Paralegal Associate Degrees
Various institutions offer paralegal associate degree programs, which are designed to be completed in 2 years. These include community colleges, junior colleges, 4-year colleges and universities. Some business and proprietary schools also offer paralegal associate degree programs. If you intend to pursue your education further in a 4-year college, it is a good idea to find out about transferability of courses from the school. Programs that allow transfer of courses make it easier for you to achieve your educational objectives.
Associate degree programs usually consist of legal specialty courses, non-legal specialty courses and general education courses. Theory/practice areas vary from one program to the next. However, specific core legal courses may include:
- American legal system
- Business and corporate law
- Family law
- Law offices and associated environments
- Legal research and writing
- Litigation/civil procedure
- Legal ethics
- Real property transactions
- Wills, trusts and estate planning
These courses teach students how to properly handle litigation in different areas. Students learn how to efficiently draft various legal documents and clearly communicate legal principles to clients. Litigation courses teach students about what is entailed in taking cases to trial. Ethics courses teach students about the ethical standards of the profession as well as rules and regulations that govern practice. Hazy boundaries often occur in law practice and it is important that paralegals do not overstep these boundaries. Ethics courses teach students how to identify potential conflict of interest during practice, and how best to address such situations while protecting client interests and maintaining a strong commitment to their firm and profession. Students develop an understanding of the dynamics involved in attorney-client privilege and confidentiality. This prepares them to render quality services and avoid compromising client privacy, in any way. Ethics courses prepare students to observe high standards of integrity and professionalism during practice.
Electives usually include the role of computers in law firms, accounting and business communication. Technology plays a vital role in enabling efficient operations in the legal community. By understanding how computer technology works, paralegals prepare themselves to play an efficient role in the legal industry. Knowledge of computers and related technologies also gives paralegals more opportunity for advancement. They may later wish to venture into other roles such as computer consultants, litigation support managers and programmers. Knowledge of accounting and business communication prepares paralegals to efficiently manage the business aspects of legal work.
General education courses include humanities, mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, and written and oral communication. These courses give students the opportunity to develop essential competencies that allow efficient practice. This includes analytical thinking skills, communication skills, organizational skills, problem-solving skills and research skills.
Most paralegal training programs incorporate a practicum or clinical experience. This gives students the opportunity to apply their knowledge in a real-world legal setting. A practicum experience makes a strong statement to prospective employers about the quality of your training for the field.