Per the BLS, any paralegal that wants a job in the modern legal system will need at least a two-year degree. Most employers naturally prefer job candidates who have completed a four-year degree program and a supervised internship. Paralegal programs provide students with a well-rounded education of both general education and specialized law courses. These programs are usually taught by legal professionals with some type of real-world experience, so students gain valuable skills and knowledge for use on the job.

Degree Program Objectives

After graduating from one of these programs, students will be able to identify, analyze and understand legal concepts, ethical issues, legislative thinking and legal reasoning. They will be prepared to engage in legal activities like legislative analysis, client interviewing, research projects and investigation documentation. Graduates will understand law office operations related to expenses, billing, expenses, time keeping, fee structures, progress reports and administrative procedures.

Students will have a solid proficiency with the use of legal research tools and techniques. They will understand business concepts such as marketing, risk management and corporate social responsibility. Graduates will be trained to apply the fundamental principles of audience analysis, public speaking, speech criticism and effective delivery. Most programs include a few classes in English business composition, editing and formatting. Students will be familiar with law office applications and how these technological innovations impact business operations.

Basic Legal Courses

Paralegals need a college degree because these programs introduce them to the fundamental concepts of paralegalism. These classes study the legal, court and justice systems. Students will understand how paralegals handle business, property, family, criminal and procedural laws. These courses focus on the basic skills needed to succeed in ethical dilemmas, client advocacy, legal analysis and interviewing and investigation. For instance, classes on business law will cover contract terms, bankruptcy procedures, consumer sales, business organization and commercial insurance.

Civil litigation coursework covers the regulations and procedures that are followed in filing and conducting civil lawsuits. Students will understand the civil litigation cycle. This begins with jurisdiction and basic pleading preparation, continues with discovery documents and pre-judgment motions and concludes with case file management and classroom proceedings. Torts are a specific kind of lawsuit that deal with civil wrongs. These could involve harm or death, such workplace injuries or fatal car accidents, and interpersonal wrongs, such as libel and slander. Business torts include malpractice, defamation and defective products

Advanced Legal Courses

Family law classes help students to understand the roles that paralegals plays in family court proceedings. These courses cover common rules and procedures related to domestic relations, such as marriage formation and dissolution, and post-marriage legal issues, such as child custody agreements and child support payments. Legal research and writing courses will cover how to use standard sources of legal knowledge and common methods of legal research.

Students will learn how to prepare and finalize dispositions, objective memos, persuasive briefs and pleading and motion documentation. Students may take classes on real estate law, which covers the common types of real estate transactions, conveyances and legal instruments. These include leases, contracts, mortgage, title examinations and real estate closings. Students must understand unique real estate terminology and the step-by-step procedures followed to draft wills and trusts.

Electives for a paralegal student may include law office management, which examines the timekeeping practices, attorney-client relationships and administrative technology.