Online diploma programs in paralegal studies are relatively rare, but online certificate programs are fairly common. Both types of educational programs generally take approximately one year to complete. While standard coursework is available fully online, some programs encourage or require optional internships in law offices or legal agencies. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paralegals and legal assistants typically have either an associate's degree in legal studies or a combination of a bachelor's degree and a certificate.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Court Reporting
- Legal Administrative Assistant or Secretary
- Legal Assistant or Paralegal
Online paralegal diploma programs typically include a variety of courses covering the legal system, writing and research. Students can develop the necessary skills to prepare drafts of legal documents, research judicial decisions and maintain case files. Students may also learn how to locate and interview witnesses.
Program Information and Requirements
An online paralegal diploma program can be completed in one year. With open enrollment, students can start their program at any time and work at their own pace. All coursework is online and students will need a computer with access to the Internet and word processing software. Depending on the program, students can either get their textbooks by mail or find them online.
Online paralegal diploma programs do not typically have any general education requirements. Most core courses cover the fundamentals of the paralegal profession. Students can access study guides and course materials online.
Paralegal Profession Overview
Students learn an overview of the past, present and future of the paralegal profession. Students will get an introduction to American law, ethics, the court system and legal procedures.
Legal Writing Skills
A paralegal must be able to prepare legal documents and in this course students will learn the basics of legal analysis and writing. Students will study how to analyze case law and identify key issues, as well as prepare drafts of court briefs and other legal documents.
Legal Research Skills
Students will learn research tools and techniques to find appropriate laws and judicial decisions relevant to cases. During the course, students may study various examples of research materials, such as annotated codes, case reporters and online websites.
Although private law firms are the primary employers for graduates of online paralegal diploma programs, they can also work at insurance companies, banks and corporate legal departments. According to the BLS, there were 279,500 paralegal and legal assistants working in the U.S. in 2014.
The average salary for paralegals and legal assistants was $52,390 as of May 2015. The BLS also predicted that the number of paralegals and legal assistants would grow 8%, as fast as the average for all occupations, between 2014 and 2024.
Continuing Education Information
Students interested in additional education can find online continuing education courses and associate degree programs in paralegal studies. While professional certification is usually voluntary, it is available through national and local paralegal organizations, such as the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).
While there are few online diploma programs for paralegals, there are online certificate programs. These programs provide students with the skills needed for researching cases, preparing legal documents and maintaining case files.