1. Is Berkeley College's Paralegal Studies Certificate Program ABA approved?
Yes, the program is approved by the American Bar Association.
2. What are paralegals or legal assistants?
Paralegals, also known as legal assistants, are individuals qualified to perform law-related work that requires knowledge of legal concepts and procedures and is usually, but not exclusively, performed by lawyers. Under the supervision of a lawyer, a paralegal may analyze legal issues, investigate and evaluate facts, interview clients, assist in case management, and perform other duties to assist the lawyer in the delivery of legal services to clients. In addition, paralegals may prepare pleadings, contracts, forms, legal memoranda, and other documents. Areas of practice include litigation, business/corporate, real estate, trusts and estates, family law, criminal law, tax, bankruptcy, immigration, environmental law, collection, employee benefits, computer law, intellectual property, securities, entertainment law, and workers’ compensation.
3. What types of work do paralegals perform?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, paralegals assist lawyers by researching legal precedent, investigating facts, or preparing legal documents. They also conduct research to support a legal proceeding, to formulate a defense, or to initiate legal action.
While lawyers assume ultimate responsibility for legal work, they often delegate many of their tasks to paralegals. In fact, paralegals are continuing to assume a growing range of tasks in legal offices and perform many of the same tasks as lawyers. Nevertheless, they are explicitly prohibited from carrying out duties considered to be the practice of law, such as setting legal fees, giving legal advice, and presenting cases in court.
One of a paralegal’s most important tasks is helping lawyers prepare for closings, hearings, trials, and corporate meetings. Paralegals might investigate the facts of cases and ensure that all relevant information is considered. They also identify appropriate laws, judicial decisions, legal articles, and other materials that are relevant to assigned cases. After they analyze and organize the information, paralegals may prepare written reports that attorneys use in determining how cases should be handled. If attorneys decide to file lawsuits on behalf of clients, paralegals may help prepare the legal arguments, draft pleadings and motions to be filed with the court, obtain affidavits, and assist attorneys during trials. Paralegals also organize and track files of all important case documents and make them available and easily accessible to attorneys.
In addition to this preparatory work, paralegals perform a number of other functions. For example, they help draft contracts, mortgages, and separation agreements. They also may assist in preparing tax returns, establishing trust funds, and planning estates. Some paralegals coordinate the activities of other law office employees and maintain financial office records.
Computer software packages and the Internet are used to search legal literature stored in computer databases and on CD-ROM. In litigation involving many supporting documents, paralegals usually use computer databases to retrieve, organize, and index various materials. Imaging software allows paralegals to scan documents directly into a database, while billing programs help them to track hours billed to clients. Computer software packages are also used to perform tax computations and explore the consequences of various tax strategies for clients.
Paralegals are found in all types of organizations, but most are employed by law firms, corporate legal departments, and various government offices. In these organizations, they can work in many different areas of the law, including litigation, personal injury, corporate law, criminal law, employee benefits, intellectual property, labor law, bankruptcy, immigration, family law, and real estate. As the law becomes more complex, paralegals become more specialized. Within specialties, functions are often broken down further. For example, paralegals specializing in labor law may concentrate exclusively on employee benefits. In small and medium-sized law firms, duties are often more general.
4. Is there a demand for paralegals?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 22 percent between 2006 and 2016, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employers are trying to reduce costs and increase the availability and efficiency of legal services by hiring paralegals to perform tasks once done by lawyers. Consequently, paralegals are performing a wider variety of duties, making them more useful to businesses.
Demand for paralegals also is expected to grow as an expanding population requires legal services, especially in areas such as intellectual property, health care, international law, elder issues, criminal law, and environmental law. The growth of prepaid legal plans should also contribute to the demand for legal services.
Private law firms will continue to be the largest employers of paralegals, but a growing array of other organizations, such as corporate legal departments, insurance companies, real estate and title insurance firms, and banks also hire paralegals. Corporations in particular are expected to increase their in-house legal departments to cut costs. In part because of the range of tasks they can perform, paralegals are also increasingly employed in small and medium-size establishments of all types.
5. Can I be considered for admission if I don't have at least 60 credits or a Bachelor's degree?
To be considered for admission into Berkeley College’s Paralegal Studies Certificate Program, students must have earned a Baccalaureate degree or an Associate of Arts or Science degree or have accrued a minimum of sixty (60) semester credits or the equivalent (i.e. ninety quarter credits) from an accredited post secondary educational institution. For those students without a degree, at least eighteen (18) of the sixty (60) semester credits or the equivalent must consist of general education courses. Students who have an Associate’s degree of Applied Science or equivalent occupational or vocational degree cannot be admitted into the certificate program. They may apply for admission to the Associate’s degree program as a transfer student.
6. How long does it take to complete the program?
The program can be completed in approximately 6 months.
7. Where are courses held?
Courses are held at Berkeley's NYC Midtown Manhattan location.