal Studies program was approved by the American Bar Association.
“For students pursuing a degree or certificate in paralegal studies, enrolling in an ABA-approved program is crucial,” she said. “The ABA has a strict approval process with the purpose of, per their website, ‘develop[ing]… superior paralegal education programs.’ Since the COD Paralegal Studies program is one of these select programs, students can enroll knowing that they will receive a quality education and that they will be prepared to work successfully in the legal field. Employers recognize the importance of this approval, and many require that an applicant’s degree or certificate come from an ABA-approved program.”
During her time at COD, Di Benedetto received two scholarships from its Foundation: the Paralegal Studies Scholarship and the Returning Adult Scholarship. Both helped her pay for classes and textbooks when she was no longer employed full-time.
Di Benedetto earned an Associate in Applied Science degree, graduating with High Honors and a perfect 4.0 GPA in her paralegal classes. She later earned her credential as an Illinois-Accredited Paralegal from the Illinois Paralegal Association.
“I owe a lot to the Paralegal Studies Program. Sally Fairbank, program chair, and Linda Jenkins, adjunct faculty, both helped me find my first job at a bankruptcy and tax law firm. This was almost five years ago, and I am still at that firm today as a senior paralegal. I love what I do. The work is fulfilling, and I enjoy helping our clients.”
COD is still a part of Di Benedetto’s life, as she returned to pursue two certificates in accounting. She recently became certified in QuickBooks and is currently preparing to sit for the NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants) Knowledge Exam for her Certified Paralegal credential. In returning to COD, she joined Paralegal Club and LEX Honor Society again and is the current vice president of Paralegal Club and alumni relations officer for both organizations.
Because of her passion for education and learning, Di Benedetto would like to earn a bachelor’s degree, earn the CORE Registered Paralegal credential from the NFPA (National Federation of Paralegal Associations) and eventually teach a paralegal course to help others prepare for certification exams.
In order to succeed in the Paralegal Studies program, Di Benedetto offers plenty of advice.
“Befriend your fellow students—they will likely be the first contacts that you have once you are ready to enter the workforce. Networking with your classmates can open up doors to internships or employment opportunities,” she said. “Be involved! Join Paralegal Club and LEX Honor Society, especially in an officer position. Both are great additions to your resume and LEX Honor Society demonstrates high academic achievement.
“Subscribe to the Paralegal Studies program blog and Paralegal Club email list. The blog lists job and internship opportunities, many of which are exclusive to the COD program. Emails from Paralegal Club inform students about upcoming events and scholarship opportunities. Finally, start study groups with your fellow students whenever possible. These are a great way to increase your understanding of difficult topics. I was in several study groups as a student, and they were especially helpful to me!”
Di Benedetto thanks the faculty of the Paralegal Studies program for their unmatched dedication to their students.
“The experience that I had was life-changing. Through this program, I found an amazing career and made lifelong friends,” she said. “I would like to share my fondest memory of my time in the Paralegal Studies program: the day that I got married. My fiancé, Brandon, and I had been together for several years before deciding to get married. Brandon and I received so much love and support from students, faculty and club officers leading up to the wedding. The Honorable Robert Douglas, sitting judge in DuPage County and adjunct faculty in the Paralegal Studies program, graciously agreed to perform our wedding. The ceremony was beautiful. We were surrounded by friends, relatives, and members of our paralegal family: Sally Fairbank, program chair and co-advisor of Paralegal Club and LEX; Linda Jenkins, adjunct faculty and co-advisor of Paralegal Club and LEX; Todd Holes, dedicated program tutor, co-advisor of Paralegal Club and LEX Honorary President; and Magdana Beifuss, president of Paralegal Club.
“I frequently call Paralegal Club a family. The bonds that we form in the Paralegal Studies program are strong and unique. I keep a wedding photo of Brandon and me with our paralegal family on my office desk so that I always have a reminder of these amazing times.”