Frequently Asked Questions About the Paralegal/Legal Assistant Program

As a highly trained legal assistant, the paralegal is prepared to work in a variety of settings including: government agencies, banks, insurance companies, corporate legal departments, and traditional law offices. The increasing volume and cost of legal services has created a demand for legal assistants. It is by many accounts one of the fastest-growing profession today.

Emphasis is placed on the development of core skills in legal research techniques, compilation and analysis of data, understanding legal vocabulary, preparation of legal documents, and critical thinking. A student that successfully completes the Paralegal/Legal Assistant Degree or Certificate will have done so after demonstrating adequate skills in each of the following competencies:

  • knowledge of the various functions and roles of a paralegal;
  • knowledge of the ethics and professional responsibility of attorneys and paralegals;
  • knowledge of legal terminology;
  • knowledge of the various court systems;
  • knowledge of evidence and investigations;
  • proficiency in manual and computerized legal research;
  • proficiency in legal writing and analysis;
  • knowledge of how the law office operates;
  • successful completion of an approved internship;
  • an appreciation and understanding for the importance of continuing legal education; and
  • ability to apply paralegal skills in potential areas of practice, such as but not limited to: Alternative dispute resolution,
  • civil and criminal litigation,
  • domestic relations,
  • probate and estate planning,
  • real estate,
  • contracts and commercial transactions,
  • law office management, and
  • legal research and writing

Yes, hands-on experience is gained in the last semester of the program through an internship in a legal or law-related setting. Students who have met the necessary prerequisites will work a minimum of 210 hours over the course of the semester (15 hours per week for a period of 14 weeks during the fall or spring semester or 26.25 hours for a period of 8 weeks during the summer semester).

Admission to the College does not necessarily guarantee acceptance into the Paralegal/Legal Assistant program. However, admission to the college does allow you to take all of the paralegal classes except for the legal research and writing classes and the internship class. With respect to the legal research and writing classes and the internship class, you must be admitted to the paralegal program prior to taking those classes. In order to gain admission to the certificate program, the student must have successfully completed BLW 201 and PLA 101 by earning a minimum grade point average of 2.66 in those two classes. In order to gain admission into the degree program, the student needs at least a 2.66 GPA in English 101, BLW 201, and PLA 101. Once the criteria for admission into either the degree or certificate program has been met, the student completes an application, which is available through this web site, and then the student schedules a personal interview with the paralegal program coordinator to be formally admitted into the program.

The curriculum provides a balance of legal-specialty courses, courses in special topics, and general education requirements that gives students a base upon which they can communicate effectively with clients as well as the public and people in the legal system. Legal specialty courses are offered primarily in the evening to accommodate those with daytime jobs and family responsibilities.

If you are planning on entering into the legal profession or have worked in the profession for years, the South Suburban College the Paralegal/Legal Assistant program is structured to help you meet your goals. South Suburban College provides you with choices. You may:

  • Take one or more courses to advance your skills in a specific legal area,
  • Pursue the Associate in Applied Science degree in Paralegal/Legal Assistant Studies, or
  • Go beyond your baccalaureate or A.A. degree and attain a Certificate in Paralegal/Legal Assistant Studies.

You will learn at your own pace, you may take either curriculum part-time or full-time. You may take one class a semester or up to six classes a semester. All paralegal classes are offered at night with some classes offered during the day and some also offered online.

According to the U. S. Department of Labor, the paralegal profession ranks among the fastest growing occupations in the economy. Employment growth stems from law firms and other employers with legal staffs increasingly hiring paralegals to lower the cost and increase the availability and efficiency of legal services. The majority of job openings for paralegals in the future will be new jobs created by rapid employment growth for paralegals; other job openings will arise as people leave the occupation.Job opportunities are excellent in both the city and suburbs. According to the US Department of Labor, the average salary nationwide for a paralegal is $47,600. According to the Illinois paralegal Association 2007 salary survey, nearly 3/4 of their members who responded to their survey reported making more than $50,000 with a median salary (half above and half below) of $60,000. Please note, that the particular salary a paralegal makes depends on a myriad of factors such as: education, experience, and firm size.