Since 1977, Live Violence Free (originally South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center) has been promoting a violence-free community through education and advocacy. What started as a rape crisis hotline has grown to add services such as education, outreach and care for those affected by sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse—all for free.
The nonprofit’s dedication to empowering survivors of violence remains strong—and helping the cause is Heather Anderson. She began working at Live Violence Free as a legal advocate, discussing with her clients on how to complete restraining orders and delivering materials to court as needed.
But she wanted to do even more for the organization.
While the advocate role allowed Heather to learn the fundamentals about the legal system, she felt there was so much more that she needed to know to help her clients. Her logical next step was to become a paralegal—and that’s where our Certificate Program in Paralegal Studies comes into play.
“I chose UC Berkeley Extension because it was very convenient for me and my family,” Heather says. “I have four children and a full-time job. I also live in South Lake Tahoe, which is about two hours away from any college that offered a paralegal certificate program. I wanted to be able to complete the program on my time and as soon as possible. I chose this paralegal certificate to teach me all of the tools I needed to be a great paralegal.”
Finishing the certificate in about a year, Heather is happy to report that she has been promoted to a paralegal position, which comes with an increase in pay.
“Completing the classes and receiving my certificate has allowed me to advance in my agency,” Heather enthuses. “I am now the paralegal helping victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse with their legal needs. I work directly with the agency’s attorney, competing legal intakes, restraining orders, child-custody documents and divorces. I oversee our legal advocate and we accompany our clients to court hearings and help explain the court process before and after each hearing.
“I feel more confident than ever doing what I love. I was able to secure a better-paying position in the agency, as well.”
I chose this paralegal certificate to teach me all of the tools I needed to be a great paralegal.
Looking back, Heather has these thoughts to share on her path to this promotion:
On the coursework:
The ability for me to choose the specific classes applicable to my career was incredible. It made me feel like I was in control of my learning experience. I was able to complete my classes on my own time without too many questions to the instructors. When I had to reach out, the instructors were very helpful. The Criminal Law and Family Law courses were very interesting and easy for me to follow. Those were my favorite courses.
On using lessons learned in class to her current work:
Each day, I was applying what I was learning in class to my work. The legal tasks I was faced with were less difficult for me to complete. I can now complete more of the paperwork by myself. I can search case law without asking the attorney any questions. I also understand why some forms are necessary in specific cases.
On earning the certificate:
I am more confident in who I am and feel that I am able to achieve anything that I set out to do. I am proud of myself for going back to school. Showing my children that having an education and always giving back to the community are two of the most important things in life—and no one can take that away from me.
On advice for future students:
Invest in the program. It has completely changed my career for the better and my supervisors couldn’t agree more.