Associate degree programs in paralegal/legal studies or legal assisting, which typically take about two years to complete, integrate core legal training as well as studies covering general education topics. Certificate programs, which focus on career training and don't usually include general education courses, may be able to be completed in one year. Some schools offer certificate programs to students who possess an associate or a bachelor's degree. Concentrations may be available in such areas as litigations, criminal law or commercial law.
American River College
Sacramento's American River College offers a one-year certificate program for students with an associate degree or higher. Courses include civil procedures and litigation, contract law, personal injury, interview techniques, evidence, and estate planning. Undergraduates may also complete an associate degree program in legal assisting, which covers topics in family, corporate, criminal and tenant law. Students learn to draft documents and letters and perform legal research.
Cerritos College in Norwalk offers ABA-approved certificate and associate degree programs. All students take core courses in legal software, dispute resolution, California civil procedures, business law, and legal ethics. A capstone course is required. Degree candidates receive additional training in legal documentation and technology, labor law, probate procedures, and Internet law. Participants in either program can concentrate their studies in commercial law, criminal law, litigation or other specialties.
City College of San Francisco
The downtown campus of City College of San Francisco has a certificate program in paralegal studies that focuses on legal research and writing, litigation, commercial law and law office management. It also offers an associate degree program that builds on these courses with training in wills and trusts, evidence, debtor rights, environmental law, and communication law. Students in the degree program also complete a general education course load.
De Anza College
The ABA-approved paralegal studies programs at De Anza College in Cupertino include a 46-credit certificate program and an Associate in Arts program. Students in both programs learn about legal analysis, California and American law, trial preparation, criminal investigation and justice system procedures. Degree candidates take general education courses to complete the 90-unit degree program.
El Camino Community College
Torrance's El Camino Community College has certificate and degree programs approved by the ABA. All students take 31-32 units of paralegal courses in areas such as civil procedure, law and computers, contracts, probate procedures, and corporate partnerships. Family, tort, real estate, and business laws are also covered. Undergraduates must complete an introductory legal research course to be formally admitted to either program.
Mt. San Antonio College
Undergraduates at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut can pursue an associate degree with required courses in paralegal ethics, pre- and post-trial procedures, legal analysis, and law office processes. This program also includes elective courses in wills and trusts, tenant law, international business law, and other topics. Students may choose concentrations in areas such as corporate business or criminal law.
Palomar College, located in San Marcos, offers a certificate program with courses in business writing, legal ethics, records management and computers for paralegals. Students can choose from a variety of electives, including dispute resolution, civil liberties, and torts. An associate program in legal studies is also available.
Pasadena City College
Students who have completed high school may earn a paralegal studies certificate at this college in Pasadena. The 60-unit, ABA-approved program includes courses in legal writing and drafting, claims investigations, civil and criminal evidence, law office procedure and computer-based research. Program participants must also complete 18 general education units and 10 elective units in areas such as property law, family dissolution procedures, and immigration law.
Santa Ana College
The ABA-approved certificate and associate degree programs at Santa Ana College, located in Santa Ana, have a 35-credit core course load in law office management, legal transactions, professional responsibility, civil litigation, and legal research. As part of the curriculum, students can choose from elective courses in justice system principles and procedures, business organizations, elder law, commercial agreements, and intellectual property law. Additionally, the school has a chapter of Lambda Epsilon Chi, a national paralegal honor society.
Santa Rosa Junior College
This junior college in Santa Rosa has an associate degree program in paralegal studies that requires 36 units of legal courses and 23 general education units. Required courses include legal research and writing, ethics, civil litigation practices, and discovery procedures. Students can choose from electives in legal calendaring, intellectual property law and information literacy for research projects. An internship is required for this program.
Under California law, the minimum requirements to work as a paralegal in the state include earning a certificate from a program approved by the American Bar Association. Aspiring paralegals could also earn a bachelor's degree or higher in any subject and have at least one year of work experience with a lawyer, or three years of experience with just a high school diploma or GED. The state also requires 8 hours of continuing education every 2 years.
Certification isn't required in order to become a paralegal in California. However, a graduate of an approved program can earn voluntary certification by passing the CLA (Certified Legal Assistant) exam administered by the National Association of Legal Assistants. The 10 schools profiled below offer relevant programs, all of which meet state standards for becoming a paralegal in California.
School Comparison: At a Glance
|School Name||School Type & Setting||Paralegal Programs Offered||Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2018-2019)|
|American River College||2-year, public; large suburb|| Legal Assisting Certificate,
Associate in Arts in Legal Assisting
| $1,104 (in-state),
|Cerritos College||2-year, public; large suburb|| Paralegal Certificate,
Paralegal Associate in Arts
| $1,346 (in-state),
|City College of San Francisco||2-year, public; large city|| Paralegal/Legal Studies Certificate of Achievement,
Associate in Science in Paralegal/Legal Studies
| $1,696 (in-state),
|De Anza College||2-year, public; small city|| Paralegal Studies Certificate of Achievement - Advanced,
Associate in Arts in Paralegal Studies
| $1,561 (in-state),
|El Camino Community College||2-year, public; large suburb|| Certificate of Achievement in Paralegal Studies,
Associate in Arts in Paralegal Studies
| $1,144 (in-state),
|Mt. San Antonio College||2-year, public; large suburb||Associate in Science in Paralegal Studies|| $1,350 (in-state),
|Palomar College||2-year, public; large suburb|| Legal Support Assistant Certificate of Proficiency,
Associate in Arts in Legal Studies
| $1,338 (in-state),
|Pasadena City College||2-year, public; midsize city||Certificate of Achievement in Paralegal Studies|| $1,166 (in-state),
|Santa Ana College||2-year, public; large city|| Paralegal Certificate,
Paralegal Associate in Arts
| $1,160 (in-state),
|Santa Rosa Junior College||2-year, public; midsize city||Associate in Arts in Paralegal Studies|| $1,328 (in-state),
Source: *NCES College Navigator