Paralegal Studies Alumni Story: Becoming an Attorney A Certificate in Paralegal Studies Helps Expand Mariana de Carvalho Bacil Williams' Trajectory
Paralegal Studies Alumni Story: Becoming an Attorney A Certificate in Paralegal Studies Helps Expand Mariana de Carvalho Bacil Williams' Trajectory

Like many people, Mariana de Carvalho Bacil Williams experienced monumental changes in 2020. At the beginning of the year, she moved from Brazil to the United States. However, when she arrived, Mariana discovered she would need to pursue formal education to continue working as an attorney.

While preparing herself to return to school so she could enter the workforce in the U.S., Mariana stumbled upon a new-to-her position — paralegal. The role doesn’t exist in Brazil since law students often supply attorney support. As Mariana explored what a paralegal does in the U.S., she noticed they performed similar tasks as those she did as an attorney, such as conducting legal research, interviewing clients and preparing legal documents.

“I thought getting a Certificate in Paralegal Studies would open the doors of the American legal system for me,” says Mariana. “I would have the opportunity to see how the system works and maybe pursue and continue my career as an attorney in the U.S.”

After talking to local attorneys, Mariana chose the University of Washington for her certificate program. “They reaffirmed the UW is well recognized, not only in the state of Washington but also nationally,” she says. “I would be able to connect with peers and professors and build a community.”

Building a Network of Resources  

When the certificate began, Mariana was a bit skeptical about the online format. However, the program’s flexible, dynamic schedule gave her time to work, study and engage in other activities while pursuing the certificate. Mariana also appreciated that she could easily connect with her classmates. “My peers were key for my learning process,” she says. “They brought different perspectives from various backgrounds, which added to my experience of the program.”

The expertise and availability of the instructors also had a tremendous impact on Mariana’s ability to thrive. “All my instructors were attorneys and offered their perspectives on what skills a paralegal should develop to perform well on the job,” she says. “Their advice gave me a better understanding of where I had to go and a path for how to get there.”

In addition to the lessons in class, Mariana says her instructors reserved time outside of class to meet with students one-on-one and in groups. “That time was valuable because the professors got to know my background and the gaps I needed to fill,” she says.

In Her Own Words

Alum Mariana de Carvalho Bacil Williams explains how the Certificate in Paralegal Studies helped open the door to the American legal system.


Expanding Her Trajectory

Completing the UW Certificate in Paralegal Studies opened Mariana’s mind to new opportunities that she hadn’t thought were possible, including roles beyond that of a paralegal. Inspired and encouraged by her peers and professors, she decided to pursue a law degree and work as an attorney in the U.S.

“The certificate reaffirmed I could learn and finish a program,” she says. “When I realized that, I thought, why not try pursuing my dream and continuing to work as an attorney? That would bring me the most satisfaction in life.”

Mariana applied to and enrolled in the UW Master of Laws (LL.M.) program, which was a game changer that put her on the path to accelerate her career. A trajectory that wouldn’t have been as easy to follow if it wasn’t for the skills she gained in the UW Certificate in Paralegal Studies program.

“When I had to write my first memorandum during my LL.M., I went back to my notes from the paralegal studies certificate, which was helpful,” she says. “I already knew what I was doing, while my peers were a bit lost.”

Now armed with her master’s degree in law, Mariana will be sitting for the next bar exam and is ready to continue following her dream of having a law career in the U.S.

“The UW Certificate in Paralegal Studies helped me develop the knowledge and skills I needed to succeed, and I felt embraced by my peers," Mariana says. "I developed friendships and connections that I will have throughout my professional life. This program was the best thing that ever happened to me here."

For more alumni stories from UW Professional & Continuing Education, visit the News & Features section of our website. To learn more about our certificates, specializations, degrees and courses, explore your options or contact us.

Author Brenna Ciummo

Brenna Ciummo

Brenna Ciummo is a senior editor and writer at the University of Washington Continuum College and has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience. She's developed a wide range of copy, from in-depth feature stories to bite-size blurbs across various industries, including education, travel and food. She enjoys covering student success stories and the latest trends in the career and education space.

Ciummo has a B.A. in communication and writing certificate from Arizona State University. A firm believer in lifelong learning, she is also an alumnus of the UW Certificate in Storytelling & Content Strategy and a UW copy editing and design course. 

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