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Introduction to Paralegal Studies

Purpose of Course  showclose

With the expansion of law and the legal process into so many areas of everyday life, the responsibilities of the legal profession have expanded to meet new challenges.  For example, the advent of the Internet since the early 1990s has raised a multitude of new legal issues related to various areas of intellectual property, including copyright, patent law, and trademark law.  In recognition of the fact that many law-related responsibilities can be handled by well-educated and trained non-lawyers, the legal profession has increasingly come to depend on the assistance of paralegals.  Paralegals perform key functions within a law office from drafting legal documents to investigating cases and interviewing witnesses.  While they are no replacement for lawyers, paralegals have become recognized as key components of a well-functioning legal office.

This course will introduce you to the basic knowledge and skills required of paralegals.  You will familiarize yourself with basics of the American legal system, as well as the substantive areas of law that are addressed within this system.  You will also learn and apply skills, such as researching legal issues, interviewing clients and witnesses, and drafting motions and pleadings.  By the end of this course, you will have a clear understanding of what a paralegal does, the skills needed to be a successful paralegal, and what it will take to begin a career as a paralegal.

Course Information  showclose

Welcome to PRDV301 Introduction to Paralegal Studies.  Below, please find general information on this course and its requirements.
 
Course Designer: Kevin Moquin

Primary Resources: This course is comprised of a range of different free, online materials.  However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:
Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and its assigned materials as indicated in the instructions.  You also need to complete the Final Exam.
 
Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam.  However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through the resources for each unit.
 
In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam.  Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of 30 hours to complete.  Each unit is a total of 3 hours and includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit.  These should help you plan your time accordingly.  It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself.

Tips/Suggestions: As you work through each resource in the course, make sure to take notes.  These notes will be useful as a review as you study for the Final Exam.

Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  • Define what a paralegal is.
  • Describe what a paralegal does.
  • Identify and describe the requirements for getting into and developing a paralegal career.
  • Discuss the basics of the American legal system.
  • Describe the jurisdiction of various courts in the American judicial system.
  • Explain how the civil process works.
  • Explain how the criminal process works.
  • Identify and interpret sources of law.
  • Discuss basic matters of substantive law.
  • Describe how to conduct basic legal research, and conduct this research.
  • Describe the elements of successful investigation and interviews.
  • Identify and describe the career prospects for paralegals.
  • Initiate a job search for paralegal jobs.

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Have competency in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Unit Outline show close


Expand All Resources Collapse All Resources
  • Unit 1: What Is a Paralegal?  

    So what does a paralegal do, anyway?  You may have heard the term before.  You probably know they work with lawyers.  You may even know someone who works as a paralegal, whose descriptions of the work he or she does make it sound pretty interesting.

    This unit will introduce you to the work that paralegals do.  You may be surprised to find that paralegals do a wide range of work that lawyers depend on to put legal cases together and to successfully operate a law office.  For example, a lawyer may rely on a paralegal to research court cases that help the lawyer understand a particular case.  Paralegals often play a key role in putting together key legal documents, such as motions to a judge.  This unit will help you understand how paralegals participate in constructing a legal case as well as the relationship of the paralegal to other staff who work in a law office.

    Unit 1 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 1 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 1.1 Definition of the Term “Paralegal”  
    • Reading: American Bar Association’s “Current ABA Definition of Legal Assistant/Paralegal”

      Link: American Bar Association’s “Current ABA Definition of Legal Assistant/Paralegal” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and review the American Bar Association’s broad definition of legal assistant/paralegal.  Note that the definition does not distinguish between a legal assistant and a paralegal.  While the term paralegal is becoming the dominant term for paraprofessionals who assist lawyers with substantive legal work, the terms are often used interchangeably.  As you review this definition, ask yourself the following questions: what qualifications this definition requires?  What is meant by “substantive legal work?”

      Studying this information and answering the questions above should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.2 What Do Paralegals Do?  
    • Web Media: YouTube: Salary Data’s “A Little about Paralegal Careers”

      Link: YouTube: Salary Data’s “A Little about Paralegal Careers” (YouTube)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and watch the brief video.  It will provide further clarification about what paralegals do and how you can go about becoming a paralegal.  There is also valuable information about where paralegals work, the average pay, and the prospects for a career in paralegal practice. 

      Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.2.1 Legal Research  
    • Reading: University of Florida Libraries’ “General Legal Research”

      Link: University of Florida Libraries’ “General Legal Research” (PDF)

      Instructions: This article provides a brief introduction to legal research.  The goal of legal research is generally to find authority relating to legal issues that arise in the practice of law.  Note the division of legal authority into primary and secondary authority and the types of legal resources that constitute each type of authority.  The text box titled “How to Begin” provides a brief but valuable summary of approaches to beginning the legal research process.  Lastly, be sure to click on the links in the box titled “What These Guides Cover” to get a flavor of the resources used in the legal research process.  Rolling your cursor over the links will produce a description of the resources, while clicking on the links will provide more detailed information.

      Reading this article should take approximately 25 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: University of Florida Libraries’ “Legal Research for Non-Law Students”

      Link: University of Florida Libraries’ “Legal Research for Non-Law Students” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the entire article.  While this article is geared toward the non-law student and resources available at University of Florida libraries, it provides a good overview of the types of resources consulted in conducting legal research.  Based upon the previous article, can you identify what sources would be primary authority and what ones would be secondary?

      Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.2.2 Legal Writing  
    • Reading: ENGL-110-RESEARCH-PROJECTS: Emily Krinsky’s “Legal Writing”

      Link: ENGL-110-RESEARCH-PROJECTS: Emily Krinsky’s “Legal Writing” (PDF)

      Instructions: This material is drawn from a college research project wiki.  The author does a good job of presenting an overview of the types and processes of legal writing.  Note that some legal writing is simply functional, such as the kind of legal writing that produces wills and many court filings.  Other legal writing is informational, simply providing information, and may include client letters and statements of facts.  Lastly, legal writing is often persuasive and includes, for example, arguments within appellate briefs.

      Reading this material should take approximately 10 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.2.3 Investigation  
    • Reading: Kaplan University’s “Pre-Complaint Investigation”

      Link: Kaplan University’s “Pre-Complaint Investigation” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the entire lesson, which provides an introduction and lesson relating to pre-complaint investigation.  You may click on the “next” or “back” buttons to navigate through the lesson.  Paralegals assist lawyers by interviewing clients and witnesses and collecting evidence related to a case.  Be sure to click on the links to “Introduction” and “Lesson.”  Note the importance of keeping information and the process of information-gathering organized to avoid confusion and duplication of efforts.

      Reading this lesson should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.2.4 Relationship to Attorneys  
    • Reading: American Bar Association’s “Information for Lawyers: How Paralegals Can Improve Your Practice”

      Link: American Bar Association’s “Information for Lawyers: How Paralegals Can Improve Your Practice” (HTML)

      Instructions: While this material is geared toward explaining the benefits of paralegals to lawyers, it offers considerable insight into the nature of the relationship between the paralegal and lawyers.  Note that paralegals may do just about anything a lawyer can do, so long as they are supervised by a lawyer.  Thus, the foundation of the relationship of lawyer to paralegal is supervisory.  However, the relationship goes beyond this, as skilled paralegals can increase the profitability and flexibility of a law office.  As you review the ethical responsibilities of attorneys regarding the use of paralegals, ask yourself the following question: how does this impact the ethical responsibilities of the paralegal?

      Reading this material and answering the question above should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.3 Other Functions within a Law Office  
  • 1.3.1 Attorneys  
    • Web Media: YouTube: CareerRx’s “A Day in the Life – Lawyer”

      Link: YouTube: CareerRx’s “A Day in the Life – Lawyer” (YouTube)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and watch this brief video, which highlights the role of a lawyer.  You will notice that there is an overlap between the duties of a lawyer and the duties of a paralegal.  The key difference is that lawyers have the ultimate ethical and legal responsibility to provide legal counsel and representation to clients.

      Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take less than 10 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.3.2 Legal Secretaries  
  • 1.4 Paralegal Organizations  
  • 1.5 The Vocabulary of Paralegals and the Legal Professions  
    • Reading: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 4: Legal Terms”

      Link: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 4: Legal Terms” (PDF)

      Instructions: This chapter, which begins on page 24, will give you with the chance to familiarize yourself with the specialized vocabulary of the law.  Notice the use of Latin phrases, most of which come down to the American legal system through the common law, a topic which will be covered in more depth later in the course.  Please keep in mind that the list of legal terms presented in this reading is not comprehensive.  You will want access to a legal dictionary, either online or in hard copy.

      Reading this chapter should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted by the kind permission of the B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program and Keith Nordyke.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

  • Unit 2: The Legal System  

    Each legal system is different.  Its foundations may present widely different ways of approaching the law and understanding the distribution of power.  The United States, due to unique historical circumstances, has developed a system of law very different from China, France, and even the United Kingdom.

    This unit will introduce you to the foundations of law in the United States.  The unique system of separation of powers together with federalism have shaped the process of law in the United States.  The president, the Congress, and the court system each have separate powers that the other branches cannot interfere with.  For example, judges are given lifetime appointments and cannot be removed by the president or Congress without an impeachment trial.  In addition, the separate powers of the federal and state governments also shape the legal process.  You will learn this and more as the unit closes with a comparison of the American system with other systems.

    Unit 2 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 2 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 2.1 The American Legal System  
  • 2.1.1 Separation of Powers  
  • 2.1.2 Federalism  

    Note: This topic is covered by the Chapter 5, Section 1 reading from Lau and Johnson and the Chapter 4, Section 1 reading from Mayer et al. assigned below sub-subunit 2.1.1.  Both readings contain discussions on the role of federalism in the American political and legal system.  Focus on these sections.

    • Web Media: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Federalism I” and “Federalism II”

      Link: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Federalism I” and “Federalism II” (YouTube)

      Instructions: Please click on the links above and watch these videos.  These lectures provide a more in-depth discussion of federalism, which is a key concept in the United States legal and political system that has a major impact on the practice of law.  Note that other countries, such as Canada and Germany, also have federal systems of government.

      Watching this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of use: The material above has been reposted by the kind permission of Patrick Scott from Missouri State University, and can be viewed in its original form here.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

  • 2.1.3 Common Law  
    • Reading: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 9: Common Law”

      Link: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 9: Common Law” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read “Chapter 9 Common Law,” which begins on page 88.  This reading presents a discussion of the common law, an inheritance of the American legal system from it former colonial master – Great Britain.  All of the countries that were once colonies of Britain, including the United States, Canada, Australia, India, and Pakistan have been impacted by common law.  Note that common law generally is law created by judges.  Ask yourself: how can judges make law?  Your understanding of common law and the role of judges in the law will be critical to your effectiveness as a paralegal.

      Reading this chapter and answering the question assigned should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted by the kind permission of the B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program and Keith Nordyke.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

  • 2.2 Other Systems of Law – An Overview  
  • Unit 3: Sources of the Law  

    We think we know what we are talking about when we talk about the law.  But what exactly is the law, and where does it come from?  For example, the United States Supreme Court decided in 1954 that there could not be separate schools for blacks and whites in America.  Is this law?  What other sources of law are there?

    In this unit, you will learn about where the law comes from.  A paralegal can have all the research skills in the world, but it will not matter much if the paralegal does not know what valid law is and what is merely commentary or opinion.  You will learn how to locate and interpret relevant court cases to assist you and the lawyers you work for in making strong legal arguments.  You will also learn how to locate statutory law – law passed by legislative bodies– and the unique challenges related to interpreting statutes.

    Unit 3 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 3 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 3.1 Where Does the Law Come From?  
    • Reading: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 2: Sources of Law”

      Link: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 2: Sources of Law” (PDF)

      Instructions: Now that you have familiarized yourself with the various definitions of “law,” you need to understand where the law comes from.  In democratic societies, the ultimate source of the law is usually founded on a constitution with lawmaking authority in a legislature.  In fact, there are various other sources of law in democratic societies.  For example, consider the role of customs and of government agencies.  Please click on the link above and read Chapter 2, which begins on page 10.  This reading will familiarize you with these various sources of law.

      Reading this chapter should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted by the kind permission of the B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program and Keith Nordyke.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

  • 3.2 Kinds of Law  
    • Reading: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 3: Classifications of Law”

      Link: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 3: Classifications of Law” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read Chapter 3, which begins on page 19.  There are various types of law.  For example, some law addresses the substance of a claim (e.g. did the defendant act negligently), while other law addresses the procedure to be used in addressing claims (e.g. what information must be presented when a plaintiff files a claim).  In addition, some law affects the relationship of the government to citizens, while other law bears the relationships between private parties.  This reading will introduce you to these and other classifications of the law.

      Reading this chapter should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted by the kind permission of the B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program and Keith Nordyke.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

  • 3.3 Fundamental Law: The Constitution  
    • Reading: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 10: Constitutional Law”

      Link: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 10: Constitutional Law” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read Chapter 10, which begins on page 95.  This reading provides a comprehensive overview of the origins and impact of the Constitution of the United States.  This chapter includes a discussion of what a constitution is and its relation to other law.  Be aware that constitutions can take many forms and have many varying provisions.  In fact, the United Kingdom operates with an unwritten constitution.  Ask yourself: how would an unwritten constitution work?  Note also that each state in the federal system of the United States has its own constitution.

      Reading this chapter should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted by the kind permission of the B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program and Keith Nordyke.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

  • 3.3.1 Finding Statutory Law  
    • Reading: Harvard Law School Library’s “Researching Federal and State Statutes”

      Link: Harvard Law School Library’s “Researching Federal and State Statutes” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this entire webpage.  This site provides a fairly comprehensive overview of sources available for United States federal and state statutory material.  This resource covers print and online sources, as well as commercial, academic, and government sources.  Be sure to explore sources that are freely available or that point you to freely available statutory resources.

      Studying this resource should take approximately 45 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.3.2 Interpreting Statutory Law  
    • Reading: University of Washington School of Law: Professor Deborah Maranville’s “How to Read a Statute: MAP It!”

      Link: University of Washington School of Law: Professor Deborah Maranville’s “How to Read a Statute: MAP It!” (DOC)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and then select the link “How to Read a Statute: MAP It!”  This will take you to a Word document in which Professor Maranville provides a very useful approach to reading and interpreting statutes.  You are guided to adopt a method for analyzing the statute, identify and deal with ambiguity, and understand the policies and procedures that courts use in reviewing statutes.

      Reading this document should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.4 Case Law  
  • 3.4.1 Finding Case Law  
    • Reading: Boston College Law Library’s “Finding Cases”

      Link: Boston College Law Library’s “Finding Cases” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and under the heading “PDF Guides” and select the “Finding Cases” link to access the PDF file.  This guide introduces you to using print, commercial, and online resources to find legal cases.  Note that there are an enormous amount of cases in the United States legal system alone, encompassing state and federal court decisions by trial, intermediate appeals, and final appeals courts.  Without assistance, finding a case can truly be like looking for a needle in a haystack.  Luckily, there are various tools to help you locate cases.  Pay particular attention in this reading to the use of digests.  Also, note that annotated codes can be very helpful.  Lastly, be aware that the Internet also provides access to a wide array of cases.  Don’t forget to click on the link provided to Boston College’s Law Library webpage to explore resources available on the Internet.

      Studying this material should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.4.2 Interpreting Case Law  
    • Reading: State University of New York at Albany: Julie Novkov’s “How to Read a Case”

      Link: State University of New York at Albany: Julie Novkov’s “How to Read a Case” (PDF)

      Instructions: On the linked webpage, scroll down to “Teaching Resources,” and click on “How to Read a Case” to download the PDF.  While the article was written for a particular course, its advice for reading cases is generally applicable.  The article provides a strong introduction to reading and analyzing cases for non-lawyers.  Note particularly the doctrine of stare decisis and how this impacts the evolution of case law in the United States.  You will also need to become an expert at distinguishing issues of fact and issues of law.

      Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: John Jay College of Criminal Justice: Lloyd Sealy Library’s “How to Brief a Case”

      Link: John Jay College of Criminal Justice: Lloyd Sealy Library’s “How to Brief a Case” (HTML)

      Instructions: Interpreting a case law begins with understanding what happened in a case.  To do this, students of the law and paralegals use a somewhat standard form for “briefing a case.”  Briefing cases involves setting out the key information in a case in a logical and easy-to-use format.  As the article points out, be careful to avoid confusing this kind of briefing, which is a tool for understanding, with an appellate brief, in which attorneys lay out the legal arguments for overturning a lower adjudicator’s decision.

      Reading this article should take approximately 20 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 4: The Judicial System  

    A system of justice requires a process for justice.  In general, that process is available through the judicial system.  Lawyers and paralegals must be familiar with various parts of the judicial system and the appropriate way to access them.  For example, when your client brings a case to you dealing with a breach of contract, which court will you bring that to?  Is there any recourse if you lose the case?  When do you know you have exhausted all of your client’s remedies?

    In this unit, you will learn about a typical judicial system, using the American system as a model.  Most judicial systems contain a basic level of trial courts that address issues of fact and law.  If the outcome is not satisfactory, a party and his or her legal team may decide to appeal issues of law to an appeals court.  Many judicial systems provide for intermediate courts of appeal and one ultimate decider.  For example, you will see that in the United States, decisions of Courts of Appeal may be appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.  Any legal issues decided by the Supreme Court are final and may not be appealed further.  As a paralegal, you must understand how this process works to adequately serve your employers and clients.

    Unit 4 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 4 Learning Outcomes   show close
    • Reading: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 7: The Legal System”

      Link: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 7: The Legal System” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read Chapter 7, which begins on page 59.  This reading provides a good overview of the legal system as it exists in the United States.  In addition to addressing the role of the various federal and state courts, it also addresses issues of jurisdiction.  Remember, not every court can (or should) hear every case.  In addition, you should familiarize yourself with the circumstances under which litigation may be prohibited and how courts grant damages and other relief.

      Reading this chapter should take approximately 45 minutes.

      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted by the kind permission of the B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program and Keith Nordyke.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

  • 4.1 Trial Courts  
  • 4.2 Intermediate Appeals Courts  

    Note: This topic is covered by the Chapter 2, Section 3 reading from Lau and Johnson assigned below subunit 4.1.  To cover this subunit, focus on the discussion of the role of intermediate appeals courts in the United States.

  • 4.3 Courts of Last Resort  
  • Unit 5: The Legal Process  

    While you have become familiar with the components of the judicial system, this is obviously not enough for you to be an effective paralegal.  For example, you may know which court to bring a client’s complaint to regarding a claim against the client’s doctor, but what happens when you get there?  What forms and documents have to be filed?  How do you address motions to the judge?

    In this unit, you will explore how the process works in dealing with courts and judges.  Certain fundamental filings are required to bring a civil action in court.  Different filings are required for a criminal action.  In addition, you will be introduced to the filing of motions to the court.  Lastly, it is important to understand that many legal processes provide for less formal ways of resolving disputes.  This unit will also introduce you to methods of alternative dispute resolution, or ADR.

    Unit 5 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 5 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 5.1 Civil Litigation  
    • Reading: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 11: Litigation”

      Link: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 11: Litigation” (PDF)

      Instructions: Now that you have become familiar with the legal system, it is time to learn how a case makes its way through that system.  On the civil side, a trial is the culmination of a sometimes lengthy process of litigation.  Please click on the link above and read Chapter 11, which begins on page 101.  In this reading, you will learn about the importance of jurisdiction and venue to the litigation process.  In addition, you will learn how litigation is initiated, and you will familiarize yourself with the process by which a party may obtain information in the hands of another party – the discovery process.  Lastly, you will become familiar with the various ways in which courts may dispose of a case.

      Reading this chapter should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted by the kind permission of the B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program and Keith Nordyke.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

  • 5.2 ADR  
    • Web Media: YouTube: NJIT School of Management: Professor Diana Walsh, Esq.’s “Lecture 3: Alternative Dispute Resolution”

      Link: YouTube: NJIT School of Management: Professor Diana Walsh, Esq.’s “Lecture 3: Alternative Dispute Resolution” (YouTube)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and watch this brief lecture.  As its name implies, alternative dispute resolution, or ADR, provides an alternative method for resolving legal disputes.  Litigation is generally expensive and time-consuming, and it may be damaging to important relationships.  ADR offers various methods to avoid some of these pitfalls, such as negotiation, mediation, and arbitration.  These three primary methods of ADR are discussed in this lecture.  Be aware, however, that ADR has its own set of drawbacks that lawyers must consider in deciding the best approach to resolving a legal dispute.

      Watching this lecture and pausing to take notes will take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.3 Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure  
    • Reading: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 13: Criminal Law”

      Link: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession“Chapter 13: Criminal Law” (PDF)

      Instructions: The process by which a criminal case makes its way through the legal system is generally similar to civil litigation but with some very important distinctions.  Please click on the link above and read Chapter 13, which begins on page 132.  In this reading, you will learn about two important aspects of criminal law: substantive and procedural law.  Substantive criminal law addresses what activities are considered criminal, while procedural law deals with the rules lawyers and others must follow in participating in a criminal case.  As with civil litigation, you will find that jurisdiction plays an important role.  You should also come to understand the basis for the laws underlying the criminal prosecution.

      Reading this chapter should take approximately 45 minutes.

      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted by the kind permission of the B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program and Keith Nordyke.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

  • 5.4 The Paralegal’s Role in the Legal Process  
  • 5.4.1 Calendaring  
    • Reading: Link: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “Docket Control”

      Link: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “Docket Control” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this article.  Docket control, also known as calendaring, is an important part of the paralegal’s responsibilities in a law office.  The paralegal is often relied on to ensure that important deadlines are recorded and tracked to ensure timely filings and appearances.  You will note that most modern law offices use some form of electronic calendaring.  Keep in mind the great importance of this task – deadlines, for example, can make the difference between a client recovering damages or being denied.  To perform this important duty, paralegals must not only be organized, but also must be familiar with various rules governing the litigation process.
       
      Reading this article should take approximately 10 minutes.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.4.2 The Basics of E-Filing  
    • Reading: NALS: Kathryn Puza’s “E-Filing Primer”

      Link: NALS: Kathryn Puza’s “E-Filing Primer” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this article.  Like just about all other aspects of professional life, technology has changed the way law offices interact with the legal process.  Most courts in the United States, including the federal courts, now provide for e-filing of documents required for civil or criminal actions.  So, for example, pleadings can be uploaded directly to a court database.  This article gives you an overview of the process and its importance.

      Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.4.3 Discovery  
    • Reading: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “Discovery”

      Link: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “Discovery” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this article.  Discovery is the process by which the parties to a legal case exchange information so that everyone is dealing with the same facts.  Paralegals should be familiar with the court rules that govern the discovery process.  This process involves requests to the other party or parties to provide documents.  It can also take the form of written questions, known as interrogatories, as well as depositions and requests for expert witness opinions.  Note the important role the paralegal plays in the discovery process.

      Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: American Bar Association: Erin E. Rhinehart’s “Civil Subpoenas in Federal Court: Successful Preparation and Service of Subpoenas”

      Link: American Bar Association: Erin E. Rhinehart’s “Civil Subpoenas in Federal Court: Successful Preparation and Service of Subpoenas” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this article.  Subpoenas play a vital role in the discovery process.  A subpoena is a court-authorized document compelling a witness to provide testimony or documents in a case.  Failure to abide by a valid subpoena in the absence of any legally recognized exceptions can result in penalties.  This reading gives an overview of the process, focusing on practice in federal courts in the United States.  Though presented from the point-of-view of an associate attorney, paralegals often play an important role in the subpoena process.

      Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.4.4 Database and Document Management  
    • Reading: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “File and Records Management”

      Link: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “File and Records Management” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this article. This article presents a good overview of the process of managing client files and records.  This is a key function of the paralegal.  With the massive amount of information that can be collected in a civil case, it is vitally important that the information be stored in an organized and easy-to-access manner.  Note that computerized records management has become the norm in law offices, and paralegals are required to be familiar with such systems.  Two of the most common database tools are Summation and Concordance.

      Reading this article should take approximately 10 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 6: Substantive Areas of Law: An Overview  

    An entrepreneur comes to your law office.  She is interested in starting a business and is seeking your advice.  She asks, “What form of business should I choose?  How can my partners and I protect ourselves in case we are sued?  What might we be sued for?  Can you help us draft contracts with suppliers and key employees?”

    These basic questions raise issues touching on various substantive areas of law.  In this unit, you will learn about the leading areas of substantive law that lawyers and paralegals are exposed to.  For example, if your entrepreneur client is sued because her product injures someone, you will need to be familiar with tort law.  If the client and her business partners agree to part ways after the business has been operating for a while, you will want to be familiar with contract and property law to determine who is entitled to what.  While many paralegals work for large law firms and specialize in a substantive area of law, the majority of paralegals will need to be familiar with several substantive areas of law.  This unit will give you a good introduction to the major substantive areas.

    Unit 6 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 6 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 6.1 Torts  
    • Web Media: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation’s “Business Law”

      Link: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation’s “Business Law” (YouTube)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and watch the entire video.  This video from Saylor’s BUS205: Business Law and Ethics course provides a comprehensive introduction to the law of torts.  As you progress in your paralegal education, you will need to become more familiar with this important area of law.

      Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use on the webpage displayed above.

  • 6.2 Contracts  
    • Reading: The Legal and Ethical Environment of Business: “Chapter 6: Contracts”

      Link: The Legal and Ethical Environment of Business: “Chapter 6: Contracts” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the introduction to “Chapter 6: Contracts.”  This introduction looks at a case involving actors Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke.  It raises important questions about the nature of contracts.  Be sure to take note of the definition of a contract and the consequences for breaking a contract.  While this is a valuable introduction to contracts, you will need to become more familiar with this area of law as you continue your paralegal education.

      Reading this chapter should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 6.3 Property Law  
    • Reading: The Legal and Ethical Environment of Business: “Chapter 8: The Property System”

      Link: The Legal and Ethical Environment of Business: “Chapter 8: The Property System” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the introduction to “Chapter 8: The Property System.”  Note that property can be both tangible and intangible.  What kinds of property do you think might be intangible?  This is a valuable introduction to some of the legal issues related to property and its possession and ownership.  Be sure to click on the link near the end of the introduction, which will allow you to explore the ownership of DNA.

      Reading this chapter should take approximately 20 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 6.4 Family Law  
    • Reading: Syracuse University College of Law’s “What Is Family Law?”

      Link: Syracuse University College of Law’s “What Is Family Law?” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the entire webpage.  This page provides a brief overview of the broad areas known as family law.  Note the many topics covered by the term “family law,” ranging from marriage and divorce to estate planning and elder law.  Many of the required abilities and legal areas of proficiency listed for a law student considering family law also apply to the paralegal student.  Again, if family law is an area of interest for you, you will need to consider a course focused on this area of law during your paralegal education.

      Reading this material should take approximately 10 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 6.5 Business and Commercial Law  
  • 6.6 Wills and Estates  
    • Reading: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 15: Wills and Estates”

      Link: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 15: Wills and Estates” (PDF)

      Instructions: As the title of this reading suggests, in this subunit you will learn about the law related to the passage of property at the end of life.  This covers areas of vital importance to the many people who want to insure their property passes as they wish and with the greatest protections for themselves and their loved one.  You will learn about the importance of wills as well as the consequences of not having a will.  In addition, you will be introduced to basic considerations of estate planning and taxes. This chapter begins on page 183.

      Reading this chapter should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted by the kind permission of the B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program and Keith Nordyke.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

  • Unit 7: Legal Research and Legal Citation  

    Knowledge of what the law currently says about particular legal issues is the foundation of any legal work.  Many people seem to assume that lawyers know the answers to all legal questions and have those answers readily at hand when presented with a particular scenario.  However, it is more usual that a lawyer will need to familiarize him or herself with at least some issues of law with which the lawyer is not fully familiar.

    Much of the work of researching the law has fallen to paralegals.  For example, a particular legal scenario– or fact pattern– may involve the legal standards applicable when a child is injured by falling into a swimming pool on a neighbor’s property.  You will review court cases, which will most likely present very similar facts or legal issues.  In addition, you will need to check state and possibly federal statutes to see whether any statutory law applies.  There are also a range of resources that can assist a paralegal in finding related cases and statutes.  In this unit, you will learn about how to access this important information.

    Unit 7 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 7 Learning Outcomes   show close
    • Reading: Free Law Coalition: Sarah Glassmeyer’s “Research Primer”

      Link: Free Law Coalition: Sarah Glassmeyer’s “Research Primer” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this entire webpage, which provides a handy summary of a great approach to legal research.  This is a more broad-based approach to the subject of legal research, but the numbered tips are practical in any setting, whether the resources being used are proprietary or free.  You may even want to print this page out and keep it with you as you conduct legal research for future courses and in your career.

      Reading this material should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 7.1 The Law Library  
  • 7.1.1 Where to Find Open Access Law Libraries  
    • Reading: FindLaw’s “Public Law Libraries”

      Link: FindLaw’s “Public Law Libraries” (HTML)

      Instructions: This resource presents a list with links of law libraries in the United States that provide public access.  These public access law libraries are an important source of information to the public and to legal professionals for primary and secondary authority on the law.  You are invited to click on various links to get a flavor of what is on offer at the publicly accessible law libraries.  If you do not live in the United States or if your state is not represented here, you should explore your country or state’s government websites for information regarding publicly accessible law collections.  Lastly, be sure to click on the link to the “Internet Public Library” to view online legal resources available.

      Exploring this resource should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 7.1.2 What You Will Find in a Law Library  
    • Reading: Educational Resources Information Center’s “How to Use a Law Library”

      Link: Educational Resources Information Center’s “How to Use a Law Library” (PDF)

      Instructions: To access this reading from the ERIC website, click on the link to “ERIC Full Text.”  This is a 1977 document, but it still remains applicable to the volumes found in law libraries today.  This document is particularly valuable, because it lays out a systematic, four-method approach to using the resources found in a law library.  Note the value of beginning with legal encyclopedias to familiarize yourself with a topic and related law.  Also, note that hard copy legal materials often contain “pocket parts” attached to the back cover or supplements to update the ever-changing law.

      Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 7.2 Computer-Based Research  
  • 7.2.1 Proprietary Tools  
    • Reading: The Cleveland Law Library Association: Kathleen M. Sasala, Esq.’s “Westlaw Digest System and LEXIS Headnote System”

      Link: The Cleveland Law Library Association: Kathleen M. Sasala, Esq.’s “Westlaw Digest System and LEXIS Headnote System” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this introduction to the Westlaw Digest System and LEXIS Headnote System.  Westlaw and Lexis are the leading proprietary computer-based legal research systems in the United States.  Most every law office, law school, law library, and government agency pays considerable amounts for access to these resources.  Billing for use of Westlaw and LEXIS can be time-based or search-based, but either way, a good paralegal will know that fees can add up very quickly and any employer will appreciate efficient, cost-sensitive research.  As a paralegal student, you should familiarize yourself with both of these resources, as you are very likely to use them in your professional career.  A publicly accessible law library may provide access to Westlaw and LEXIS.  Like hard copy volumes, there are various approaches to using these resources, including key number searches, topic searches, and case-based searches.

      Reading this material take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 7.2.2 Non-Proprietary Tools  
    • Reading: Free Law Coalition: Sarah Glassmeyer’s “Research”

      Link: Free Law Coalition: Sarah Glassmeyer’s “Research” (PDF)

      Instructions: Like all areas of life and employment, the Internet is changing access to the law.  This page contains an introduction and links to free legal research resources on the Internet.  You should read the links to “Primary Federal Law,” “Secondary Sources,” and “Primary State Law.”  Each of these, in turn, provides links to resources for cases, codes, regulations, articles, and other secondary authority.  Be sure to go through each one to familiarize yourself with the expansive range of materials freely available on the Internet.

      Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Web Media: YouTube: John Broggi’s “Legal Research on the Internet”

      Link: YouTube: John Broggi’s “Legal Research on the Internet” (YouTube)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and watch this video, which presents a more focused summary of free legal research available on the Internet.  This video covers three resources – Google Scholar, Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, and the Internet Legal Research Group.  These are key free resources available on the Web, and free means less expense for your employer.  Through these resources, you can gain access to cases, statutes, regulations, and scholarly resources.

      Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 7.3 Legal Citation  
  • 7.3.1 Cite-Checking  
  • 7.3.2 Citation Standards  
    • Reading: Cornell University Law School: Legal Information Institute: Peter W. Martin’s Introduction to Legal Citation, § 1-600 “Who Sets Citation Norms” (HTML)

      Link: Cornell University Law School: Legal Information Institute: Peter W. Martin’s Introduction to Legal Citation, § 1-600 “Who Sets Citation Norms” (HTML)

      Instructions: As you consider the subject of citation, you may wonder who gets to set the standards for citation.  Is it the courts?  Some other agency of government?  As this article notes, for years the standard was The Bluebook produced by a consortium of four law school journal editorial boards.  In fact, it still maintains a position as the leading citation authority.  However, others do exist and, in fact, court rules also have an impact on legal citation.  Nonetheless, it is very likely that any law firm with which you gain employment is likely to have a copy of The Bluebook in its library.

      Reading this article should take approximately 10 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 8: Investigations and Interviews  

    A client comes to a lawyer after a car accident.  The client has been injured and believes the other driver caused the accident, but the other driver’s insurance company is refusing to pay.  The client says the police were called and that there were several witnesses to the accident that have been identified.  To determine the client’s legal rights in the matter, an investigation has to be undertaken.  Here, paralegals play a key role in investigating a case.

    In this unit, you will learn about the methods paralegals use to investigate a case.  As part of this, you will learn about the drafting of subpoenas to require the provision of evidence.  You will also learn how a client intake interview should proceed and how this is different from interviews of witnesses.  The ability to pull this information together in a usable format can have a major impact on the success of a client’s case.  This unit will introduce you to the skills necessary to do this.

    Unit 8 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 8 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 8.1 Investigation Methods  
    • Reading: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “Defining the Goals of the Investigation,” “Types of Investigation,” “Investigation Resources,” “Important Investigative Qualities,” and “Communicating Your Results”

      Link: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “Defining the Goals of the Investigation” (HTML), “Types of Investigation” (HTML), “Investigation Resources” (HTML), “Important Investigative Qualities” (HTML), and “Communicating Your Results” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the links above and read these articles in their entirety.  The first reading, “Defining the Goals of the Investigation,” describes how a paralegal should start an investigation.  Investigation does not start with contacting witness and collecting evidence.  It must be systematic.  You will find information on defining the goals of the investigation and developing an investigation plan.  Do not forget to consult the text boxes entitled “Essential” and “Fact.”

      The second reading, “Types of Investigation,” provides information on various approaches to conducting an investigation.  While one way to investigate is to show up at the scene of the activity giving rise to civil or criminal liability, there are other approaches that may be more effective in certain circumstances.  Investigations may be conducted in writing, by telephone, or with a computer.  Be sure to take note of the text box entitled “Alert.”

      The third reading, “Investigation Resources,” provides information on the many resources available to a paralegal conducting an investigation.  Note the importance of developing and maintaining your own list of resources.  The “Fact” text box suggests some common sources of investigative information.

      While the process of investigation is important, certain attitudes and approaches to the process are also critically important.  For example, you might not think of a paralegal career as providing much of an opportunity for creativity, but as the fourth article, “Important Investigative Qualities,” points out, this is a critical requirement for good investigations.

      Having gathered your information does not end the investigative process.  You have to communicate the information to your supervising attorney and others.  The result of your investigation will be an investigative report.  In the last article, “Communicating Your Results,” pay particular attention to the questions you must answer.

      Reading these articles should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 8.2 Interviews  
  • 8.2.1 Client Interviews  
    • Reading: Paralegal Today: Ellsworth T. “Derry” Rundlett III’s “How to Interview Clients”

      Link: Paralegal Today: Ellsworth T. “Derry” Rundlett III’s “How to Interview Clients” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this entire article.  This article deals with the most fundamental contact with a client: the initial telephone call or inquiry.  Here, an experienced trial attorney discusses the process a paralegal should go through in dealing with that initial contact.  While the discussion centers on a personal injury practice, the advice is transferable to other areas of the law.

      Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “The Initial Client Interview”

      Link: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “The Initial Client Interview” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this entire article.  This article deals with interviewing the client during the first meeting.  In general, these interviews are conducted by the supervising attorney.  However, they are still important to the paralegal and will help guide the paralegal’s actions in relation to the case.

      Reading this article should take approximately 5 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 8.2.2 Witness Interviews  
    • Reading: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “The Fact-Gathering Interview,” “Defining the Goals of the Interview,” “Preparing for the Interview,” “Interviewing Experts,” and “Communicating Your Results”

      Link: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “The Fact-Gathering Interview” (HTML), “Defining the Goals of the Interview” (HTML), “Preparing for the Interview” (HTML), “Interviewing Experts” (HTML), and “Communicating Your Results” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the links above and read these articles in their entirety.  The first reading, “The Fact-Gathering Interview,” describes what is involved when interviewing lay or expert witnesses.  You will notice that the two types of questions used in witness interviews, open-ended and closed-ended, interact with each other.  Thus, an open-ended question may allow an opportunity to develop more focused closed-ended question.  In the end, the goal is to get relevant and specific facts and to apply them to the legal issues in the case.  In addition, you may be called on to assess a witness’s credibility and knowledge of the important facts.

      The second reading, “Defining the Goals of the Interview,” provides information on taking a systematic approach to witness interviews.  Often, the nature of an interview is dictated by the goals of the supervising attorney.  As noted, checklists help to organize information.  However, each interview is different and the effective interviewer is not bound by the order of the checklist.

      The third reading, “Preparing for the Interview,” provides information on the preparation required for an effective interview.  In the law, preparation often accounts for the difference between effective and ineffective legal representation.  The paralegal’s preparation can range from finding and setting up an interview location to deciding the approach the questioning should take.  In all situations, the paralegal needs to be very familiar with the case.

      The fourth article, “Interviewing Experts,” points out the distinctions between the lay witness interview and the expert witness interview.  Paralegals often play a large role in finding and hiring expert witnesses to provide specific expertise on certain matters.  In addition, the paralegal may have an ongoing relationship with the expert, and through ongoing interviews, the paralegal will explore with the expert how the facts apply to the area of expertise.

      Once again, having conducted an interview of a lay or expert witness does not conclude the process.  You have to communicate the information to your supervising attorney and others.  The result of your interview will be an interview memorandum.  The last article, “Communicating Your Results,” will provide a three-part approach to writing the memorandum that will effectively present the results of your interview.

      Reading these articles should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 9: The Regulation and Ethical Duties of Paralegals  

    Clients come to law offices relying on lawyers and paralegals to be trustworthy and to exercise their best efforts on behalf of the client.  In the example in the introduction to Unit 7, we spoke of an entrepreneur in business.  What if that client’s husband calls seeking information on the case?  You might presume that their interests are the same, but what if they are not?  Should you provide information to the client’s husband?

    This unit will address the law regulating paralegals and the ethical duties involved in this profession.  While the laws directly regulating paralegals are not generally as fully developed as those regulating lawyers, it is important to remember that lawyers generally employ paralegals.  Attorneys you will be working for are governed by both Model Rule developed by the American Bar Association as well as state-specific codes of Professional Responsibility.  Each has rules relating to paralegals and legal administrative staff. As a result, the legal and ethical duties of lawyers are impacted by the actions of their paralegals.  Like a lawyer, a paralegal is going to be expected to maintain confidentiality, avoid conflicts with the interests of the client, and know the limits of the paralegal’s representation of the client.  This unit will provide a firm foundation for understanding the paralegal’s duties.

    Unit 9 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 9 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 9.1 Laws Regulating Lawyers and Paralegals  
    • Reading: American Bar Association’s “Model Rules of Professional Conduct”

      Link: American Bar Association’s “Model Rules of Professional Conduct” (HTML)

      Instruction: This link provides access to the American Bar Association’s “Model Rules of Professional Conduct” for lawyers.  Nearly every state has adopted some variation of the Model Rules.  Take the opportunity to explore the rules, particularly focusing on Rule 5.3, 5.5, and 5.7.  In addition, you will want to review the rules under the section entitled “Client-Lawyer Relationship,” relating to confidentiality and conflicts of interest.

      Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 5: Legal Ethics”

      Link: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 5: Legal Ethics” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read Chapter 5, which begins on page 39.  This reading will provide you a broad overview of the topic of legal ethics.  You will notice that much of the ethical responsibility of paralegals originates in the specific ethical requirements applicable to lawyers.  In addition, in various jurisdictions and situations, there may be more specific statutes and court rules as well as the ethical requirements of the various paralegal membership organizations.  Note in particular the discussion on the unauthorized practice of law, and remember that paralegals are not lawyers and acting as lawyers can lead to penalties for paralegals.

      Reading this chapter should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted by the kind permission of the B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program and Keith Nordyke.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

    • Reading: American Bar Association’s “ABA Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services”

      Link: American Bar Association’s “ABA Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above, which will take you to a webpage entitled “Information for Lawyers: How Paralegals Can Improve Your Practice.”  Scroll down to Item 4, and click on the link to “ABA Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services.” These ABA Guidelines provide the perspective of the country’s largest association of attorneys with regard to effective use of paralegal services.  As you read, keep in mind that the provision of basic legal services by paralegals independent of the supervision of attorneys provides a challenge to the virtual monopoly licensed lawyers have on the provision of legal services.  Note the emphasis on the central responsibility of the attorney for the actions of paralegals.

      Reading this article should take approximately 45 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 9.2 Duties of a Paralegal  
  • 9.2.1 Confidentiality and Privilege  
  • 9.2.2 Avoiding Conflicts of Interest  

    Note: This topic is covered by the reading assigned below sub-subunit 9.2.1.  Focus on the discussion on the issue of conflicts of interest and how a paralegal should handle any conflicts on pages 23–27.

  • 9.2.3 Avoiding the Unauthorized Practice of Law  

    Note: This topic is covered by the reading assigned below sub-subunit 9.2.1.  Focus on the discussion on the issue of unauthorized practice of law, especially as this applies to paralegals, on pages 4–11.

  • 9.2.4 Limits of Zealous Representation  

    Note: This topic is covered by the reading assigned below sub-subunit 9.2.1.  Focus on the discussion on zealous representation of clients and its limits on pages 34–37.

  • 9.2.5 Competency and Malpractice  
    • Reading: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “Competence”

      Link: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “Competence” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the entire article.  This article discusses the paralegal’s responsibility to do all they do with appropriate competence.  This means that if a paralegal does not have the education, training, experience, or skills to do a certain task, this must be communicated to the supervising attorney.  In addition, you will learn about the importance of education and working with experience attorneys to avoid problems with competence.

      Reading this article should take approximately 10 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 9.2.6 Handling Money  
    • Reading: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “Client Trust Accounts”

      Link: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “Client Trust Accounts” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this entire article.  This article discusses the handling of client trust accounts, an activity with which paralegals are often involved.  Handling client money comes with specific ethical obligations for the lawyer, and, by extension, the paralegal.  Notice that a paralegal takes on an important responsibility when he or she oversees a client trust account and must insist on good accounting practices.  Be sure to familiarize yourself with the four different types of client trust accounts.

      Reading this article should take approximately 10 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 10: Becoming a Paralegal  

    You have learned a lot in the previous nine units.  While you have gotten a good foundation in paralegalism, you still have much to learn.  Nonetheless, it is never too early to start considering the more practical aspects of getting a job as a paralegal.  You need to understand what the entrance requirements are for becoming a paralegal and the best ways to approach finding paralegal jobs.

    This unit will cover the practicalities of getting work as a paralegal.  You will learn about various licensing and certification requirements to work as a paralegal.  You will also learn what the outlook is for employment as a paralegal.  Lastly, you will go through the process of developing a resume, writing cover letters, and beginning the process of accumulating a portfolio reflecting your study and work as a paralegal.  By practicing these skills early, you will be prepared to fully engage in the job search once you have completed the required studies and other requirements to become a paralegal.

    Unit 10 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 10 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 10.1 Registration, Certification, and Licensure  
    • Reading: National Federation of Paralegal Associations’ “About the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE)”

      Link: National Federation of Paralegal Associations’ “About the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE)” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and review this webpage, which describes a particular certification program sponsored by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations.  It is important to realize that no jurisdictions in the United States currently require any kind of certification.  However, for those who are interested, a certification may provide a boost to your paralegal career.  Explore this webpage and the links to further information about PACE.  Note that you must have at least a paralegal associate’s degree from an approved institution or a bachelor degree in any major paired with experience.

      Reading this material should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: Paralegal Today: Patrick Vuong’s “Paralegal Regulation in the United States”

      Link: Paralegal Today: Patrick Vuong’s “Paralegal Regulation in the United States” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the entire article, which provides an overview of certification, legislation, and rules across the United States.  Again, you will note that direct regulation of paralegals tends to be minimal.  Most of the focus is on defining paralegals, legal assistants, and other related personnel.  Review the state of regulation in the various states, and click on some of the links to connect to individual state resources related to this issue.

      Reading this article should take approximately 20 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 10.2 Career Prospects  
  • 10.3 Getting a Job as a Paralegal  
  • 10.3.1 Finding Opportunities  
    • Reading: The Paralegal Society: Karen George’s “Wanted: Paralegal, No Experience Necessary. A Professional Reality Check”

      Link: The Paralegal Society: Karen George’s “Wanted: Paralegal, No Experience Necessary.  A Professional Reality Check” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the entire article, which presents a hard-nosed view on getting those early paralegal jobs.  As the article points out, when you decide to become a paralegal, you enter a different world with different expectations.  While the initial job search can be challenging, the potential rewards make it worth it for those who commit to a paralegal career.  The article is very helpful for the new paralegal in the advice it provides for getting your foot in the law office door.  You will see that advancing in a paralegal career is a process that takes patience and determination, but it has a good payoff in the long run in terms of career satisfaction and compensation.

      Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 10.3.2 The Resume  
  • 10.3.3 The Cover Letter  
  • 10.3.4 Building a Portfolio of Work  
    • Reading: State University of New York at Potsdam: Rebecca Anthony’s “A Guide to Your Career Portfolio”

      Link: State University of New York at Potsdam: Rebecca Anthony’s “A Guide to Your Career Portfolio” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and then select “Creating a Portfolio” to download the PDF.  This document provides generalized information about creating a career portfolio.  The portfolio creates an advantage for the jobseeker as it demonstrates commitment to the field and allows you to integrate educational work with demonstrations of work experience as your career develops.  Your career portfolio can start with the completed assignments in this course.  As you develop your career portfolio, remember that you must maintain your obligation to protect client confidentiality.  Confidential information should be redacted from your documents.

      Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: Paralegal Essentials’ “Portfolios – What to Include”

      Link: Paralegal Essentials’ “Portfolios – What to Include” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this brief article, which deals more specifically with what to include in the paralegal portfolio.  As you continue with your paralegal education, you will learn more about writing briefs, citing authorities, using forms, and other forms of legal writing and communication.  All of these will be important components of your paralegal portfolio.  The article also gives pointers for a good presentation.

      Reading this article should take approximately 10 minutes.

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  • Final Exam  

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