Overview of Minnesota's Online Paralegal Certificate Programs
Although paralegal education and certification are not required in Minnesota, the duties of a paralegal require much knowledge and training. Individuals who seek paralegal education may view the career as their main objective or use the certificate to advance to law school. Distance-learning certificate programs are offered by several schools in Minnesota.
To qualify for some certificate programs, applicants must be holders of any associate's or bachelor's degree. Other schools are more lenient and only require a specific grade on standardized admission tests.
Paralegal Certificate Requirements
Paralegal certificate programs prepare individuals for the demands of a law office, corporation, or government agency by training them in research, writing, and clerical work. Students learn about the law and the legal system, including the criminal justice system and related procedures, family law, real estate and business law, and civil litigation.
Information and Requirements
Paralegal certificates can be earned within around 3-18 months, depending on the school's requirements. Many of these programs follow a schedule and are not self-paced. In credit-granting programs, students need to earn around 30 credit hours and complete a capstone to qualify for graduation. Typically, this capstone is an internship in a local firm or company; hence, not all programs are delivered entirely online.
Participants need a laptop or desktop computer along with a stable and high-speed internet connection installed in their computers.
Students are taught to prepare various documents, like memoranda and investigative summaries, and are trained to communicate valuable information to wide audiences that include judges, clients, and lawyers. Among the typical requirements for a legal writing course are exams and drafting exercises designed to produce legal correspondences and documents.
A legal research course introduces law library resources and the legal research process, with an emphasis on the Shepard system. Students are exposed to digests, statutes, primary and secondary sources, and the administration of a law office. Practice problems, quizzes, exams, and projects help to strengthen students' understanding of the research methods that are central to the legal profession.
In this course, students learn about the role of a paralegal in each stage of the litigation process, from the first communication with the client to the actual trial. They are trained to prepare for trials and exposed to state and federal court practices. Course requirements include drafting practice court pleadings and documents (discovery, trial, and posttrial).
List of Online Paralegal Certificate Programs in Minnesota
Many colleges offer online or hybrid paralegal education in Minnesota. St. Cloud State University, Inver Hills Community College, and Lake Superior College are three schools offering these programs, allowing applicants to choose which one suits them best.
Inver Hills Community College
The paralegal certificate program at Inver Hills Community College consists of an online class and three hybrid classes. The remaining six classes are scheduled in a classroom. The program can be completed in 18 months (30 credit hours). To qualify, applicants must be holders of an associate's or bachelor's degree. The curriculum prepares students for a paralegal career or even law school. They are encouraged to develop their computer skills independently in preparation for an internship in a firm of their choice.
Lake Superior College
Lake Superior College also offers an online program, which can be finished in one year (30 credits). The college does not require a bachelor's degree upon enrolment; however, applicants without qualifying ACT/SAT scores or previous college coursework are required to take the Accuplacer reading test and score at least 250. After completing the courses, students are expected to have an in-depth understanding of the American legal system, the methods and procedures thereof, and ethical obligations. The program's capstone course is an internship in a firm or office.
St. Cloud State University
St. Cloud State University's paralegal certificate program is much shorter than other programs. It is condensed into a 14-week curriculum (non-credit, 90 instruction hours) in which students learn the ropes of being a paralegal through two courses. No admissions requirements are specified to qualify for the program. Students are expected to complete Paralegal I & II, successfully take a series of tests, and submit legal document writing homework to earn their certificates. The school also offers an Advanced Paralegal Certificate course for students who want additional instruction in topics like constitutional law, victim advocacy, and bankruptcy law.
Career Outlook for Paralegal Certificate Holders
Graduates of a paralegal certificate programs can follow three routes: directly proceed to their paralegal career in a firm or company, attend law school, or take a national certification exam provided they meet education and/or experience requirements.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the yearly median salary for paralegals and legal assistants was $50,940 as of 2018. An employment growth 12% was projected for these occupations from 2018 to 2028.
In Minnesota, some distance learning paralegal certificate programs are in a hybrid format, where classroom attendance is still required for some classes. Some colleges require an associate's or bachelor's degree to qualify for the program, which can typically be completed in under two years by finishing the courses and an internship.