5 Common Courses in a Paralegal Degree Program

Courses in a Paralegal Degree Program

• Introduction to Paralegal Studies
• Legal Research and Writing
• Legal Ethics
• Civil Litigation
• Contracts

Although becoming a paralegal requires earning a degree from an accredited school, and every program is different, students often find that many of the schools have many of the same common courses in their paralegal degree program. Regardless of where the paralegal plans to work upon graduation, he or she is going to need to know the same important facts regarding paralegal work and legal requirements. Here are five courses commonly found in paralegal degree programs.

Related resource: 50 Most Affordable Online Paralegal Degree Programs

1. Introduction to Paralegal Studies

This course is exactly what its name implies and is probably part of the curriculum of every paralegal program. It introduces the student to the American legal system and the law in general. Students learn the importance of legal and professional ethics, good communication skills and efficient law office administration. The course also teaches how to do legal research and perform good legal writing and analysis. The court functions; legal terminology; the role of the paralegals and attorneys; and concepts of procedural and substantive law are stressed in this course. Students also learn about real estate, land-use law, and landlord-tenant laws.

2. Legal Research and Writing

The Legal Research and Writing course teaches students the importance of knowing how to do research by hand the old-fashioned way as well as with electronic research methods. It also teaches students how to not just find and understand information but also how to correctly cite and write legal resources. Students learn the importance of performing effective research using all available legal sources, including administrative regulations; statutes and constitutions; cases; law journals and even electronic media. They also learn to use basic written communication with common legal documents such as memorandums and opinion letters.

3. Legal Ethics

This course is aimed at teaching students the many ethical responsibilities needed when practicing law whether as an attorney or a paralegal. The class discusses actual ethical issues that come up in a court case and also provides an in-depth discussion on the Model Roles of Professional Responsibility. Topics of discussion in this course include malpractice; disciplinary process; conflict of interest, confidentiality and unauthorized practice of law. The Legal Ethics course also touches on attorney-client privilege, fee arrangements, and public service.

4. Civil Litigation

This course, which mixes legal theory with practical skills, introduces rules of civil litigation and the general idea of how lawsuits arise. It addresses the skills and knowledge necessary to be an effective paralegal from the first meeting with the client and right through to the end of the case. The course gives students a thorough understanding of the litigation process, including the procedures and rules, as well as the role paralegals play in a civil litigation trial. Students learn the entire process of civil litigation, including gathering data, interviewing clients, pleading and practicing the case, preparing for trial and filing the suit. They also learn about legal professionalism and ethics.

5. Contracts

Everything in the legal profession revolves around some sort of contract, and students learn the importance of contracts and the part they play within a legal case. They get a detailed study of contract law, including the basic parts of a contract, third-party rights, and the meaning of breach of contract. This course also provides students with a study of the development and history of the law, including court procedures, processes, and structures. Students also learn how contract law coincides with tort law and criminal justice. The course also teaches which laws affect the forming, enforcing and interpreting of contracts. Students also learn the basics of drafting a contract using the necessary components of a contract.

Working as a paralegal can be exciting, challenging, stimulating and very fast-paced employment. There are more than 260 American Bar Association-approved paralegal programs. Many of these programs have common courses, which makes it easier for aspiring students to take online paralegal courses if their current lifestyle does not allow attending college fulltime.