Legal Assistant/Paralegal  Program Description


Insider Info

dotParalegal training prepares students to work under the supervision of lawyers, researching and preparing documents.

In the U.S., you can take a two-year associate's degree, a four-year bachelor's degree or a shorter certificate if you already have previous education or experience.

Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, offers a post-bachelor's certificate program. "It is a certificate program for college graduates who have previously earned a four-year bachelor's degree in any major," says Page Midyette, director of the program.

"It is in the continuing education division of the college and consists of 260 classroom hours. Students can complete the certificate in two semesters of evening classes, or in an intensive schedule where all courses are completed in one semester."

In addition to the classroom work, her students are also urged to take part in an eight-week internship program.

"The internship gives the student exposure to the law office environment and the opportunity to observe and practice skills learned in the classroom."

Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota, offers a four-year bachelor of science paralegal program. It emphasizes oral and written communication skills, independent thinking and problem solving.

Students select one of three program options -- the business administration option, which emphasizes business and commercial law; the sociology option, which focuses on the areas of criminal and family law; or the multi-legal option, which offers a broad variety of law-related courses.

Another way to study to become a paralegal is through distance learning. However, some programs, such as those offered by the American Institute for Paralegal Studies, do not cater to high school graduates. They try to attract an older, working student, says institute spokesperson John Shaheen.

Potter says high school students should focus on courses that help develop research, writing and critical thinking skills, such as English, social studies, math, sciences and government.

Students looking into any legal assistant or paralegal course should ensure the program follows guidelines and recommendations from the various national, regional or local organizations, such as the American Bar Association or the American Association for Paralegal Education.

It is not necessary that paralegals be certified, but the National Association of Legal Assistants has established standards for voluntary certification.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field, see Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Paralegal Resources
Check out articles and services for paralegals

Legal Assistants Association
Information for the novice and professional paralegal

Just the Facts

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