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Paralegal/legal studies program prepares students for career in law

August 24, 2012
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville Daily News

Have you ever wanted to pursue a career in law but didn't want to invest in seven years of college to become a lawyer?

Are you curious about becoming a lawyer, but don't want to take seven years of college to find out if you'll like it or not?

Would you like to get a good background in law - before you pursue an option such as law school?

Article Photos

Richard Keilholtz, instructor/coordinator for the Iowa Lakes Community College paralegal/legal studies program, gives students exposure to real-life cases through the Innocence Project.
EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

Or would you like to take a two-year course of study that's guaranteed to place you in a challenging and exciting career?

If any of the above scenarios apply to you, then you might be a great candidate for the Iowa Lakes Community college paralegal/legal studies program.

Richard Keilholtz, program instructor/coordinator, spent a career in law before entering the field of legal education. With such a background, he can give students a real-life background in both legal research and the practical aspects of law.

Originally from Cedar Rapids, Keilholtz received his bachelor's degree from the University of Iowa before working in Washington, D.C. for two years. From there he went to law school at Southern Illinois University and practiced for a number of years before teaching at Denver, Colorado Springs, Colo. and at Idaho State University - all before coming to Iowa Lakes two years ago.

"It's kind of a homecoming to me and I'm glad to be back in the area," said Keilholtz.

The two-year paralegal program is geared to those who want to work right away for a law firm. Students also have an associate of arts pre-law option with many of those students going on to a four-year university for a degree in political science or other program to prepare them for law school, Keilholtz said, adding that a number of program graduates have gone on to law school.

In both programs, Keilholtz blends the theoretical with the practical. Students learn about torts, property, contracts and other legal areas as well as how to draft documents such as complaints, wills, trusts and interrogatories. Students also have a thorough grounding in legal research and writing.

With an average of 20 students in the program, Keilholtz teaches most of the classes. Local attorneys Christopher Fuhrman and Lisa Androski have also taught some of the classes.

Students vary widely in age. Some are right out of high school while, one, Jim Black, started the program at 70 and completed his program of study a year ago to assist his daughter, an Iowa City attorney.

Innocence Project

Students have the option to participant in the Innocence Project which seeks to exonerate wrongfully convicted persons.

Keilholtz said Project Innocence clients are those whose cases did not involve legal technicalities or search violations. Cases might involve convictions prior to when DNA evidence was available or involve prosecutorial misconduct.

Keilholtz said the Innocence Project has cleared 300 persons since the late 1980s, ending an average sentence of 11-13 years. Iowa Lakes students have participated in the Innocence Project for the past seven to eight years. The only other Iowa colleges participating are Buena Vista University and the University of Iowa.

"Students get an opportunity to do hands-on work in real cases while they're still in school," Keilholtz said.

To learn more about the program, call Keilholtz at (712) 362-7979 or e-mail him at

There is still time to register for the fall semester. Fall day classes start Wednesday, Aug. 29. Call Iowa Lakes admissions at (712) 362-7945.



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