Legal Education Institute
Director Nicole Ballenger earned her paralegal certificate
from the Legal Education Institute in 1994 and later graduated from Widener Law with her J.D. in 2001. She returned to the LEI program in 2004 to serve first as the Special Projects Coordinator and a year later as the Assistant Director. Since July of 2010, she has served as the Director of LEI.
Widener’s distinctive programs drew Nicole back to the school. “Working as a paralegal, and later as an attorney working side by side with paralegals, has allowed me to provide a unique perspective to my students. The LEI program fosters collaborative learning, mentoring and teaching that allows students to experience skill development both inside and outside of the classroom. The opportunity to be a part of this learning environment is what brought me back to Widener,” she says.
Ten years of exposure to civil litigation, both as a paralegal and as an attorney, instilled in Nicole a particular fondness for solid research and writing skills, an she enjoys seeing students develop their own research, writing, and analysis skills. She has taught Civil Practice, Social Security Disability, and Legal Research and Writing, and Introduction to Law. She has also instructed the Practicum course, in which students gain experience by utilizing their new skills in real world legal environments.
“My goal as a teacher is to educate students by developing real-world skills that will prepare them to assist attorneys in all phases of public and private law practice,” says Nicole, adding, “Each time I enter the classroom, it is my goal to have enthusiasm for the LEI program and for paralegal education to reach each student so that they have a true appreciation for their education and for the profession they have chosen.”
As LEI Director, Nicole places an emphasis on valuable networking opportunities, including outreach and partnership with local paralegal associations. “The close connections with these local paralegal associations allow our students the opportunity to participate in a multitude of events, from volunteerism to continuing education credits. Any event from a professional organization that is extended to our students is a benefit and an opportunity to grow personally.”
“The valuable alumni network from Widener Law is particularly important to the Legal Education Institute,” she adds. “Many members of LEI’s adjunct faculty are Widener Law graduates. Further, there are many Widener Law graduates that volunteer to mentor paralegal students and who ultimately employ these same students in the workplace.”
Feedback from students offers the ultimate reward for a job well-done notes Nicole. “It is most rewarding to hear that LEI has prepared graduates with the knowledge and skills needed to establish and advance their careers. I hope that my work as an educator has led to many rewarding and fulfilling careers for paralegals.”