Paralegal Studies 101: Career Overview

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  • 34
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Course Description

The paralegal field is highly rewarding for those who seek to be a part of the justice system. On a daily basis, the paralegal is the lawyer's right hand. From the perspective of the law, paralegals are almost like junior lawyers in so far as they must know a lot of what the lawyers know as they will create and present documents for execution upon their lawyer's approval. Paralegals are detail-oriented people, and they will follow up on communications, confirm court dates, check client backgrounds, smooth client relations, help law office to law office relations, and check every detail and every reference in all of their lawyer's documents. In addition, they'll research applicable laws and case references, prepare all court documents, and generally keep their lawyer moving forward.

Trial paralegals also prepare the case interrogatories, file with opposing counsel for discovery, prep the client for deposition and accompany the attorney to court. Although the work is quite detailed, in practice, a paralegal's work is anything but secretarial and many have equal use of their attorney's secretary. Some paralegals also have legal assistants [junior paralegals] to whom they delegate details of their responsibilities.

This introductory Paralegal Studies course is designed to give you information you need to become a successful paralegal. It will take you through a survey of what is needed to become a paralegal, how you may choose to go about it, all of the business details which are generally not known until you are within a firm, and some of the social skills and information you will need to survive and thrive in a firm. If you already have your paralegal certification, then this course will be beneficial if you are seeking your first firm position. You will get an insider's scoop on common mistakes and pitfalls, and you will know how to avoid or overcome common faux pas.


Here is a short check list of things that a paralegal personality type will generally enjoy:

  1. Details, detailed work, and follow up
  2. Discretion and keeping the secrets of others
  3. Operating from a humble position, yet entrusted with a fair amount of power
  4. Overtime and going beyond the call of duty
  5. Letting others have "the last word"
  6. Research and a certain amount of private investigating
  7. Case research and referencing case law for your attorney
  8. Client relations and soothing client concerns
  9. Deadlines and court appointments
  10. Hot-headed attorneys and those who need to be the center of attention and always right.


Here is a short list of things that a paralegal personality type will generally hate:

1. Tardiness

2.   Sloppiness

3. People who make excuses for everything

4.   Gross injustice

5. People who seek to get one over on everyone they meet

6.   Arrogance [although a certain amount from attorneys must be tolerated]

7. Presumptuousness and those who think everyone owes them something

8.   Prideful and boastful personalities

9. Indiscretion

10. Intolerant people


 Here is a short list of personality traits and quirks and behaviors common to many attorneys. You must be able to accept these things, not just tolerate them. You must be comfortable putting your own preferences or needs in second place to these things in order to get along well in a law firm.

  1. Must always be right regardless of what you think, or if you are actually right
  2. Must have the last word in everything large and irrelevant
  3. Argues at the drop of a hat
  4. Curses and perhaps blasphemes when he is angry at other attorneys
  5. Yells frequently and loudly throughout the firm
  6. Does not expect you to grovel or always apologize about your errors
  7. Does not want to hear excuses for anything; he only wants to hear solutions from you regardless of what the nature of the error happens to be
  8. Will tell you he never expects you to stay late, but he expects you to stay late
  9. Will brag on you to other attorneys if he is extremely pleased, and you may never know it, except by the way other attorneys respect you
  10. Gives rare kudos, but very sweet-year end bonuses


Before you seek to begin your journey into law, you will want to visit law firms and interview their employees during the company's lunch breaks. There is no harm in doing random interviews with firm employees during lunch as long as you are clear that your chat is to help you to personally decide on whether you will be happy in a career as a paralegal. You may also find one or two firms that have employees willing to give you clerking information; that is, when they expect to have clerk positions open.
Starting into a firm as a law clerk or a temp is another way to get exposure to the daily environment in law firms. It will give you insight into how things work in law firms, and how different those things are from what you are used to in your current job. A word of caution about trying to get hired in as a law clerk: Avoid late spring and summer in looking for work. Firms regularly hire in law students to clerk for them in the summer. This gives the firm cheap help and an opportunity to check out which young lawyers they may want to recruit. So, don't try to compete with a law student for a clerk position.


Somewhere between three and five years as a paralegal, a fair number of paralegals become disenchanted with their work. At this point, it is common for a few things to happen: He/she will begin to seek something more challenging within the firm, will seek to work in a different area of law, may seek to change firms, or may want something more. All of these are normal. Many times working in a different area of law translates to changing firms, unless you are working for a personal injury firm, or a similar type of practice, where a variety of areas are part of the practice.
For example, a personal injury practice will have departments that handle medical, worker's compensation, and probate] law issues. So, within a personal injury firm, it is possible to gain experience in a variety of legal areas beyond personal injury law. This means that a paralegal, who is bored with their department, because they've mastered it, can transfer within the same firm to another department and learn a new area of law. It also means that when the time comes to change firms, the paralegal will have X number of years' experience in medical law, X number of years' experience in probate/estate law, etc. They can apply to an estate planning firm and know they will be considered very qualified.

The alternative to changing within a firm, or from firm to firm, is to take the next step up to law school. It is estimated that approximately 5 percent of those who begin as paralegals in their mid to late 20s eventually take steps to go to law school and become lawyers. This is a great way to move into a career as a lawyer. It is also one factor that will make you an excellent lawyer, since you already know and understand the paralegal's position/disposition. It also makes you more likely to treat your paralegals well.

  • Completely Online
  • Self-Paced
  • 6 Months to Complete
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  • Start Anytime
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  • Accredited CEUs
Universal Class is an IACET Accredited Provider

Course Lessons

Lesson 1: So You Want to Be A Paralegal?

This lesson will cover some of the practical things to consider or research before taking the leap into a paralegal course, or signing on with a firm. 44 Total Points
  • Take Poll: Paralegal Studies Course
  • Take Survey: Reasons for Taking this Course
  • Complete Assignment: An Introduction
  • Complete: Lesson 1 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 1: So You Want To Be A Paralegal?

Lesson 2: Qualifying, Education, and Certifications

The initial and primary concerns of anyone who wants to become a paralegal are, "Do I qualify?" and "What type of education do I need?" These are important questions to be answered before setting sail into the world of legal services. 36 Total Points
  • Complete: Lesson 2 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 2: Qualifying, Education & Certifications

Lesson 3: Making the Cut: Getting Hired and Negotiating Your Salary

This is a cardinal rule in negotiations: He who speaks first loses. At a time when you are seeking to win, don't let your tongue set you up for a loss. 39 Total Points
  • Complete: Lesson 3 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 3: Making the Cut: Getting Hired & Negotiating Your Salary

Lesson 4: Unspoken Expectations and How to Get Promoted at Your Firm

Everyone has expectations -- spoken and unspoken. Law firms are no different, since they are made up of people. The better paying the firm, the greater the expectations they have of you. 39 Total Points
  • Take Poll: Getting Promoted
  • Complete: Lesson 4 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 4: Unspoken Expectations & How to Get Promoted at Your Firm

Lesson 5: Attorneys, Attitudes, Egos, and Your Managing Attorney

First and foremost, it is helpful for a new paralegal to have a general understanding of their attorneys and what makes them tick. 39 Total Points
  • Complete: Lesson 5 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 5: Attorneys, Attitudes, Egos and Your Managing Attorney

Lesson 6: Language and Business Philosophy That Brings Favor From Attorneys

Language and business philosophy are two things that an attorney focuses on in his everyday dealings. 39 Total Points
  • Complete: Lesson 6 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 6: Language and Business Philosophy That Brings Favor From Attorneys

Lesson 7: Things Paralegals Get Burned Over: Protocol and Scapegoats

Protocol is the established, proper, and correct order of business and business communications in a firm that must comply with state and federal laws and regulations. 40 Total Points
  • Complete: Lesson 7 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 7: Things Paralegals Get Burned Over: Protocol & Scapegoats

Lesson 8: Pecking Order Among Paralegals: How to Get Along With Your Interoffice Competition

Unlike other modern businesses, the pecking order in law firms remains traditional in the sense that paralegals with the most years of tenure are the top chicks. 39 Total Points
  • Review Article: Ten Practical Tips for Paralegals
  • Complete: Lesson 8 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 8: Pecking Order Among Paralegals - How to Get Along with Your Interoffice Competition

Lesson 9: Managing Your Case Load: Priorities and Management Styles

How to sort and manage your case load will be the first major decision you will make that will determine the success and quality of your actual finished product. 40 Total Points
  • Complete: Lesson 9 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 9: Managing Your Case Load: Priorities and Management Styles

Lesson 10: Research, Attorney Support, and Lexis Nexis

When it comes to research on the client file, you are the "go-to person" for your attorney. He will count on your ability to find out what needs to be found out -- and then some. 39 Total Points
  • Take Poll: Attorney Support
  • Complete: Lesson 10 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 10: Research, Attorney Support and Lexis Nexis

Lesson 11: Your Firm's Case Tracking Systems; eCase, Paradox, etc.

Each firm has a tracking system the paralegals use to centralize client cases and communicate with one another, especially between departments. 39 Total Points
  • Complete: Lesson 11 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 11: Your Firm's Case Tracking Systems; eCase, Paradox, etc.

Lesson 12: Email, Phone Calls, and Filing

There are particular things to know about each of these that are peculiar to the legal profession in that you, the paralegal cannot legally treat these things as you may otherwise in a different profession or type of business. 37 Total Points
  • Complete: Lesson 12 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 12: Email, Phone Calls & Filing

Lesson 13: Client Relations and Office-to-Office Relations

There is nothing that is more of a touchy subject in a law firm than the firm's client relations. 39 Total Points
  • Complete: Lesson 13 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 13: Client Relations & Office to Office Relations

Lesson 14: Attorney/Client Privilege and Your Role in It

If this course is your first exposure to the world of paralegals, then you will be reminded along the path of your education or certification process, of the importance of the attorney-client privilege supported in all of our laws. 39 Total Points
  • Complete: Lesson 14 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 14: Attorney/Client Privilege & Your Role in It

Lesson 15: Office Politics, Downsizing, and Firm Mergers

You may think this segment wouldn't belong in a course on paralegal studies, or you may think office politics is just common sense. In some ways it is common sense. 40 Total Points
  • Complete: Lesson 15 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 15: Office Politics, Downsizing & Firm Mergers

Lesson 16: Year End Bonuses, Fringe Perks, Parties, and Dinners

This is a short lesson with a few common sense words about the part of your paralegal career you will certainly enjoy, but which clearly is not owed to you. 114 Total Points
  • Take Poll: Perks
  • Take Survey: Program Evaluation Follow-up Survey (End of Course)
  • Complete: Lesson 16 Assignment
  • Complete Exam: Lesson 16: Year End Bonuses, Fringe Perks, Parties & Dinners
  • Complete: The Final Exam
Total Course Points

Learning Outcomes

By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  • Define what a paralegal is.
  • Describe attorneys, attitudes, egos and your managing attorney.
  • Describe language and business philosophy that brings favor from attorneys.
  • Describe things paralegals get burned over - protocol and scapegoats.
  • Summarize how to get along with your interoffice competition.
  • Summarize priorities and management styles.
  • Describe research, attorney support and Lexis Nexis.
  • Describe email, phone calls and filing procedures.
  • Summarize client relations and office to office relations.
  • Describe attorney/client privilege and your role in it.
  • Summarize office politics, downsizing and firm mergers, and
  • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.

Additional Course Information

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Document Your CEUs on Your Resume
Course Title: Paralegal Studies 101: Career Overview
Course Number: 7550162
Course Requirements: View Course Requirements
Languages: English - United States, Canada and other English speaking countries
Course Type: Professional Development (Self-Paced, Online Class)
CEU Value: 1.5 IACET CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
CE Accreditation: Universal Class, Inc. has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
Grading Policy: Earn a final grade of 70% or higher to receive an online/downloadable CEU Certification documenting CEUs earned.
Assessment Method: Lesson assignments and review exams
Syllabus: View Syllabus
Duration: Continuous: Enroll anytime!
Course Fee: $50.00 (no CEU Certification) || with Online CEU Certification: $75.00

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Student Testimonials

  • "Instructor is excellent. She corrected me when i needed it." -- Delia F.
  • "What a terrific instructor and very helpful!!" -- Elizabeth I.
  • "Taking this course has changed my life and has inspired me to continue learning. What was most helpful was the comprehensive course content." -- Alexandria B.
  • "This course painted a vivid picture of the working environment at a law firm." -- Karen R.
  • "The whole course was a plus!" -- Sidney P.
  • "Thank you for all the comments and recommendations." -- Ramona E.

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