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School of Continuing EducationParalegal

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Real world training, real world experience

Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 12 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. —U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics


Why Choose the ODU Paralegal Program

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Challenging Content

You will learn legal processes, court structure, interviewing, investigation, document preparation, file maintenance, correspondence, research, writing and analysis, as well as substantive topics of law, such as Tort Law, Contract Law and Civil Procedures. Our students also learn LexisNexis and Westlaw, two powerhouses in legal research.

Real World Instructors

Our instructors are all practicing attorneys or judges, which means not only do they hold advanced degrees, but they have real world experience and show you how to put theory into practice.

Career Support

Our students receive instruction on preparing their resume, fine tuning job search methods and developing interview skills. Additionally, program graduates can request their resume to be posted on the ODU Paralegal Graduate site, and Norfolk area law firms are notified of the availability of new certificate holders upon program completion.



Course Information


This nationally acclaimed non-credit program was designed by attorneys, judges and paralegals, and is taught exclusively by practicing attorneys and judges. The hands-on program distinguishes itself by its focus on real world skill-sets most in demand by law firms and legal divisions. It is designed with the working student in mind and provides the education you need to begin a paralegal career or advance an existing career in the legal field.

In as few as four months, ODU's innovative program teaches the knowledge and skills most desired in the workplace and used daily by paralegals. Taught by an esteemed faculty of judges and attorneys, you will learn legal processes, court structure, interviewing, investigation, document preparation, file maintenance, correspondence, research, writing and analysis, as well as substantive topics of law, such as Tort Law, Contract Law and Civil Procedures. Students will be trained in online legal research with individual subscriptions to LexisNexis and Westlaw. This high-quality educational experience will give you access to resources including customized texts and dynamic interactive online support tools which include practice exercise questions, lecture notes, quizzes, writing labs, mock exams and more!

The program is offered online as an open-entry, self-paced program, as well as on-campus.


The Old Dominion University Paralegal Certificate Program develops skill-sets in its students unlike any other paralegal program. The unique curriculum is designed in a format that replicates actual law office experience. Designed for paralegals by attorneys, judges and paralegals, this course sets new standards in paralegal education.

  • Introduction to the Legal Field
    Students will learn what kind of job opportunities exist and what tasks a paralegal may perform.
  • Legal Terminology
    By presenting an actual legal matter and following it throughout the legal process, students are introduced to the most relevant legal terms. The case presented is tracked through both civil and criminal court procedures.
  • Resume Preparation
    Students will receive instruction in preparing resumes and cover letters, as well as tips for interviewing.
  • Strategies for Employment
    Multiple strategies for seeking employment will be discussed, including traditional and non-traditional methods.
  • Stages of Litigation
    The three stages of the litigation process are presented, and the functions a paralegal may perform during each stage are discussed.
  • Evidence
    Students discuss various forms of evidence, including direct, circumstantial, oral, physical and hearsay. The elements of admissibility are presented, as are the procedures for presentation of evidence to the court.
  • Interview Clients
    Specific techniques will be presented and discussed for conducting client interviews.
  • Law Office Investigation
    Skip tracing, formal and informal witness statements, the obtaining of public documents and other investigative matters are presented.
  • Index Research
    Students will learn the "hierarchical structure" of legal indexes and will learn to efficiently utilize these fundamental research tools.
  • Legal Analysis
    Students will develop the skills to analyze both case law and statutory authority, including the IRAC method.
  • Legal Memorandum Form
    After learning the analytical process, students will analyze cases and statutes. Students will then be taught how to create a legal memorandum.
  • Blue Book Citation Form
    Students will learn the system of legal citation.
  • Pleading Preparation
    Students will study pleadings and will prepare a Summons and Complaint.
  • Discovery Preparation
    Students will be taught to create sets of Interrogatories, Requests for Admissions and Request for Production and Inspection of Documents.
  • Discovery Coordination
    Students will learn the rules relevant to discovery and how to track both sent and received discovery documents.
  • Preparing for Depositions
    Students will study various considerations for deposition setup.
  • Deposition Digesting
    Students will be provided with a deposition transcript and will be taught to summarize that document.
  • Utilization of Legal Forms
    Students will learn to manipulate templates and utilize formbooks.
  • Authority Identification
    The class will learn to identify primary, secondary, mandatory, persuasive and non-authority.
  • Legal Research Skills
    By using hands-on, interactive training devices, students will learn proper law library utilization: how to locate primary authority, how to use secondary sources, how to update research sources, how to validate authority using Shepard's and how to utilize specific legal materials. Students will be trained in The Key Number System and the Total Client Service.
  • Westlaw Training and Access
    Students will receive training and individual access to Westlaw Online Legal Research.
  • Lexis Training and Access
    Students will receive training and individual access to LexisNexis Online Legal Research.
  • Motions, Notices, and Briefs
    Students will be introduced to various forms of motions and will be required to prepare a motion, notice and brief.
  • File Maintenance
    Proper file maintenance is discussed. Students will be required to assemble all documents created in the class into a client file.
  • Law Office Etiquette
    Students will learn how to properly present themselves in a law office environment, including dress considerations, telephone tips and a discussion of office politics.
  • File Maintenance
    Students will learn how to create and maintain a client file.
  • Tickler and Calendaring Systems
    The class will discuss various forms of reminder systems for important due dates and both hard-copy and computer-based calendaring methods.
  • Billable Hours
    Students will learn the importance of keeping track of billable hours.
  • ABA Rules of Ethics
    Students will become familiar with the ABA Rules guiding the ethical behavior of attorneys and will discuss how these rules affect paralegals in their day-to-day lives.
  • Law Office Ethics
    Students will be taught to maintain a high ethical standard. To facilitate the learning process, students will be presented with ethical scenarios and potential pitfalls to avoid.
  • Legal Advice
    The class will be instructed in rules preventing a paralegal from providing legal advice and will discuss what does and does not constitute such advice.
  • Legal Representation
    Students will discuss the rules restricting paralegal representation, and the class will be presented with exceptions to these rules.
  • Virginia Court Structure and Procedure
    Local and state trial and appellate courts will be discussed, including how to access filing procedures for specific courts.
  • Court Rules
    Students are taught the most frequently used court rules, as well as the skills necessary for finding any rule for specific procedural questions.
  • Federal Government Structure
    Students will learn the structure of government and the laws applicable to each branch.
  • Federal Court Structure
    Students will be instructed in the basic differences between state and federal jurisdiction, as well as the federal trial and appellate jurisdictions. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure will be introduced.
  • Electronic Legal Research Skills
    Students will learn how to create computer queries in order to use Westlaw and Lexis.
  • Electronic Discovery
    Students will learn the procedures and issues surrounding the disclosure of digitally stored information.
  • The Arbitration Process
    The class will learn how the arbitration process works and the difference between mandatory and binding arbitration. The class will also discuss new trends in extra-judicial proceedings.
  • Informal Advocacy
    Students will learn to obtain information, documents, and relevant material in an informal forum and how to act as the attorney's "right-hand" in such situations.
  • Substantive Legal Areas of Law
    Students will develop skills related to the areas of law in which paralegals are most commonly utilized, such as Tort Law and Contract Law.

Which program format is best for you, on-campus or online? While the skill-sets you will learn are identical, you will need to determine which delivery method is best for you. Consider the following:

On Campus Program (To be offered post-pandemic)

  • In person instruction from judges and attorneys
  • Two evenings per week for four months
  • Extensive online study support
  • Successful graduates receive the Old Dominion University Paralegal Certificate
  • Good for students who prefer a more structured environment

Online Program

  • Go-at-your-own-pace format and enroll at anytime
  • Study online when it is convenient for you
  • Every student is assigned her or his own attorney/judge instructor
  • Students are provided with the instructor's email and phone number
  • Successful graduates receive the Old Dominion University Paralegal Certificate
  • Best for students who are able to be disciplined and focused

Whichever format you decide is best for you, be assured that you will develop the same skills and knowledge. Those who successfully complete the program will be awarded the Old Dominion University Paralegal Certificate with no distinction between the on-campus and online programs.

Job Prospects

The paralegal profession continues to be among the fastest growing of any profession in the nation. The following is an excerpt from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on the employment outlook in the paralegal profession:

"Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 10 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.

As law firms try to increase the efficiency of legal services and reduce their costs, they are expected to hire more paralegals and legal assistants. In these cases, paralegals and legal assistants can take on a "hybrid" role within the firm, performing not only traditional paralegal duties but also some of the tasks previously assigned to legal secretaries or other legal support workers.

Law firms also are attempting to reduce billing costs as clients push for less expensive legal services. Due to their lower billing rates to clients, paralegals can be a less costly alternative to lawyers, performing a wide variety of tasks once done by entry-level lawyers. This should cause an increase in demand for paralegals and legal assistants.

Although law firms will continue to be the largest employers of paralegals, many large corporations are increasing their in-house legal departments to cut costs. For many companies, the high cost of outside counsel makes it more economical to have an in-house legal department. This will lead to an increase in the demand for legal workers in a variety of settings, such as finance and insurance firms, consulting firms, and healthcare providers.

Due to the rise of electronic discovery, formally trained paralegals with strong computer and database management skills should have the best job prospects."

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants, at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm (visited February 18, 2021).

Compensation

To prepare for a career as a paralegal, an individual may choose to attend a four-year bachelor's degree program, a two-year associate's degree program or a paralegal certificate program. It may surprise you to learn that graduates of paralegal certificate programs are compensated at a significantly higher rate than graduates of other forms of paralegal education. Why? Because certificate programs have the advantage of focusing the entire education experience on paralegal skills. Certificate programs offer the highest quality of paralegal education at an affordable cost.

Of course, earnings of paralegals vary greatly, depending on education, training, experience, the type and size of employer and the geographic location of the job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics currently reports an average annual salary of $51,740 for paralegals and legal assistants, higher than the annual wage for all workers.

Sources: https://www.nala.org/

https://www.bls.gov/

Old Dominion University is proud to announce the new Old Dominion University Paralegal Specialist Certificate Programs, designed to expand the educational and professional horizons for all paralegals. These programs are entirely online and are offered in a go-at-your-own-pace format.

The ODU Paralegal Specialist Certificates provide both beginning and experienced paralegals the most expansive educational opportunities available anywhere in the country. These certificate programs allow paralegals to augment skills already possessed and focus them in virtually any area of law. There are over 20 Paralegal Specialist Certificates, the broadest selection of educational opportunities offered anywhere. Students may enroll at any time, and the go-at-your-own-pace structure allows students to study when it is convenient. Each course includes instructor guidance, exercises, quizzes, chapter reviews, lecture notes and other innovative online learning tools.

To enroll, students must possess a recognized Paralegal Certificate, professional paralegal experience, an Associate's Degree in Paralegal Studies or a Bachelor's Degree with a Paralegal Major. Each Specialist Certificate is $1995.

PARALEGAL SPECIALIST COURSES:

  • ADMINISTRATIVE LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • PERSONAL INJURY LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • CONTRACT LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • BUSINESS LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • CRIMINAL LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • FAMILY LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • HEALTHCARE LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • BANKRUPTCY LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • ENTERTAINMENT LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • IMMIGRATION LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • ENVIRONMENTAL LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • ESTATES, WILLS AND TRUSTS SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • WORKERS' COMPENSATION SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • FEDERAL TAX LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • EMPLOYMENT LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • ELDER LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • SPORTS LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • JUVENILE LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • REAL ESTATE LAW SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • LAW OFFICE ADMINISTRATION SPECIALIST PROGRAM
  • LITIGATION SPECIALIST PROGRAM


Next Steps:


Register- Live Online

Dates: September 20 - December 22, 2022

Day/Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6:00 - 8:30 PM

Location: Online via Zoom

Fees: $5,794.00 (includes tuition and materials)

Classes are held via Zoom

REGISTER FOR LIVE ONLINE

Register- Online, Self Paced

Dates: October 1, 2022 - April 30, 2023

Day/Time: At your own pace. Students have 6 months to complete the program.

Location: Online, self paced. Students are assigned a personal mentor to help guide them.

Fees: $7,786.00 (digital books) or $8,008.00 (printed books)

REGISTER FOR ONLINE SELF PACED

Can't Decide?

Can't decide which class is right for you? Need a little more information? Attend one of our FREE online information sessions!

Upcoming session dates include:

Click the link above to register for the date of your choice

Funding Options

The School of Continuing Education can accept payments for courses in several different forms. ODU's helpful staff can assist you in determining if you might qualify for any number of various funding options that could assist you with non-credit continuing educational opportunities to improve your marketability and advance your career.



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Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 12 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. —U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics


As law firms try to increase the efficiency of legal services and reduce their costs, they are expected to hire more paralegals and legal assistants. In these cases, paralegals and legal assistants can take on a "hybrid" role within the firm, performing not only traditional paralegal duties but also some of the tasks previously assigned to legal secretaries or other legal support workers.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm (visited February 18, 2021).


Frequently Asked Questions

What is a paralegal?

A paralegal is a person who assists an attorney in a law office, corporation or government office in many aspects of legal representation or service. While a paralegal may conduct a wide variety of tasks, he or she may not give legal advice or represent another person in a court of law. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) also provides a definition of what it means to be a paralegal.

Why choose a career as a paralegal?

The number of paralegals in the U.S. is expected to continue growing. Law firms and corporate legal departments are relying more heavily on paralegals as cost-saving measures and to perform tasks once routinely handled by attorneys. The Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a job growth rate "Much faster than average" compared to other professions through 2029. The Bureau found that:

Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 10 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations....

Law firms also are attempting to reduce billing costs as clients push for less expensive legal services. Due to their lower billing rates to clients, paralegals can be a less costly alternative to lawyers, performing a wide variety of tasks once done by entry-level lawyers. This should cause an increase in demand for paralegals and legal assistants.

—U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job rewards and satisfaction for paralegals include excellent salaries and benefits with opportunities for bonuses and advancements, recognition for contributions to case resolutions, meaningful work helping clients and challenging and interesting work in a professional environment surrounded by talented, educated colleagues.

What is the average salary for a paralegal?

Earnings of paralegals vary greatly, depending on education, training, experience, the type and size of employer and the geographic location of the job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics currently reports an average annual salary of $51,740 for paralegals and legal assistants, higher than the annual wage for all workers.

Will I be able to take the national certification exams?

The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) each offer a voluntary examination for a fee. However, no state requires that a paralegal take any exam, and most paralegals choose not to take either exam. Students who have a bachelor's degree in any field and have graduated from the ODU Paralegal Certificate Program are eligible to sit for either exam. Contact NALA or NFPA for the most current requirements to sit for those examinations.

What are the advantages of enrolling in ODU's Paralegal Studies Program?

Our comprehensive, accelerated program is designed by paralegals, attorneys and judges and taught exclusively by practicing attorneys and judges. You will have access to extensive resources including customized texts, hands-on workbooks, LexisNexis and Westlaw access (you'll get individual passwords), and online study tools that include practice exercise questions, lecture notes, quizzes and mock exams, and research and writing labs. Online study tools are provided for both the online and on-campus programs.

Is this program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA)? What does ABA approval mean?

At this time, ODU is not offering and does not plan to seek American Bar Association approval for its paralegal program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of paralegal programs offered by colleges, universities, law schools and proprietary schools do not have ABA approval; in fact, only about 260 of the estimated 1,000 paralegal training programs have sought ABA approval. Typically, an ABA Paralegal Studies Program is akin to an Associate's Degree Program, requiring two years of study in both law and liberal arts classes at a greater cost to the student. The ODU Paralegal Certificate Program teaches the core, transferrable skills paralegals require in order to begin working immediately. Further, ODU's Paralegal Certificate Graduates acquire the same or more paralegal knowledge than those graduates from an ABA approved program.

Can I preview the program?

Yes. To help you make an informed decision, please take the Paralegal Program Test Drive. Get a feel for the educational advantages offered by the Old Dominion University Paralegal Certificate Program.

Who are the instructors?

The Paralegal Studies instructors are attorneys and judges who are predominantly members of the Virginia Bar, have been approved to teach by Old Dominion University and have demonstrated teaching ability and subject matter expertise.

Where are the classes held?

Upon conclusion of the pandemic, classes will be offered at ODU's conveniently located campus. At the current time, classes are online only.

What is the cost of the program?

$4,995.00 plus materials (approximately $700) for the in person course

How do I begin the program?

To register for the ODU Paralegal Certificate Program, please click on the Register link above

What if I fail an exam or fail a class?

You are expected to pass all courses (Essential Skills Exams, Essential Skills Assignments, Tort Law, Contract Law and Virginia Procedures) with a cumulative minimum grade of 70% or better. If you fail a course, you will be given the option to retake it.

Can I earn the certificate completely online?

Yes. You can complete the certificate by taking the self-paced, online version of the program.

What if I earn a certificate of completion from ODU and then move to another state? Will my paralegal status change or be jeopardized?

No. Some states, for example, North Carolina and Florida, have voluntary certification exams, but even these are not required. You will, therefore, be eligible to work as a paralegal in any state.

Is independent certification or credentialing necessary once I complete the Old Dominion University Paralegal Certificate Program?

While no state requires you to sit for an exam to be a "certified" or "credentialed" paralegal or legal assistant, many choose to attain the professional designations to enhance their stature in the field. The CLA (Certified Legal Assistant) and CP (Certified Paralegal) certifications are available, along with the NFPA Pace and NALA exams. For more information about sitting for these exams, please visit the National Association of Legal Assistants or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc.

Is financial assistance available?

As a non-credit course, the Paralegal Certificate Program does not qualify for federal financial aid, however, payment options are available. Click here for more information on funding options.

Can I access my course from anywhere?

You can access the online course anywhere with Internet access. The on campus version of the course requires your presence on the ODU campus.

Is my online course an instructor-led course?

This is a self-paced course, required to be completed in six months. You will be provided with a syllabus to guide you through the Assignments, Exams, Readings and Study Support, and your assigned Instructor will be available via e-mail to respond to any queries you may have.

How many hours are required to complete reading assignments and homework?

You should expect to devote a minimum of 360 total hours of study for successful completion of the Program. We anticipate you will most likely spend approximately 17 hours at least per week going over class lecture notes, performing exercises, viewing demonstrations, using online labs and other online support materials, and completing assignments. Approximately 10 hours will be needed for the core Essential Skills part of the program, and approximately 7+ hours for the substantive courses. The actual time required for each course will vary from student to student.

Are there specific dates that I need to log on to the website?

Not for the online program, it is self-paced.

What happens if I fall behind or complete the course early?

The online paralegal courses are self-paced within the timeframes allowed, and all of your work within each Program component (Essential Skills and the three substantives) must be completed prior to your course end date. Thus, it is recommended that you sign up for the online version of this program only if you can commit the time to complete it successfully.

What kind of computer peripherals are required to take an online class?

You will need either a PC computer or Mac. A high-speed Internet connection is highly recommended, but not required, and Chrome is the preferred browser. You must have Microsoft Word.

Do I need to have cookies enabled?

Yes. Your Internet browser must be set to accept cookies.

How do online courses work?

Once you begin your course, you will be able to access the Study Support Website. Your instructor will contact you to provide you with contact information and additional getting started tips. You will work through the Essential Skills part of the program in Segments. The substantive programs are set up chapter by chapter. For each chapter in the books, you will have online study support. It is recommended that you read the assigned material chapter by chapter, reviewing the online study support as you progress. Please contact your instructor with any questions you may have, but also check the online Help page in the web modules for commonly asked questions.