Bachelor of Arts, Paralegal Studies
The ABA-approved paralegal certificate may be pursued concurrently with the bachelor's degree in this program. This Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Paralegal Studies requires thirty-three credit hours of legal specialty coursework in addition to courses that will provide the paralegal with knowledge and skills in the areas of business, leadership, and effective communication.
The program is committed to producing well educated, capable, and ethically aware graduates who, although they may not provide legal services directly to the public except as permitted by law, are prepared for careers as paralegals to attorneys in private, public, and corporate settings. Paralegals are professionals trained both in the substance of the law and in legal procedure who use that knowledge and those skills to provide a broad range of legal services under the supervision and direction of an attorney.
Specifically, the program goals are:
1.To train students in a practical way for careers as paralegals to attorneys.
2.To promote a basic understanding of legal concepts and terms on subjects that are important to those engaged in general practice or in specialized areas of law and to equip students with legal writing and research skills that will enable graduates to perform as skilled members of a legal team.
3.To provide a general understanding of the principles of ethical and professional responsibility as these relate to lawyers and paralegals.
4.To provide a broad background in general education for development of educated, socially, morally, and ethically aware individuals.
5.To constantly upgrade and adjust the program to fulfill the needs of the community by seeking input from local attorneys, paralegals, and students.
Course of Study
Course of Study
Paralegal Studies 24-Month Degree Plan
ECPA 121 Introduction to Paralegal Studies (3) - Examination of the concept, qualifications, and role of the paralegal. Selected topics include legal terminology, the levels of government, court structure and operation, the structure of the American legal system, basic interviewing and investigative techniques, the ethical considerations governing the lawyer-paralegal-client- public relationships, and the role of the paralegal in several substantive law areas. Students will also be exposed to technologies currently in use by paralegals including electronic filing and case management software.
ECPA 123 Legal Research and Writing (3) - The student will acquire basic techniques and practical skills required in the use of legal materials. Problem assignments require the student to use many of the standard legal written authorities. Students will use the Cumberland School of Law library in the preparation of case briefs, memoranda, and appellate briefs. Prereq or Co-req: ECPA 121.
ECPA 227 Estates and Trusts (3) - Examination of the substantive and procedural law of wills, trusts, and estate administration. The student drafts a will and a trust, and prepares administration documents. Prereqs: ECPA 121 and ECPA 123.
ECPA 229 Litigation (3) - Examination of the process of litigation. Special emphasis is placed on the pretrial stage including pleading and discovery. The student performs tasks commonly performed by litigation paralegals. Prereqs: ECPA 121 and ECPA 123.
ECPA 301 Employment Law (3) - The student will become familiar with transactions and will prepare documentation for the state and federal laws with respect to employment, sexual harassment, employment discrimination under Title VII and state law, litigation in the state and federal courts regarding employment matters, the Americans with Disabilities Act and its effect on employment, and the Family and Medical Leave Act and its effect on employment. Prereqs: ECPA 121 and ECPA 123.
ECPA 302 Environmental Law for Paralegals (3) - Comprehensive overview of environmental law including its relationship with political science, technology, economics, and science. In addition to examining current law and policy, this course will review the history of environmental law including the historical legal responses to environmental contamination. Prereqs: ECPA 121 and ECPA 123.
ECPA 303 Technology in the Law Office (3) - General introduction to the use of computers and of legal specialty computer software programs in the modern law office. The course includes hands-on computer exercises using professional software programs frequently used in the law office by paralegals. Prereqs: ECPA 121 and ECPA 123.
ECPA 304 Family Law (3) - Examination of the substantive law of domestic relations. Topics covered include annulment, divorce, custody, and adoption. The student will learn the procedures used in this area and will prepare commonly filed documents and pleadings. Prereqs: ECPA 121 and ECPA 123.
ECPA 306 Debtor/Creditor Law (3) - Examination of the most frequently occurring topics of debtor-creditor law as they occur in a general law practice. Topics include creditor collection devices, Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), and bankruptcy. Prereqs: ECPA 121 and ECPA 123.
ECPA 307 Criminal Law (3) - The student will learn the common law and statutory definitions of crimes (including crimes against persons and property), how to apply defenses to crimes, the application of the constitutional rights of the accused, and the procedures of criminal prosecution. Prereqs: ECPA 121 and ECPA 123.
ECPA 308 Real Estate Law (3) - Examination of the substantive law of real property. Training in the study of the law of real estate transactions. Topics include general principles of real estate law, conveyancing, loan-closing procedure, sale of real estate and sales contracts, title examination, deed preparation, foreclosures, leasing of real estate, option contracts, and recordation of various instruments. Prereqs: ECPA 121 and ECPA 123.
ECPA 309 Legal Drafting and Transactions (3) - Review of the basic skills necessary for drafting documents for legal transactions. Includes discussion about drafting issues, both legal and non-legal, and the law as it relates to drafting, including rules of interpretation (such as the cannons of construction) and substantive law issues that relate to particular transactions. Students will complete writing exercises that test their knowledge of and ability to apply the materials, including the ability to avoid inadvertent ambiguity, to properly define terms and concepts, to make appropriate stylistic choices, and to draft and revise documents. Prereqs: ECPA 121 and ECPA 123.
ECPA 310 Torts (3) - Provides students with the basic legal terms of torts and personal injury law; helps students identify the various types of torts and the defenses a defendant can raise to each; and provides students with practical, hands-on experience in learning the related medical terminology and in drafting the documents commonly used in this area of law. Prereqs: ECPA 121 and ECPA 123.
ECPA 311 Corporate Law (3) - Broad overview of two important areas of the law: (1) the law of contracts and (2) the law of business organizations. The contracts part of the course covers forming contracts, restitution, statute of frauds, contract interpretation, modification, and other topics. The business organizations part of the course covers an overview of the principle legal issues that arise in business relationships over the life cycle of the business, including an explanation of the basic concepts that govern these relationships, the specific examples of how they apply, and the similarities and dissimilarities in the business associations covered. Prereqs: ECPA 121 and ECPA 123.
ECPA 410 Advanced Paralegalism (3) - Designed to prepare the student for entry into the legal community through intensive study of the paralegal profession and additional development of the student's organizational, communication, and critical analysis skills using modalities such as portfolio preparation, mock interviews, and advanced research and writing assignments. Prereqs: ECPA 121 and ECPA 123, and 18 hours of completed paralegal coursework.
Salary and Employment Information
Wages of paralegals and legal assistants vary greatly. Salaries depend on education, training, experience, the type and size of employer, and the geographic location of the job. In general, paralegals who work for large law firms or in large metropolitan areas earn more than those who work for smaller firms or in less populated regions. In May 2008, full-time wage-and-salary paralegals and legal assistants earned $46,120. The middle 50 percent earned between $36,080 and $59,310. The top 10 percent earned more than $73,450, and the bottom 10 percent earned less than $29,260.
Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of paralegals were:
- Federal Executive Branch - $58,540
- Management of companies and enterprises - $55,910
- Insurance carriers - $52,200
- Employment services - $50,050
- Legal services - $44,480
In addition to earning a salary, many paralegals receive bonuses, in part to compensate them for sometimes having to work long hours. Paralegals also receive vacation, paid sick leave, a savings plan, life insurance, personal paid time off, dental insurance, and reimbursement for continuing legal education. Adapted from: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Paralegals and Legal Assistants, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos114.htm (visited December 22, 2010).
Download the full-text of the Bureau of Labor Statistics entry on paralegals and legal assistants from the 2010 Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Birmingham Area Compensation Information
Adapted from: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_13820.htm#23-0000. For national wage and employment information, visit the BLS website.
National Association of Legal Assistants
Please visit the website of the National Association of Legal Assistants to learn more about paralegal compensation. Or, you may download the 2010 compensation survey.