What's on a Typical Paralegal Curriculum: Paralegal Courses & More
Paralegals are an essential part of the workforce in law firms, government offices and legal departments for a wide range of businesses. While they do not perform all the functions of attorneys, they are able to take on large portions of the work, researching cases, interviewing witnesses and drafting legal documents, among other things. Your paralegal courses will prepare you to play a vital role in a law firm's ability to function smoothly.
Basic Paralegal Studies Courses
Regardless of the paralegal degree level you choose to complete – whether a certificate or associate's degree for an entry-level job, or a bachelor's degree that will qualify you for more competitive positions – your basic paralegal course work will cover the same topics.
A traditional paralegal curriculum covers the range of topics that an entry-level paralegal faces on a daily basis. Most programs start with an introduction to paralegal studies, followed by general course work in legal analysis and writing, torts, contracts, ethics courses, and administrative law for paralegals. Practical paralegal courses such as law office management and business organization processes are also common.
Your paralegal courses are also likely to include training specific types of law, including:
- Civil law – civil litigation is intended to bring resolution to disputes between individuals or organizations. Your paralegal curriculum will help you understand the processes involved in civil cases.
- Criminal law – you will learn how to support attorneys as they prepare for criminal cases, in which the government prosecutes individuals for breaking the law.
- Real estate law – your training in real estate law will give you insight into the legal aspects of real estate transactions.
- Family law – dealing with issues relating to families, from adoption to domestic violence to divorce, family law provides a spectrum of challenges for attorneys and paralegals.
- Wills, trusts and estates – learn how to support individuals as they determine how to distribute their assets after death.
In a paralegal bachelor degree program, the curriculum begins with basic the liberal arts requirements for a bachelor's degree, then it expands to include paralegal courses such as legal analysis, research and writing, introduction to law and civil procedure, estates and trusts, family law, torts, bankruptcy and creditor's rights, and legal forms for business organizations. An internship at a law firm or in the legal department of a corporation is often a requirement in order to complete a bachelor's degree.
As a savvy, well-prepared paralegal, you will work side-by-side with attorneys, and a graduate paralegal program gives the highest level of specialization possible. In these programs, not only will you complete the basic course work, you will also complete more advanced study in an area of expertise, for instance, family law, criminal law or corporate law. There are many highly respected graduate-level paralegal degree programs that will set you on the path to finding a rewarding and high-paying paralegal position.