Paralegal Alumna Spotlight: Mariana Alvarado

Mariana Alvarado

2023 grad working as paralegal for city of Minneapolis Today is National Paralegal Day

Mariana Alvarado, 32, graduated with her Paralegal certificate from Inver Hills Community College this past July. Mariana has been working as a paralegal for the city of Minneapolis since November 2022. Her duties in that role are numerous and include obtaining police reports, maintaining case files, analyzing discovery requests, working with law enforcement personnel, conducting defendant criminal history reports, preparing cases for charging and all court appearances, and much more.

“The most rewarding aspect of my job as a paralegal is being able to prep a case for trial in a manner that lays out all the evidence so well that an agreement is reached before trial,” Mariana said. “The most challenging aspect would be effectively managing my time and tasks. Every day there are new tasks that pop up that may require reorganizing priorities based on important deadlines.”

Mariana’s education and experience in the criminal justice field is already impressive. Along with her Paralegal certificate, she has a B.A. in Criminal Justice from Metropolitan State University (2018) and an A.S. in Criminal Justice from Minneapolis Community & Technical College (2012).

Before accepting her paralegal position, Mariana worked as a self-help specialist for the state of Minnesota’s Fourth Judicial District Court, where she assisted self-represented litigants, a job that required a remarkable range of legal knowledge. The Fourth Judicial District covers Hennepin County and ranks as the largest trial court in Minnesota.

Previously, she served as a child support officer for Hennepin County for nearly four years, a bilingual senior court clerk for the Fourth Judicial District for about a year, and an immigration, family, and criminal legal assistant for a Twin Cities metro area law firm for nearly three years.

Mariana is fluent in English, Portuguese, and Spanish. Her long-range career goals include working as a paralegal in the private sector.

Faculty perspective: Chyara Smith-Stopp, JD

Chyara Smith-Stopp, JD

“One of the highlights of my position is to oversee the internship course. After 18 or 24 months of studying, students are finally realizing their goal of becoming a paralegal,  and the internship course allows them to gain practical experience in the profession.

“Some students really excel in the internship, and Mariana was one of those. I recall after a conversation with her and her site supervisor how impressed I was with her organizational skills in creating a ‘notebook’ as a reminder of the specific stylistic expectations of the attorneys she supported.

“By doing this, Mariana demonstrated that she is resourceful, proactive, and meticulous—all traits of a professional paralegal.”

Chyara Smith-Stopp, JD, LLM, MSML
ABA-Approved Paralegal Program Director, Coordinator, and Faculty
Inver Hills Community College

More about Mariana…

Mariana, Mateo, Adriana, Vinicios

Originally from Minneapolis, Mariana graduated from Columbia Heights High School, Class of 2009. She has been married seven years? Her husband, Vinicios, is a product specialist. Mariana and Vinicios have one daughter, Adriana, 13, and one son, Mateo, 1. The couple is expecting a new baby toward the end of October. The family has a 4-year-old Labrador retriever named Oliver.

In her free time, Mariana loves spending time with her family and friends. She also enjoys reading motivational and self-help books, and playing soccer and volleyball.

Mariana and her family reside in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:


Mariana Alvarado Q & A

Mariana Alvarado
What inspired you to pursue criminal justice as your career focus?

I became interested in high school when I had an introductory criminal justice college course class. I loved how there were many layers to our justice system and how each one was just as important as the other.

What did you like best about the Paralegal program at Inver Hills?

I loved the professors. I found them to be very knowledgeable, and they truly care that we fully understand the material being taught.

What advice would you give students thinking about majoring in paralegal studies?

Build relationships with your fellow classmates. Once you graduate, it will be great to have a network of people who are already in the field or also beginning their careers. You can share experiences, tips, or even get referrals for job opportunities. LinkedIn is a great resource!

Three words that describe you as a paralegal:

What field of the law (for example, corporate, criminal, family, labor, securities) do you find most interesting and why?

Having worked in immigration, family, and criminal law, I have found criminal law to be the most interesting. Although I am aware of the importance of family and immigration law, it eventually felt very repetitive for me. With criminal law, I feel that even the most similar cases have crucial differences that require a keen eye. There has not been a day where I have not seen or learned something new.

What person has influenced your life the most and why?

My dad. He migrated from Ecuador in the 1970s looking for a better life for his family. Through hard work and perseverance, he was able to build a better future for us. Despite coming from a country where education was not a high priority for girls, my dad always pushed my sisters and me to pursue a higher education and career.

Leading by example, my dad taught us about good work ethic and the importance of trustworthiness. That and many other lessons have helped me professionally get to where I am today.

Where do you hope to find yourself in 20 years?

I hope to be working for a company where I feel like we are making a difference for the public. I have always loved working with people and being able to see how my work impacts them is an incredible feeling.

Also, at that time, I will have a 33-year-old daughter and a 21-year-old son—and our new baby will be 20, so I hope see them excelling in college and their careers.

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.


Mariana Alvarado 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Soccer and volleyball
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Thailand
  3. Most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Skydiving
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Pay off my family’s debt/buy them a home 2) Build a nonprofit to help rehabilitate ex-cons 3) Travel the world
  5. Best book or movie you’ve read or seen lately: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz
  6. Time period (past or future) you would explore if you could time travel: 1970s
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: Making an impact on today’s justice system
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Blue-headed parrot
  9. Dream occupation: Lawyer
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Michelle Obama
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Be fluent in two more languages
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Global warming
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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