John Behling was impressed, but not surprised, at the quality of people he had join the law office he leads earlier this year. Behling, president of Eau Claire-based law firm Weld Riley, S.C., one of the largest and most prestigious law firms in the region, welcomed as interns Chippewa Valley Technical College students Nadia Sigler, a 2019 Ellsworth High School graduate, and Jessah Schnack of Eau Claire, a non-traditional student originally from Minnesota.
“We’ve been hiring CVTC students for over a decade,” said Behling, a former president of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents. “They are well-trained and can hit the ground running. As an employer, you know what a great opportunity it is to have CVTC in your backyard, with graduates and students who step in and they're superstars.”
Behling recently offered Sigler and Schnack full-time permanent positions upon their graduations, which took place Friday, May 21.
Sigler and Schnack were among 839 graduates in 72 programs honored Friday, May 21, at the CVTC virtual Spring Graduation Celebration. They were among 14 graduates in the Paralegal and Paralegal Post-Baccalaureate programs. The largest group of graduates was 100 in the Nursing-Associate Degree program, followed by 54 in Business Management ad 41 in Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement. Also honored were 12 students who completed their High School Equivalency Diploma since the previous graduation in December.
A well-designed internship benefits both the employer and the intern, who gains real-world experience, starting with how to present yourself in an interview.
“It was my first big job interview,” said Sigler, 20. “I saw a posting for the position and asked my instructor, Mark Barker, about Weld Riley.”
The internships are paid, but still meet the requirements of a CVTC class. Internship time is often a challenging semester for CVTC students.
“I worked 28 hours a week here, and also had a second job, and then I had five classes still going on for my final semester,” Sigler said. “It's been busy, but it's been good because learning things there made my classes easier.”
The Paralegal program at CVTC is fully online, but the interns felt that worked out well.
“There are pros and cons. It made my schedule a lot more flexible for being able to work here,” Sigler said. "But our instructors did well to make sure we were still getting all the content we were supposed to be learning and making it as close as possible to being in person.”
Schnack, who graduated from high school in 2010, has a lot of experience with online learning and a busy schedule. “Not only was I taking five classes, I' was here 28 hours a week,” she said. “And because of the pandemic I had to virtual school my son on Monday and Tuesday mornings. That's been a lot of juggling.”
A UW-Eau Claire criminal justice program graduate with aspirations to become a lawyer herself, Schnack started a family and later decided on CVTC’s Post-Baccalaureate Paralegal program, which differs in a few ways from Sigler’s program.
As paralegals, Sigler and Schnack help draft correspondence and legal documents, draft motions, update and close out files, and various other tasks to help the staff attorneys.
"I was nervous at first because you're learning this stuff in school, but then you have to come here and put into practice,” Schnack said. “You don't want to do anything wrong or make anything difficult for anybody else.”
“Typically, for the required Paralegal Internship course, we place 12-15 students at law firms or courthouses. That number reflects 100 percent placement,” said Barker.
Schnack accepted Behling’s offer of employment and is now a full-time member of the Weld Riley paralegal staff.
“I decided to take a paralegal position at a law firm closer to home, Vogel, Gorman, and Lodermeier in Red Wing, Minnesota,” Sigler said. “I am so grateful for my opportunity to work with and learn from the wonderful people at Weld Riley and I have nothing but great things to say about the firm and my experience. I can’t thank John and everyone else enough for welcoming me and taking a chance on me.”