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Gadsden State Community College

Paralegal                                                                                    

What is a paralegal?

The American Bar Association defines a paralegal or legal assistant as a person, qualified by education, training, or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity. A paralegal performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.  Paralegals may not provide legal services directly to the public, except as permitted by law. 

A paralegal’s primary role is to help a lawyer in his or her preparations for trials, business meetings, and hearings. Paralegals help make certain that all aspects of the case have been considered, and gather information and investigate facts. By performing research, paralegals find relevant laws, statutes, and previous judicial decisions that relate to the case. They may be asked to compile all such information into a written report that aids lawyers in deciding the way in which they should proceed with a case. Paralegals assist with the preparation of arguments and court filings, and may provide assistance during a trial. They may also make readily available to attorneys any legal documents or files that relate to important cases.

A paralegal's responsibilities may include interviewing clients and witnesses, performing legal research, drafting correspondence, drafting pleadings and discovery, summarizing depositions, assisting during trial, and much more.

 

Gadsden State Community College Paralegal Program

 

Since 1989, our Paralegal program has provided students with the fundamental skills and training necessary for success. The program is recognized for providing high quality training and education for students. The program provides a balance of legal background and hands-on practical skills through training from lawyers who have practiced in the fields in which they teach.


The Paralegal Program at Gadsden State Community College (GSCC) was granted formal Approval of its program by the American Bar Association (ABA) effective August of 1994. GSCC is the only two-year college in the State of Alabama to achieve ABA Approved status.  ABA Approval provides students and the legal community assurance that GSCC's program is providing an excellent educational experience grounded in practical paralegal preparation. The ABA Approval process is ongoing and requires an intensive process examining all aspects of the paralegal program.

 

Our curriculum offers core courses to ensure a well-rounded professional with strong, writing, speaking and technical skills.  Legal specialty courses include legal research and writing, family law, real estate, litigation, and criminal law. All legal courses require student s to demonstrate and develop practical skills including drafting of legal instruments and pleadings, maintaining time records and efiling.  Each student is provided an individual Westlaw password to perform in-depth research for assignments in all classes.  A required internship places students in real-world situations to utilize and fine tune their skills.


Our faculty offers a combination of experience as attorneys and paralegals.  This experience means that students benefit from learning closely from seasoned professionals who know the intricacies of the law and the paralegal profession. We also offer counseling in career development that help you to manage your career.  Faculty and Career Services provide regular updates about paralegal employment opportunities.


Our students show their involvement through dedication and commitment.  The Paralegal Association participates in pro bono activities, certification training sessions, and social opportunities.  In 2011, a chapter of Lambda Epsilon Chi, the paralegal honor society, was established.

 

                                            

 

GSCC has chapter of Lambda Epsilon Chi (LEX) is the national honor society founded by the American Association for Paralegal Education. There are 134 chapters throughout the United States and thousands of inductees who have been honored for their outstanding academic achievements.

 

Each year the host institutions select those students who meet high academic criteria and cite them for their accomplishments by inducting them into Lambda Epsilon Chi. These students are recognized through a formal ceremony and the awarding of a Certificate of Induction and a special pin. They are also entered into the permanent records of LEX. http://www.aafpe.org/LEX_Honor_Society/index.asp

 

                                              

            PARALEGAL Course Requirements


             Associate in Applied Science Degree


Advisors Wallace Drive Campus:   Elizabeth Howard (256.549.8336) ehoward@gadsdenstate.edu
                                                      Angie Waits (256.549.8342) awaits@gadsdenstate.edu

Area I – Written Composition ...........................................6
ENG 101 English Composition I .....................................3
ENG 102 English Composition II ....................................3

Area II – Humanities and Fine Arts ...................................6
Humanities or Fine Arts ..................................................3
Speech (SPH 106, 107 OR 116) ......................................3

Area III – Natural Science or Mathematics ........................10
MTH 116 Mathematical Applications ................................3
(If a student intends to transfer to a senior university, see STARS for transferrable math)
BIO 103 Principles of Biology I ........................................4
CIS 146 Microcomputer Applications ...............................3

Area IV – History, Social and Behavioral Sciences ..............6
ECO 231 Principles of Macroeconomics ............................3
PSY 200 or SOC 200 .......................................................3

Area V – Pre-Professional, Pre-Major and Electives ............43
ORI 101 Orientation ........................................................ 1
PRL 101* Introduction to Paralegal Study .......................... 3
PRL 102* Basic Legal Research and Writing ....................... 3
PRL 103 Advanced Legal Research and Writing .................. 3
PRL 160 Criminal Law and Procedures .............................. 3
PRL 210 Introduction to Real Property Law ....................... 3
PRL 230 Domestic Law ................................................... 3
PRL 240 Wills, Estates, and Trusts .................................... 3
PRL 262 Civil Law and Procedures .................................... 3
PRL 291 Internship in Paralegalism .................................... 3
BUS 215 Business Communications ................................... 3
BUS 241 Principles of Accounting I ................................... 3
BUS 263 Legal and Social Environment in Business ........….. 3
ECO 232 or BUS 242 ....................................................... 3
OAD 125 Word Processing ............................................... 3
*PRL 101 & PRL 102 are prerequisites to other legal specialty (PRL) courses.

Total Hours Required for Degree .................................. 71

NOTICE: Gadsden State Community College's Paralegal Program is approved by the American Bar Association. Legal specialty courses transferred from regionally accredited programs must be evaluated by the program coordinator to ensure that the content of the course is comparable to the Gadsden State course before acceptance. No more than two legal specialty courses from non-ABA approved programs will be accepted for transfer.  It is the responsibility of the student to verify the transferability of credit in this program to a senior institution with the appropriate senior institution advisor. 

  • The Paralegal Program is a Selective Admission Program.
  • Legal specialty courses taken at ABA-approved schools will transfer automatically to equivalent Gadsden State courses if the student has a grade of C or above in the course.
  • Legal specialty courses from non-ABA schools in Alabama will be evaluated by the program director to determine if credit will be awarded.
  • Legal studies courses from non-ABA out-of-state programs will not be considered for transfer credit.
  • Transfer credit for Paralegal courses will be limited to six (6) semester credit hours.
  • A student must take at least ten (10) semester credit hours in the legal specialty courses in a traditional classroom setting.
  • These policies are published in the Paralegal Brochure, the Paralegal webpage, and the GSCC catalogue.

NOTICE: Paralegals may not provide legal services directly to the public, except as permitted by law.


General Scheduling Information: All legal specialty classes (PRL) require writing and research.  Students should complete ENG101 and CIS146 before enrolling in Introduction to Paralegal Studies (PRL101) and Basic Research and Writing (PRL102), which must be taken the same semester.


Legal specialty classes are only offered in fall and spring semesters.  PRL101 and PRL102 are offered during fall and spring. Once these prerequisites are completed, the upper level paralegal classes are offered on a set schedule.  Domestic Law (PRL230), Real Property Law (PRL210), and Civil Litigation (PRL262) are offered each fall semester.  Advanced Legal Research and Writing (PRL103), Criminal Law and Procedure (PRL160), and Wills, Trusts, and Estates (PRL240) are offered each spring semester. All legal specialty (PRL) are traditional, on-site classes that are offered on the Wallace Drive campus, Gadsden.


The Paralegal Internship (PRL291) may be taken any semester once at least 2/3 of the paralegal classes are completed.  However, students are strongly encouraged to complete their internships their last semester before graduation.


It is imperative that students considering the paralegal field meet with an advisor as earlier in their education as possible.  An advisor can answer questions and advise about employment and continuing education.  Contact Elizabeth Howard  at 256.549.8336 or ehoward@gadsdenstate.edu OR Angie Waits at 256-549-8342 or awaits@gadsdenstate.edu.

                                                                                    

 

Certification

Holding a professional certificate increases opportunities in the job market, though most firms and agencies do not require a paralegal to hold such certification. Paralegals may certify with the National Association of Legal Assistants and use designation of Certified Legal Assistant (CLA). To certify, professionals must meet established standards with regards to education and experience, then pass a 2-day examination that is given in regional testing centers 3 times annually. The National Federation of Paralegal Associations offers another test, the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam, (PACE) to paralegals with two years of experience. Registered Paralegal (RP) is the professional designation of those who pass this examination.

 

Certified Paralegal/Certified Legal Assistant Examination test site-  Gadsden State Community College has qualified as a testing site for the national certification examination sponsored by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).  Review courses and materials are offered at no charge to graduates of the GSCC paralegal program.  More information about the CLA/CP Examination is available at http://www.nala.org/Certification.aspx

 

What skills do the best paralegals share? 

Communication- An effective paralegal must be able to communicate clearly both orally and in writing. Many times a paralegal serves as a liaison between clients, experts, witnesses, other support staff and the attorney.   

 

Attention to Detail - While lawyers are often focused on the larger picture, the details fall to the paralegal. Paralegal tasks such as cite checking (verifying legal authority in briefs and memos), document review, exhibit management and title searches require painstaking attention to detail.  

 

Organization - Lawyers rely on paralegals to bring order to their cases and files in civil, criminal and transactional matters.  The ability to sort, index, categorize, order, manipulate and organize large amounts of information is a fundamental paralegal skill.

 

Multi-Tasking - Rarely are paralegals assigned to a single case. In the real world, paralegals must juggle multiple tasks and simultaneously balance competing priorities. Successful paralegals are able to think quickly, remain flexible, prioritize assignments and balance the demands of multiple supervisors and clients.

 

 Writing - Strong writing skills are essential to almost any paralegal position.  Paralegals may draft correspondence, pleadings, discovery, motions, briefs, legal memorandums and other documents ranging from simple to complex.  Paralegals must master the art of clear, concise and persuasive written communications.

 

 Research and Investigative Skills - Research is another core paralegal skill. In addition to mastering traditional legal research methods, paralegals must become proficient at Internet research and legal research databases such Westlaw. Paralegals must also learn to analyze case facts and properly cite legal authority. Solid investigative skills are also necessary in locating records, evidence, documents and witnesses.

 

Technology Skills-  Technology has infiltrated every aspect of law practice, so paralegals must master a growing array of word processing, spreadsheet, telecommunications, database, presentation and legal research software.  Legal technology has expanded into the areas of litigation support and e-discovery.  

 

Teamwork -The delivery of legal services is sufficiently complex that a team with multiple skills is necessary to provide quality and cost-effective service.  Since rules regarding the unauthorized practice of law require paralegals to work under the supervision of a lawyer, teamwork is essential to paralegal practice.

              Paralegals may not provide legal services directly to the public, except as permitted by law.

Paralegal Professional Organizations-
      National Association of Legal Assistants-  http://www.nala.org/
      National Federation of Paralegal Associations-  http://www.paralegals.org/
      Alabama Association of Paralegals, Inc.  - http://alabamaparalegals.net/

Gadsden State Paralegal Association Facebook

 

Top Ten Reasons to Use a Paralegal

What does a paralegal do?

Paralegal Career information

Occupational Outlook - Paralegals and legal assistants
ABA Approved Paralegal Programs

Paralegal Education

American Bar Association Approved

Gadsden State Community College offers the only two-year Paralegal Program in Alabama approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).  ABA approval has become a benchmark for many employers who hire paralegals. To be considered for approval by the ABA, a program must meet standards adopted by the ABA Standing Committee on Paralegals. The GSCC Paralegal Program was granted approval by the ABA in 1994.

Program Goal

The program goal is to provide a general education with emphasis on substantive and procedural law and ethical principles. Students are required to apply their knowledge in practical assignments which will prepare them for entry-level paralegal positions working under the supervision of an attorney in the private or public sector.

Paralegal Program Outcomes:

  1. To provide paralegal students with a general education that includes exposure to major areas of substantive law and requires development of communication and analytical skills.
  2. To prepare students to perform legal research, using traditional library research as well as electronic research.
  3. To prepare students to brief judicial opinions.
  4. To prepare students to use forms and models for drafting legal documents and pleadings related to contracts, torts, probate, real property and domestic law.
  5. To enable students to understand the rules of professional conduct governing attorneys' actions and the application of those rules upon paralegals.
  6. To develop students' abilities to communicate in writing and orally in a professional manner.
  7. To develop students' organizational skills as applied in the legal work place, including managing and organizing documents, calendaring and managing time and work assignments.
  8. To respond to the needs of the local legal community by providing well-qualified legal assistants.

Location

The paralegal studies program classes are offered on the Wallace Drive Campus, Gadsden.  Day and evening classes are available. Many of the required core courses are offered online. 

 
Program Coordinator                                   Program Director
Elizabeth Howard                                         Angie Waits
256-549-8336                                                256.549.8342
ehoward@gadsdenstate.edu                          awaits@gadsdenstate.edu

Legal specialty courses from ABA Approved Paralegal programs will transfer automatically to Gadsden State Community College if the student has a C or above in the courses. Legal specialty courses from non-ABA approved schools must be evaluated by the program coordinator to ensure that the content of the course is comparable to the Gadsden State course.

For a catalog and more information regarding the Paralegal Program, please contact Gadsden State Community College, Paralegal Department at 256.549.8250 or visit the GSCC website at www.gadsdenstate.edu

Gadsden State Community College --  Paralegal Program

Gadsden State Community College -- Area of Business
1001 George Wallace Drive
P.O. Box 227
Gadsden, Alabama 35902-0227