South Suburban College
South Suburban College

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Paralegal/Legal Assistant Program

Important Fall 2012 Changes to the Paralegal Curriculum

Overview

The Paralegal/Legal Assistant Program is actually two curriculum programs, a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree career program and a Certificate Program, available to those persons possessing a baccalaureate or an associate of arts degree from an accredited post-secondary institution. Both curriculums are designed to prepare a student to become a highly trained legal assistant. The program is approved by the American Bar Association. South Suburban College is also an institutional member of the American Association for Paralegal Education.

The mission of the program is to: To provide a strong, flexible program for the quality education for the training of occupationally competent paralegals/legal assistants through a curriculum that provides a balance of legal theory, practical skills, and practical experience resulting in highly trained paralegals qualified to work under the supervision of an attorney in a variety of legal and law-related environments. We also seek to promote both the paralegal profession generally as well as the professionalism of paralegals/legal assistants with the result of increasing the ways paralegals/legal assistants can be of service to the legal profession.

What is the nature of the work?

As a highly trained legal assistant, the paralegal is prepared to work in a variety of settings including: government agencies, banks, insurance companies, corporate legal departments, and traditional law offices. The increasing volume and cost of legal services has created a demand for legal assistants. It is by many accounts one of the fastest-growing profession today.

Though a paralegal/legal assistant cannot practice law, give legal advice, or represent clients in court, they can perform many tasks working under the direction and supervision of an attorney. Duties may include factual and legal research, interviewing and communicating with clients, drafting documents, directing investigations, assisting in trial preparations, case management, and searching public and court records.

What will I learn in class? (Program Competencies)

Emphasis is placed on the development of core skills in legal research techniques, compilation and analysis of data, understanding legal vocabulary, preparation of legal documents, and critical thinking. A student that successfully completes the Paralegal/Legal Assistant Degree or Certificate will have done so after demonstrating adequate skills in each of the following competencies:

  • knowledge of the various functions and roles of a paralegal;
  • knowledge of the ethics and professional responsibility of attorneys and paralegals;
  • knowledge of legal terminology;
  • knowledge of the various court systems;
  • knowledge of evidence and investigations;
  • proficiency in manual and computerized legal research;
  • proficiency in legal writing and analysis;
  • knowledge of how the law office operates;
  • successful completion of an approved internship;
  • an appreciation and understanding for the importance of continuing legal education; and
  • ability to apply paralegal skills in potential areas of practice, such as but not limited to:
    • Alternative dispute resolution,
    • civil and criminal litigation,
    • domestic relations,
    • probate and estate planning,
    • real estate,
    • contracts and commercial transactions,
    • law office management, and
    • legal research and writing
Will I gain any hands-on experience?
Yes, hands-on experience is gained in the last semester of the program through an internship in a legal or law-related setting. Students who have met the necessary prerequisites will work a minimum of 210 hours over the course of the semester (15 hours per week for a period of 14 weeks during the fall or spring semester or 26.25 hours for a period of 8 weeks during the summer semester).
Admission Requirements

Forward all high school and college transcripts directly to the Office of Admissions and Records. A person can take paralegal classes without being in the paralegal program. However, a person must be in the paralegal program in order to take any of the legal research and writing classes and the internship class.

To be accepted into the Paralegal program, students must have a high school diploma or High School Equivalency (HSE) and must complete the following:

  • an application for admission to the program,
  • successfully complete ENG 101, PLA 101 and BLW 201 with a grade point of 2.66,
  • complete a resume,
  • submit three letters of reference and copies of all college transcripts to the Program Coordinator.

Upon completion of the above requirements, schedule a personal interview with the Program Coordinator.

How am I accepted into the Paralegal Program?
Admission to the College does not necessarily guarantee acceptance into the Paralegal/Legal Assistant program. However, admission to the college does allow you to take all of the paralegal classes except for the legal research and writing classes and the internship class. With respect to the legal research and writing classes and the internship class, you must be admitted to the paralegal program prior to taking those classes. In order to gain admission to the certificate program, the student must have successfully completed BLW 201 and PLA 101 by earning a minimum grade point average of 2.66 in those two classes. In order to gain admission into the degree program, the student needs at least a 2.66 GPA in English 101, BLW 201, and PLA 101. Once the criteria for admission into either the degree or certificate program has been met, the student completes an application, which is available through this web site, and then the student schedules a personal interview with the paralegal program coordinator to be formally admitted into the program.
What are the objectives of the paralegal program?
  • Demonstrate effective legal knowledge and practical skills necessary to perform substantive legal work under the direction of an attorney.
  • Demonstrate appropriate paralegal skill development and professionalism through practical experience.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of ethical responsibilities in the legal profession.
  • Analyze and synthesize clearly complex information, both in writing and verbally, in an organized and logical manner.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the technology necessary to meet employer needs.
  • Articulation of the paralegal role in the delivery of legal services to the public.
  • Maintain equality of opportunity in the educational program without discrimination or segregation on the grounds of race, color, religion, disability, national origin, or sex.
How these objectives are met?

  • The curriculum provides a balance of legal-specialty courses, courses in special topics, and general education requirements that gives students a base upon which they can communicate effectively with clients as well as the public and people in the legal system. Legal specialty courses are offered primarily in the evening to accommodate those with daytime jobs and family responsibilities.
  • Legal theory and practical experience are extensively combined in each of the legal specialty courses. For example: In PLA 202, Litigation, students conduct interviews and draft pleadings; in PLA 203 and 205, students draft an intra-office memorandum; and in PLA 209, Estate Planning and Probate, students draft a will and open an estate. These are just a few examples; all legal specialty courses have practical assignments.
  • The internship, PLA 204, requires students to work 210 hours as a volunteer in a law office or other legal environment. Actual cases are handled, involving all aspects of the practice of law, from confidentiality to public trials. The student then uses the internship experience as "work experience" when writing a resume and during classroom and real employment interviews.
  • The curriculum is kept current by securing input from the legal community, via the Advisory Board Meetings, monitoring of the internship sites, input from students, and input from the full-time and adjunct faculty. The legal specialty courses are taught almost exclusively by practicing attorneys and judges and they provide continuous input.
  • The program adheres to the school's affirmative action policy which requires equality of opportunity without discrimination or segregation on the grounds of race, color, religion, disability, national origin, or sex.

With my other commitments, how can I meet my educational goals?

If you are planning on entering into the legal profession or have worked in the profession for years, the South Suburban College the Paralegal/Legal Assistant program is structured to help you meet your goals. South Suburban College provides you with choices. You may:

  • Take one or more courses to advance your skills in a specific legal area,
  • Pursue the Associate in Applied Science degree in Paralegal/Legal Assistant Studies, or
  • Go beyond your baccalaureate or A.A. degree and attain a Certificate in Paralegal/Legal Assistant Studies.

You will learn at your own pace, you may take either curriculum part-time or full-time. You may take one class a semester or up to six classes a semester. All paralegal classes are offered at night with some classes offered during the day and some also offered online.

What is the employment outlook?

According to the U. S. Department of Labor, the paralegal profession ranks among the fastest growing occupations in the economy. Employment growth stems from law firms and other employers with legal staffs increasingly hiring paralegals to lower the cost and increase the availability and efficiency of legal services. The majority of job openings for paralegals in the future will be new jobs created by rapid employment growth for paralegals; other job openings will arise as people leave the occupation.

Job opportunities are excellent in both the city and suburbs. According to the US Department of Labor, the average salary nationwide for a paralegal is $47,600. According to the Illinois paralegal Association 2007 salary survey, nearly 3/4 of their members who responded to their survey reported making more than $50,000 with a median salary (half above and half below) of $60,000. Please note, that the particular salary a paralegal makes depends on a myriad of factors such as: education, experience, and firm size.

Paralegal/Legal Assistant Program Links
Application Package
If you have met the above requirements for admission and wish to apply to the Paralegal/Legal Assistant program, present the completed application package to the program coordinator at the time of your interview.

 

Paralegal/Legal Assistant Program Links

General Education

For More Information

Paralegal/Legal Assistant Program Receives Re-Approval From ABA

Download the Paralegal Brochure

For more information, please contact, Jason M. Cieslik, J.D., Coordinator of Legal Studies, (708) 596-2000 ext. 2579.

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