PJI Group Photo
Category: Discovery & Impact, General News

Title: McCourt School experts help prepare previously-incarcerated citizens for careers in law

As a partner to the Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs (MORCA)-Georgetown Paralegal Program, the McCourt School’s Career Development team was tasked with preparing students for upcoming job interviews with law firms throughout DC. Over the course of a few weeks, Briana Green, Lynda Jones and Daniel Noel worked with 16 students, both individually and as teams, and led an interview prep workshop and mock interviews to provide students with the skills and confidence to be successful candidates. PJI Deputy Director Caitlin Chamberlain, a former faculty research associate at the McCourt School, sought out McCourt’s Career Development team for their expertise, robust programming and skill-building.

In collaboration with MORCA and the DC Department of Employment Services, the Georgetown University Prisons and Justice Initiative (PJI) offers the MORCA-Georgetown Paralegal Program to help prepare returning citizens for successful careers in the legal field. Fellows in the Paralegal Program earn a certificate in Paralegal Studies from Georgetown and an hourly stipend for completing the intensive 20-week program on a full-time basis. PJI, founded in 2016, also offers educational programs for incarcerated individuals and returning citizens with academic and professional interests in liberal arts, business and entrepreneurship.

Learning how to succeed in the job market

“The key to having a great interview, in addition to confidence, is the preparation,” said Green, director of career development and alumni engagement at the McCourt School. “The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel and the more comfortable you’ll feel.”

During the interview prep workshop led by Green, who has a background in professional career and leadership coaching, Fellows learned how to prepare for an interview by researching the organization and the position, and making a good impression by arriving on time. Through the workshop, Green teased out each student’s strengths and tactical skills and taught the Fellows how to highlight these qualities to position themselves during an interview, as well as how to prepare concise, focused responses to potential questions from the interviewer. 

Being able to pour into people, and having them pour into you, is one of the best things about what I do.

Briana Green

“As a lawyer, I know the importance of being clear and concise in your communication with colleagues,” said Green. “The sooner students learn that skill, the more prepared they will be to succeed in a legal environment.”

Jones and Noel conducted mock interviews with the Fellows and utilized active listening skills to deliver feedback on students’ interviewing skills.

“We provided the students with acknowledgment and encouragement, helping them build confidence in their experience and the learning they gained from the Paralegal Program, and educated them on how to best articulate this in an interview,” said Jones.

Paralegal Program Fellow with Georgetown University diploma
MORCA-Georgetown Paralegal Program Fellow with Georgetown University diploma

Graduates of the Paralegal Program are using the skills and confidence gained in sessions with McCourt’s Career Development team to network and build lasting connections as they progress along their career paths. 

“We are seeing graduates of the program go on to full-time positions in law firms, nonprofits and government agencies, where they are excelling and becoming valuable members of their teams,” said Chamberlain.

Looking toward the future

This spring, the Prisons and Justice Initiative will welcome its next Paralegal Program cohort and continue its partnership with McCourt’s Career Development team. “Cross-campus partnerships help drive the success of our programs,” said Chamberlain. “By working with other teams across campus, we’re able to provide the students in our programs with additional services and opportunities to grow and tap into the many excellent and always-expanding resources that the university has to offer,” she said.

Cross-campus teams also benefit from applying their skills in a unique setting and with non-traditional students, broadening and strengthening their skill set. For Green, the opportunity to give back is more than just a professional courtesy. 

“Being able to participate in the culture of service at Georgetown, whose focus is on the care of the whole person, is one of the unique facets of being in the community here,” she said. “I’m grateful and appreciative that I get to do that through my work with McCourt and PJI, as well.”