Wendy Toscano

As a lawyer, she closed many cases.
Now she’s opening the eyes of paralegal students
to the world of law.


If you ever watched the old TV series, “Night Court”—in which a big-city judge has to deal with a never-ending string of non-glamorous, non-violent petty crimes—then you’ve got a pretty good glimpse of Wendy Toscano’s introduction to the law.

Toscano, now the program chair of Valencia’s paralegal studies program, was a law student at George Washington University in the summer of 1989, when she landed an internship in D.C. Superior Court.

The work was routine—researching case law—but her boss, Judge Eric Holder, would go on to make a name for himself as the first African-American to serve as U. S. Attorney General.

“It was the summer after my first year of law school,” recalls Toscano. “We handled criminal misdemeanor cases—like the time a couple left their dog locked in a hot car to go to a bar and get a few drinks. And of course there were prostitution cases.”

After graduating from law school, Toscano returned to her hometown, Maitland, and took a job as an associate at Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed. There, she did what all Lowndes associates do—a rotation spending time working in every division. “In the end, you get very well-rounded attorneys, who have basic experience in family law, bankruptcy, real-estate law and litigation,” says Toscano.

After six years working in civil litigation at Lowndes, Toscano became the first general counsel for the Central Florida Educators’ Federal Credit Union. In 1997, she took time out to have kids—two boys, now ages 12 and 16—and stepped away from full-time work.

Yet Toscano always wanted to teach. In 2010, she became an adjunct professor in Valencia’s paralegal studies program. Today, she looks forward to her classes—and the wide-ranging class discussions.

“My students range from Vietnam vets to students right out of high school, to people wanting to make a career change,” Toscano says.

“I also have students who were lawyers in other countries—Brazil, Colombia, Russia—and cannot practice here. They take our classes and work as paralegals, while they decide if they want to go to law school in the United States.”

Now in its 40th year, Valencia’s paralegal program is certified by the American Bar Association and is well regarded in Orlando’s legal community. “It’s a rigorous program. Paralegals do a lot of the heavy lifting for law firms, so our students do a lot of practical, hands-on research and they get a lot of experience drafting documents,” says Toscano. “As a result, we’ve built quite a reputation.”

That’s why 98 percent of Valencia’s recent paralegal graduates landed jobs after graduation.

While many of her students will spend much of their careers as paralegals, law school beckons others. “I do have a lot of students who go through the program, then work as paralegals and see how attorneys work and how they live—they work 24/7, the trial work, the billing—and then decide whether they want to invest the time and money in law school.”