Faculty Spotlight: Chyara Smith-Stopp, JD

Chyara Smith-Stopp, JD

Paralegal program coordinator earned her law degree at the University of Michigan

This week is National and Minnesota Paralegal Week (see below).

Chyara Smith-Stopp, JD, LLM, MSML, began her role as Paralegal program director/coordinator at Inver Hills Community College in August 2021. Chyara also serves as paralegal faculty. She brings an abundance of teaching and legal experience to the ABA-approved program.

Before arriving at Inver Hills, Chyara worked as an adjunct professor in Legal Studies at Hamline University. She previously served as Paralegal and Legal Administrative program director/faculty at St. Cloud Technical and Community College, as an adjunct instructor in the Business and Business Technology program at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, as a law school adjunct professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law (previously Hamline Law School), and as a paralegal adjunct instructor at the Minnesota School of Business, Globe College.

Chyara also taught at Inver Hills for one semester in 2013 as an adjunct instructor in the Paralegal program and in Germany as a law school adjunct professor at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences. She’s fluent in German and a member of the Legal Writing Institute and the Association of Black Women in Higher Education.

What are the most interesting aspects of life as a paralegal?

Chyara reported that most paralegals enter the profession because they want to help individuals, which is why client contact is probably the most interesting aspect for a paralegal. There are a range of duties for paralegals. Depending on the legal organization, a paralegal may:

  • Conduct client interviews
  • Locate and interview witnesses
  • Conduct investigations
  • Perform legal research
  • Draft legal memoranda, wills, and contracts
  • Summarize depositions, interrogatories, and testimony
  • Attend hearings and trials with the supervising attorney
  • And more!

“In addition, there are so many legal practice areas for paralegals to work in,” Chyara said. “Most everyone is familiar with family or criminal law, but there are other specialized legal areas such as administrative law, intellectual property, construction law, immigration law, admiralty law, tax law, and health law to name a few.”

Real-world experience

Chyara has attained nearly a quarter decade of experience as a practicing attorney. She started her legal career in 1988 as an associate attorney at Popham, Haik, Schnobrich & Kaufmann in Minneapolis. She then served as a staff attorney at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, Missouri, for two years. She practiced overseas for 15 years as a partner in her own law firm, Stopp and Stopp, in Frankfurt, Germany.

An active member of the Minnesota Bar in good standing, she earned her Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She has a Master of Science (M.S.) in Management and Leadership from Western Governors University in Salt Lake City, a Magister Legum (L.L.M.) from Ruprecht-Karls-Universität in Heidelberg, Germany, and a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Political Science with emphasis in International Relations from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

Teaching philosophy

“The legal field draws individuals who are curious. With that said, I want to encourage my students to become lifelong learners.”
Chyara Smith-Stopp, JD, LLM, MSML
ABA-Approved Paralegal Program Director, Coordinator, and Faculty
Inver Hills Community College

More about Chyara…

Chyara and Alex in Aruba

Originally from St. Paul, Minnesota, Chyara graduated from Ruskin High School in Kansas City, Missouri. She met her husband, Alex, a German native and also an attorney, studying at the University of Michigan Law School. Chyara and Alex have one son, Tristan, who attends the University of St. Thomas.

Chyara and Tristan

“We are a bilingual, bi-national, and bi-cultural family,” Chyara said. “We own two dogs, Princess Daisy, a 1-year Bernedoodle, who is so enthusiastic that Amazon drivers no longer deliver to our door, but throw our packages near our mailbox when they see her. Our second dog, Princess Poppy, joined us through happenstance—someone abandoned her behind a strip mall. Her DNA test results indicate that she is a standard poodle. It wasn’t our intention to have two dogs or two large dogs, but after a few days in our home, we couldn’t imagine letting her go.”

Princess Daisy and Princess Poppy

In her free time, Chyara enjoys reading novels. “Lately, I have been reading high fantasy,” she related. “Another one of my hobbies is cooking. I love trying out new recipes.”

Chyara added that traveling is one of her joys in life—with a caveat: she doesn’t enjoy the preparation involved for a trip.

“Having lived near Frankfurt, Germany, with access to many wonderful destinations, traveling was relatively easy,” she said.”I visited Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, the Canary Islands, Cyprus, Mallorca, Israel, England, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Morocco, Jamaica, and Aruba. Since moving back to the States, my family and I are enjoying visiting places closer to home; we recently discovered the beautiful Carolinas.”

Chyara resides with Alex, Princess Daisy, and Princess Poppy in the southern metropolitan area.

National and Minnesota Paralegal Week
October 22–28, 2023

National Paralegal Day
October 23, 2023

History of National Paralegal Day…¹

National Paralegal Day, an annual event on October 23, celebrates those who do the legal research (and mountains of paperwork) that enables law firms to function. Attorneys, who are ultimately responsible for a paralegal’s work, depend greatly on these men and women to get things right. That means having a firm grasp on the facts and the law.

Whether you call yourself a paralegal or a legal assistant, the work is basically the same—to be an essential part of an attorney’s administrative team.  As the need for attorneys continues to grow, skilled paralegals are increasingly in demand. If you’re currently working in the profession or considering working as a paralegal in the future, National Paralegal Day has abundant information to get you up to speed on what the job entails and what kinds of certifications (if any)  are required.

As far back as the early 1970s, interest was stirred about the need for an organized group of paralegals and legal assistants.  This challenging job involves preparing and copying boatloads of legal documents like wills, real estate closings, affidavits and more, assisting attorneys with cases and trial prep and working with clients.


Chyara Smith-Stopp Q & A

Chyara Smith-Stopp, JD
What are you enjoying most about your role as Paralegal program coordinator at Inver Hills?

I started this role more than two years ago, and it still brings me a personal joy. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Changes have been made to the existing course curriculum to ensure that we are preparing students to have the practical skills for their careers as paralegals.

With the retirement of Mary McLaughlin and Robert Miller, the program added three new adjunct faculty, Jamy Barreau, Jennifer McGaffey, and Marissa Wunderlich, in addition to Christopher Crutchfield and Wayne Gilbert. Our new adjunct faculty have significant legal experience and expertise and are committed to student success. The program is very fortunate to have dedicated adjunct faculty.

The program will be offering employment law—a growing legal area—as a new course in fall semester 2024. This course should open additional employment opportunities for students.

It is my desire to maintain and continue the program’s strong reputation and ties to the local legal community.  In addition, I look forward to increasing awareness of not only the program, but the paralegal field as a viable career choice for students.

What inspired you to earn your law degree?

In the 6th grade, after reading a book entitled, Scaling the Ivy Wall, I decided to become an attorney.

Three words that describe you as a college educator:

What inspired you to become fluent in German?

Not what, but who? I was a Francophile (and still am) before I met my husband, a German national. After we married, we had intended to live in Germany for five years, which stretched to 20 years. Becoming fluent in German was a necessity as I wanted to attend law school there and take advantage of German culture.

What do you love most about the legal field?

Reading well-crafted court opinions is still a pleasure.

What advice would you give students thinking about following the paralegal career path?

Communicating well in writing is an essential skill for paralegals. However, a student can overcome a deficit in writing with hard work and determination by taking advantage of the resources offered at Inver Hills. Faculty, as well, are always available to assist students.

What are some essential individual qualities a paralegal must bring to the job?

Employers are seeking candidates for employment who communicate well, particularly in writing, are detailed-oriented, and are capable of working independently. This information is derived from my conversations with current and past internship supervisors.

What is your favorite memory from your time in law school?

I met my husband in the cafeteria at law school. He invited me to a Lady Blacksmith Mamboza concert, which was our first date.

Three words that describe you as an attorney:

What is one important lesson you’ve learned during your career in the legal field?

One can never be too prepared.

Where do you hope to find yourself in 20 years?

I would love to live somewhere with a shorter winter than here in Minnesota surrounded by dogs, books, and (hopefully) grandchildren.

What person has influenced your life the most and why?

I don’t think that there was just one person. My parents and wonderful teachers encouraged me to pursue my dreams.


One word that best describes your experience as a legal studies and paralegal instructor:


Chyara Smith-Stopp 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: I love walking my dogs and taking Pilates classes at the gym.
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Why only one? I have Scotland, South Africa, New Zealand, Egypt, Japan, and Australia on my bucket list
  3. Most exciting thing you’ve ever done: I rode in a submarine to view the coral reefs in the Red Sea
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) As an alumna of A Better Chance, an organization that places high-performing students of color into the nation’s top private and public schools, I would provide funding to continue that work 2) Along the lines of funding great causes, I would contribute to wildlife sanctuaries in Africa and animal rescues in the United States 3) Finally, I would travel from one country to the next spending as much time as I like at each destination
  5. Best book or movie you’ve read or seen lately: Summer, I believe, is the time for lighthearted reading, so I fed my “fantasy monster” by reading about 15 fantasy novels; among my favorites was The Kingkiller Chronicle series by Patrick Rothfuss; I started reading the novels with full knowledge that the third book had not been published; fans of the series have been waiting for 12+ years for the third book to be written; Needless to say, there are many in online reading communities whose admiration for the author has turned to disdain
  6. Time period you would explore if you could time travel: I am a Charlotte Brontë fan, so perhaps traveling to the early 1800s for a day would be exciting
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Participating in a missionary trip through my church is something I want to accomplish
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: The Raggiana bird-of-paradise from Papua New Guinea
  9. Dream occupation: I could see myself owning a bed and breakfast in a picturesque small town.
  10. Person you would most like to meet: I would very much enjoy having a conversation over lunch with two justices who sat on the U.S. Supreme Court: Justice Benjamin Cardozo served on the court from 1932 to 1939 while Justice Thurgood Marshall’s term ran from 1967 to 1991
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Playing the piano well; I daydream about being that person who sits down at a public piano and flawlessly plays Broadway show tunes
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: The exploitation of the poor worldwide from the dumping of North American and European originated clothing, where mounds of unsaleable or used clothing items are as high as 65 feet in Ghana to using child labor in the mining of cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; in our efforts to pursue a “green” climate, a worthy goal, the cost is being borne by those least able to shoulder it
Learn more about the Paralegal program at Inver Hills by contacting:

Admissions Team
College Center

¹ SOURCE: National Today

More about the Paralegal program

Approved by the American Bar Association since 1978, the Paralegal program at Inver Hills Community College prepares you to work under the supervision of attorneys in civil and criminal matters. Paralegals work in a range of legal practices such as probate, wills and estates, real estate, employment law, transactional, criminal law, and corporate law.

Please note that paralegals cannot give legal advice, represent clients in court, or otherwise engage in the unauthorized practice of law. The practice of law by non-attorneys is strictly prohibited by law.

As a graduate of the Paralegal program, you will have completed quality, practical coursework primarily in an online synchronous class format along with a paralegal internship. You will be equipped to assume the general and ethical responsibilities of a professional paralegal.


Paralegal Associate of Science (A.S.): 60 credits
Paralegal certificate: 30 credits

>>> Paralegal program planning guide

Why enroll in the Paralegal program at Inver Hills?

Outstanding career outlook.
Paralegals in Minnesota earn more than $30 an hour on average with top earners in the Twin Cities area topping $40 an hour. The job outlook statewide is impressive, posting a growth rate approaching 11 percent.

Cutting-edge legal technology.
You will sharpen your paralegal skill set using Westlaw for online legal research, the National Society for Legal Technology for top legal software programs, and e-filing and e-recording for state and federal court systems.

Topflight professional oversight.
A dedicated, diverse Paralegal Advisory Committee of legal professionals supports our program to keep our curriculum up to date on legal trends.

ABA approved to ensure quality.
Our Paralegal program is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) with continual re-approval since 1978.

Highly rated, experienced faculty.
Our instructors have extensive legal backgrounds in their practice areas, considerable teaching experience, and a strong commitment to students.

Reputation for excellence.
Top-rated program by area legal employers, legal recruiters, and internship supervisors. Our program coordinator is an experienced instructor and attorney with a passion for student success.

Your doorway to the legal profession.
Paralegals are legal professionals trained to assist lawyers in a broad range of substantive legal work. Paralegals find careers in a number of fields, including professional, scientific, and technical services as well as the management and administration of organizations.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Assist lawyers by investigating legal facts or preparing legal documents.


This career that pays above the statewide median of $24.25/hour


Median: $30.15/hour
High: $39.72/hour

Seven-county Twin Cities metro

Median: $30.70/hour
High: $40.89/hour


In Minnesota, there are 6,140 workers employed in this medium-sized career, which is in high demand and seeing high growth compared to other careers. Growth rate in the U.S. is 12 percent.

There will be a need for about 6,746 new Paralegals and Legal Assistants to meet market demand between 2020-2030. This includes the demand due to replacement (workers leaving the occupation or retiring) as well as growth.

SOURCE: Minnesota State CAREERwise Education (October 10, 2023)

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