Online associate's degree programs are available for aspiring paralegals and legal assistants. Although students primarily complete their coursework online, an internship may be required. Video streaming software may be required as well.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an associate's degree in paralegal studies is typically the educational qualification needed to work as a paralegal or legal assistant. Those who hold a bachelor's degree in another field can become paralegals or legal assistants after earning an educational certificate in paralegal studies.
Paralegal Associate's Degree
An online associate's degree program in paralegal studies is designed for students seeking careers in legal assisting. Paralegals perform many of the functions of lawyers, like witness screening and contract drafting, but do not represent clients in courtroom proceedings; many paralegals and legal assistants work as part of a corporate team or as law office assistants. In a paralegal associate's program, students learn how to perform legal research, assemble case materials and communicate with clients.
Program Information and Requirements
Because teachers use streaming audio and video applications to deliver course content, a computer with Internet access is required. While most of a student's class time is spent online, an internship under an attorney's supervision is mandatory. Paralegal associate's programs are typically completed in two years. Students seeking a shorter training period may pursue an online certificate in paralegal studies.
To receive their degree, students must complete core curriculum and general education courses. Class notes, lectures and assignments are often stored online, allowing students access to learning materials at their convenience.
Legal Research and Analysis
In this course, students learn how to conduct legal research and analyze case-specific data. Particular attention is given to the identification of legal precedents and their effect on contemporary issues in law.
Students learn how to use legal software applications and online research sites. Skills include electronic filing, contract design and electronic data discovery.
This course introduces students to the types of legal practice, professional legal organizations and the roles of the paralegal. Basic terminology, time management and ethical behavior are also discussed.
Graduates of a paralegal associate's degree program obtain positions as legal assistants and paralegals. The BLS expected employment of paralegals to increase by 8%, about as fast as the average for all occupations, from 2014 to 2024. As of May 2015, the BLS reported a median annual salary of $48,810 for paralegals and legal assistants.
Online paralegal programs teach students how to perform research, gather case materials and draft contracts in a legal setting. Students may have to complete an internship in person.