Mary Gillen Fenske, J.D.

Paralegal Program Director and Paralegal Faculty

Mary Gillen Fenske has taught in the Paralegal Program at North Hennepin Community College since 2007 and became the Paralegal Program Director in 2011. In addition, she has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at William Mitchell College of Law since 2000. Prior to entering the teaching field, she was in private practice in the Washington, D.C. area where she was a trial attorney in the areas of insurance defense, medical malpractice, and general business litigation.  She also has in-house legal experience and worked for Travelers Insurance Company in St. Paul upon returning to Minnesota from the east coast.

She is a leader and innovator in bringing new technology to the classroom and was the first professor in the department to use lecture capture technology and CALI (Computer Assisted Legal Instruction) lessons in her courses. As Paralegal Program Director, she was instrumental in setting up the Paralegal Learning Lab, establishing the monthly legal clinics on campus that enable paralegal students to gain paralegal experience before graduation, and directs all communication from the department to the students. She also coordinates the paralegal tutors on campus.

Mary serves on NHCC’s Deans and Coordinators Committee, the Minnesota State Bar Association – Paralegal Committee,  and is a member of the Minnesota Paralegal Association.

Courses taught at NHCC:

  • PLEG 2211 - Legal Research and Writing I
  • PLEG 2930 – Legal Studies Seminar/Internship
  • BUS 1300 – Legal Environment of Business 

My teaching style 

I use a combination of lecture, in-class group work, in-class assignments, class discussion, and homework. I can be tough. I push my students hard because I understand the demands that a paralegal will face in the legal profession. The hard work you put in while taking my classes will pay off when you begin your first job as a paralegal.

If you fall behind in my class

I keep a watchful eye. If you’re a student in my class and I notice you’re having some difficulty, I offer help. I might send an email or I’ll ask you to stop by my office, so we can talk. I also use the Early Alert Referral System that enables NHCC counselors to check in with you if you’re having trouble. They’re very nice. We’re all here to help you succeed.

I also encourage my students to utilize the on-campus paralegal tutors. It’s a free service available to all paralegal students. Some of the best students go to see the paralegal tutors, so there is no stigma attached to making an appointment. Tutors are available to make sure you get the most out of your paralegal education.


  • College of Saint Benedict, B.A.
  • The American University, Washington College of Law, J.D.