Paralegal studies programs are available at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and certificate level, although the standard educational requirement for becoming a paralegal is an associate degree. in paralegal studies are available to students with a wide range of educational and work experience. Some certificates are designed for current professionals, while others are designed for students who are new to the legal profession.
degrees in paralegal studies teach students how to put basic legal principles into practice and build reasoning skills, as well as written communication and conflict resolution skills. The program addresses topics in commercial law, civil procedure, paralegal litigation, legal research and writing, and domestic relations. In addition to didactic coursework, students may have an opportunity to participate in an internship to gain hands-on experience.
Students who complete an associate degree program may choose to transfer to a degree program in paralegal studies to enhance their knowledge of the legal system and complex procedures. Most undergraduate programs place an emphasis on courtroom conduct, investigative practices, and litigation. They may explore a variety of subjects, such as tax law, legal writing and research, legal ethics, wills and estates, and administrative litigation. Additional components of the program include seminars and internships.
A small number of schools offer paralegal degree programs to students who want to maximize their chances of advancing in an organization. Students may select an area of concentration in intellectual property law, international law, or government law. Typical courses include contracts, jurisprudence, and advanced legal research and writing.
Online Associate Degrees in Paralegal Studies
Associate degrees in paralegal studies provide students with the writing, research, and critical thinking skills required to enter support roles in law firms and legal departments. These degrees take two years to complete and require 20 to 30 courses. Applicants need a high school diploma or GED. Graduates of the associate degree in paralegal studies are prepared to apply for entry-level paralegal, legal assistant, and legal office administration positions. Some employers prefer to hire candidates with hands-on experience in a law firm; students can often choose to participate in internships during the degree to gain this practical experience.
The paralegal studies curriculum covers particular skills of the legal assistant, as well as the ins and outs of different applications of the law. Courses in legal terminology and legal research and writing teach students how to investigate pertinent laws and regulations; students also learn how to write correspondence and other documents. Litigation classes discuss the process of going to court and the paralegal’s role in preparing a case for the courtroom. Other common courses in the paralegal associate degree cover particular areas of law, such as commercial law and real estate law. Business communication and legal office administration are other typical electives in the program.
Excellent writing skills are essential for paralegals, as they routinely prepare legal briefs and other documents, so many associate programs will begin with a course in English composition. Students will learn to write clearly and effectively with correct grammar. They will also practice analytical and reasoning skills. A composition course will lead to a class that is dedicated to legal research. Much of a paralegal's job will revolve around conducting research for attorneys, and associate degree courses in research will focus on navigating Internet resources and other legal databases.
Although paralegals aren't expected to be as well versed in the legal system as a licensed attorney, they will be expected to know the basics. Paralegal students are usually required to take a class in civil law, as this is one of the most common legal areas addressed in large law firms and corporations. Civil law courses include study of consumer rights and contracts, and knowledge of criminal law is also often beneficial to the work of legal assistants. Though few paralegals work in public defender or prosecutors' offices, some private defense firms hire qualified paralegals. Ethics is another important class for legal assistants. Paralegals are held to certain ethical and moral standards in the practice of law, though they will not have the same responsibilities as attorneys.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Paralegal Studies
Paralegal bachelor’s programs are designed to train graduates for positions as legal assistants and paralegals. These four-year programs cover the workings of the US legal system and different areas of law, as well as the writing and research skills crucial for paralegal work.
The bachelor’s program in paralegal studies trains graduates in the skills they will need to assist lawyers in a variety of tasks. Students learn an overview of the major parts of the legal system, as well as the research and writing skills that are central to the paralegal’s job responsibilities. Through their program’s electives, students may specialize their degree in a particular area of law, such as corporate law or civil law. Bachelor’s programs also require students to take a number of courses in general liberal arts areas such as math, natural science, and the humanities in order to establish a solid educational foundation.
Courses in different areas of law form the foundation of the paralegal bachelor’s degree. For example, in a civil litigation course, students learn how civil law functions in the United States and about the rights and procedures of the court system. A course in real estate law discusses the laws involving property ownership and real estate financing. Tort law is a type of law used in all areas of the legal system; it covers the ways that individuals or organizations are to be reimbursed if they are intentionally or accidentally harmed.
While knowledge in specific law topics is important, these classes do not cover the practical skill set that paralegals need in order to be competent in their work; instead, classes in legal writing and legal research cover these most important skills. In these classes, paralegals learn how to research court precedents and laws regarding particular cases, as well as how to write up affidavits, contracts, and other legal documents.