Online Paralegal Training

Why Penn Foster?

  • Accredited
  • Self-Paced
  • Supportive
  • Low monthly payments

Program Overview

Penn Foster’s online Paralegal Program will prepare you to successfully perform paralegal duties, including assisting lawyers and corporations with preparing legal paperwork, filing court documents, word processing, and legal research. Did you know that paralegal jobs are expected to increase 17% in the coming years?*

You can complete the Paralegal Career Diploma program in as little as four months! You can also transfer all of your credits and continue on with our Paralegal Studies Associate Degree Program.

Curriculum Details

Unit 1

Starting Your Program

Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program.

Objectives:

  • Understand how to use your Student Portal, including your My Homepage and My Courses pages.
  • Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers.
  • Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.
The Paralegal Professional

Paralegals are common not only in the traditional legal community but also in government, education, and business. Your career as a paralegal will provide exciting and challenging opportunities.

Objectives:

  • Understand the laws and regulations governing paralegals.
  • Know the education and licensing required.
  • Obtain practical information concerning your career goals.
  • Locate potential employers in your area.

Unit 2

Legal Terminology, Part 1

Familiarity with common legal words and phrases is required when creating and interpreting legal documents. This lesson will introduce you to a broad range of basic legal terminology and documents.

Objectives:

  • Define and understand common Latin legal terms and terms associated with litigation.
  • Compare the various types of jurisdiction and kinds of documents used in litigation.
Legal Terminology, Part 2

A solid understanding of the language of law is essential in your career as a paralegal. This lesson will continue to introduce you to a broad range of legal terminology and documents.

Objectives:

  • Understand criminal procedure and common criminal defenses.
  • Recognize the elements commonly included in contracts.
  • Describe the ways in which contracts may be terminated.
  • Explain the various legal actions associated with family law.
  • Understand the terminology used in recording ownership of real property.
Critical Thinking

Strong critical thinking skills improve your own arguments and your ability to evaluate the arguments of others.

Objectives:

  • Assess strength of logic, reasoning, and conclusions.
  • Recognize the elements of propaganda and emotional manipulation.
Additional Unit Materials

Downloadable audio files: Legal Terminology 1 and 2

Unit 3

Ethics and Professional Responsibility

Paralegals are responsible for maintaining confidentiality and competence; handling fees and funds; avoiding potential malpractice of law; and preventing conflicts of interest.

Objectives:

  • Understand the guidelines that regulate lawyers’ and paralegals’ conduct.
  • Identify rules concerning confidentiality and attorney-client privilege.
  • Conduct financial billings.
  • Recognize conflict of interest issues.
Project: Thinking Critically About Ethics

Review a scenario involving a paralegal working in a law firm and identify the ethical rules the paralegal and/or the attorney violated. This will give you the chance to practice the skills you've learned so far in your program.

Unit 4

How the Law Works

The American legal system is complex, but it’s understandable once you know the basics of its structure and functions. This lesson works through the building blocks of American law.

Objectives:

  • Outline the structure of state and federal courts.
  • Explore the sources of law and discuss some of the most important Constitutional protections in the American legal system.
  • Understand how a case moves through the federal court system.
  • Identify the kinds of cases that can be brought in federal and state courts.
  • Examine the legal profession’s working environment, the kind of work they do, and special obligations.
The U.S. Court System, Part 1

Learn how history has shaped the organization of contemporary courts as well as the legal system of case law, codes, and administrative regulations.

Objectives:

  • Identify the legal theory from which a particular law originates.
  • Explain how the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights apply to modern laws, procedures, court decisions, and theories.
  • Identify the federal and state courts, and distinguish the functions of each.
The U.S. Court System, Part 2

This lesson helps you develop a better understanding of the litigation process in state and federal courts.

Objectives:

  • Compare civil and criminal litigation.
  • Define and identify procedural and substantive law.
  • Understand the steps involved in litigating a civil trial.
  • Describe the differences between litigation in the state and federal courts.

Unit 5

Business Law

Courts spend a good deal of their time settling business disputes, but much business law doesn’t involve litigation at all. Many paralegals work on business matters where clients are buying and selling things—not suing each other. Understanding the basics of the subject will help you make sense of the business-oriented world in which we live.

Objectives:

  • Describe the organizational structure of corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies (LLCs).
  • Identify basic concepts in financing business entities.
  • Understand the role of shareholder agreements and other ownership agreements.
  • Analyze the ethical issues facing paralegals working in business law.
Project: Business Law

Modify a generic partnership agreement form to meet the needs of two hypothetical clients. This will give you the chance to practice the skills you’ve learned so far in your program.

Torts

A tort is essentially any action that causes harm to a person or property. A good deal of law involves torts, so as a paralegal, you’ll be constantly exposed to tort actions.

Objectives:

  • Define the term tort.
  • Analyze fact patterns and be able to state what torts are involved in a situation.
  • Select and define relevant defenses for common torts.
  • Explain the concept of negligence and its four elements.

Unit 6

Civil Litigation

Litigation involves the use of the court system to resolve disputes. Increasingly, paralegals are involved in litigation support.

Objectives:

  • Explain the purpose of litigation and the differences between civil and criminal litigation.
  • Know the role of court system personnel in litigation.
  • Prepare and file a complaint.
  • Define evidence law and the requirements to make evidence admissible.
  • Describe hearsay and some important hearsay exceptions.
Discovery

Discovery is a way to obtain information from parties and witnesses for litigation. It is different from other methods of obtaining information for litigation because it uses the rules of civil procedure and the power of the court.

Objectives:

  • Recognize matters that are most and least discoverable.
  • Object to discovery, claim privilege, and obtain protective orders.
  • Understand how a deposition is set up and conducted.
  • Explain the purpose of and how to respond to requests for admissions.
Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is one of the fastest growing areas of the law today. Traditional litigation is a time-consuming, rigid, and expensive process. ADR is a fast, flexible, and less expensive method to settle disputes.

Objectives:

  • Explain how ADR differs from litigation.
  • Identify the major kinds of ADR mechanisms and summarize their key elements.

Unit 7

First Steps in Using a Personal Computer

This course will help you get used to the computer by walking you through the first steps of using your PC.

Objectives:

  • Set up a computer system.
  • Navigate in the Windows® environment.
  • Consult on-screen Help for answers to questions.
  • Use the programs contained in the Windows® Accessories and the System Tools for Windows.®
Using Windows®

Learn the many ways that Windows® can help you complete your daily tasks. Practice a number of important commands as you complete practical exercises.

Objectives:

  • Customize your computer display and input devices to suit your preferences.
  • Create notes, documents, and drawings using Windows® Accessories.
  • Locate a file, open a recently used document, and retrieve a file that has been recently deleted.
  • View and organize files and folders on your local disk.
Internet Basics

In this course, you’ll learn about the vast world of information that exists on the Internet.

Objectives:

  • Use search engines and email.
  • Identify the best Internet providers and services for your needs.
  • Upload and download files from the Internet.
Microsoft® Word™

Learn how to use Microsoft® Word™ to create, edit, and illustrate documents.

  • Create, edit, format, and merge Word™ documents.
  • Add graphics and tables.
Project: Microsoft® Word™

This project gives you a chance to use your Word™ skills. Create four promotional documents for a company’s training event: a cover letter introducing the company, a facts sheet highlighting product features, a flier promoting the event, and a registration form.

Microsoft® Excel®

In this course, you’ll learn about the most widely used spreadsheet program, Microsoft® Excel.® Excel® can perform numerical calculations and is also useful for non-numerical applications such as creating charts, organizing lists, accessing data, and automating tasks.

Objectives:

  • Use the basic elements of Microsoft® Excel.®
  • Add, delete, and sort data.
  • Create and use formulas, charts, and graphs.
Project: Microsoft® Excel®

This project gives you the chance to use your Excel® skills. Create a simple worksheet to calculate the cost of office supplies, and track their increase or decrease in cost over a two-month period. Graph the results.

Microsoft® PowerPoint®

Microsoft® PowerPoint® is a powerful graphics presentation program for communicating ideas to an audience.

Objectives:

  • Understand the basic elements and fundamentals of Microsoft® PowerPoint.®
  • Apply Slide Master, shapes, and effects.
  • Insert hyperlinks, illustration objects, and media clips.
  • Work with advanced tools, tables, and charts.
Project: Computer Applications

Now that you’ve worked with Microsoft® Word,™ Excel,® and PowerPoint,® use your skills in all three of these applications. Your project consists of three parts:

Objectives:

  • Create a memo with Microsoft® Word.™
  • Create a chart with Microsoft® Excel.®
  • Create a presentation with Microsoft® PowerPoint® that includes data from your Excel® chart.

Unit 8

Introduction to Writing

This lesson deals with basic writing skills and grammar. You’ll look at the process of writing as well as the parts of speech and how to use them.

Objectives:

  • Know the parts of speech.
  • Use correct capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Develop sentences and paragraphs.
  • Improve your writing.
Using the Parts of Speech

In this lesson, you’ll work on polishing your writing so letters and documents look professional and communicate clearly.

Objectives:

  • Use pronouns and modifiers properly and effectively.
  • Construct complete sentences.
  • Explain subject-verb agreement.
Punctuation and Capitalization

In this lesson, you’ll cover various types of punctuation, rules for capitalization, spelling, and citations. While you may already know some of these standard principles, it’s important that you carefully review each topic.

Objectives:

  • Use end marks, commas, and other common punctuation marks.
  • Use capitalization correctly.
  • Explain common spelling rules and use them in your writing.
  • Cite research sources.
Writing Sentences and Paragraphs

By expressing yourself with correct grammar, organizing your ideas, and focusing on the topic, your writing will become more effective and professional.

Objectives:

  • Compose a variety of sentence structures.
  • Construct unified, coherent paragraphs.
  • Connect paragraphs to build a well-organized, logical document.
Improving Your Writing

This lesson is designed to help you make the best use of your writing tools as you plan, develop, revise, and present your work.

Objectives:

  • Identify your audience, medium, and purpose.
  • Focus and organize your ideas.
  • Plan both informal and formal writing projects.
  • Revise, edit, and proofread to make your final copy accurate and professional.
Types of Business Writing

In this lesson, you’ll prepare for the various kinds of writing you’re most likely to need for your job.

Objectives:

  • Write well-structured, professional letters.
  • Format business letters, memos, and emails.
  • Process routine information requests and complete typical office forms.

Unit 9

Legal Writing

One of the most important skills for a paralegal or an attorney is the ability to communicate effectively in writing. This lesson is designed to provide training in the kind of writing that you’ll actually be doing as a paralegal.

Objectives:

  • Write an effective legal memorandum that answers questions of law or supports a motion.
  • Format legal writing.
  • Perform some basic techniques to enhance your writing.
Project: Legal Writing 1

This project involves three exercises designed to apply what you’ve learned so far in your program. You'll prepare several types of legal writing, which you may be asked to do as a paralegal in a law firm.

Legal Research

As a paralegal, you’ll find yourself doing legal research for your supervising attorney. This lesson will introduce you to the great number of tools that can be used in legal research and will allow you to practice using these tools.

Objectives:

  • Approach a research problem from different access points.
  • Look up cases and statutes using the appropriate sources.
  • Read and brief a case.
  • Use basic procedures for citation.
Project: Legal Writing 2

You’ll be presented with a parental custody case, a list of relevant facts, and the testimonies of two expert witnesses. Research the law in your own jurisdiction regarding factors used to determine custody. Then, write two memorandums, one for each of the opposing sides, applying the law you found to the facts of the case.

Computer-Assisted Legal Research, Part 1

Legal databases are constantly changing, so paralegals must keep their research skills up-to-date. This lesson teaches you how to quickly and efficiently retrieve legal information using Lexis.com.®

Objectives:

  • Formulate a search request and search for documents.
  • Verify the accuracy of citations using Shepard’s Citation Service.
  • Locate, profile, and investigate people and companies.
  • Conduct financial and business research.
Computer-Assisted Legal Research, Part 2

This lesson explains how to integrate the Internet into a practice environment to improve access to information, move cases forward, and, most importantly, deliver better legal services to clients.

Objectives:

  • Perform factual, business, and legal research on the Internet.
  • Keep Internet research skills up-to-date.
  • Use the Internet to find paralegal job positions.
Project: CALR

Attorneys delegate legal research assignments to paralegals on a daily basis. Therefore, paralegals must be able to use CALR systems, such as Lexis.com,® to quickly and efficiently retrieve legal information. This project will give you the chance to practice the skills you’ve learned so far in your program.

Additional Unit Material

Access to Lexis.com®


Computer Specifications
You will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. You will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows® 7 or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running OS X® or later, Microsoft® Office 2013, and an email account to complete your program with Penn Foster.

We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
Microsoft, Windows, and Windows XP are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
Apple, Mac, and OS X are trademarks of Apple, Inc registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
Lexis.com is a trademark of Reed Elsevier Properties, Inc. registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.

Transfer Credits & Graduate Sooner!

Students can receive advanced academic credit for Business English and Microsoft® Office within this program. Learn more about our transfer credit policy.

Sample Lesson

To view a Paralegal sample lesson, click here.

Paralegal Program Details

Penn Foster will help you gain the knowledge and skills you need:

  • Legal terminology and the U.S. court system
  • How to conduct legal investigations
  • Legal writing and legal research
  • Paralegal ethics and professional responsibility

* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Occupational Outlook Handbook," 2014-15 Edition, Paralegals and Legal Assistants, on the Internet here (visited February 5, 2014).

Please review your state board requirements that are applicable to your field of study. State boards may impose a variety of different requirements. This is particularly important for residents of California and South Dakota.

Paralegals do research, write correspondence, and prepare legal documents for attorneys at law firms, legal departments, and government agencies. Here are a few qualities that effective paralegals have in common:

  • Detail oriented: It’s important to have a sharp eye and be able to analyze a situation.
  • Dependable: Clients and lawyers rely on you to be organized and prepared.
  • Honest: You are honest and ethical in the work place.
  • Cooperative: You are pleasant and listen to what others have to say regarding projects and tasks.

I had a positive experience with the Paralegal Program and with Penn Foster, overall. I look forward to advancing in my current job with the skills I achieved through Penn Foster.

- Ameeza R., Paralegal graduate

I enjoyed very much the ability to become part of the Penn Foster group. The instructors were extremely helpful and kind. They were always there when I needed help or just plain needed advice.

- Ashley L., Paralegal student

We make sure you have everything you need:

  • Graduate debt free with 0% interest
  • Books and learning aids included
  • Study Planner App to customize your study plans and keep track of your progress
  • Instructional support from our world-class faculty
  • Access 24/7 to Penn Foster’s online campus, plus immediate membership in the Paralegal academic group
  • Your personalized online student homepage and learning portal
  • Additional resources such as our online library and career guidance from Career Cruising

Are the credits earned in the Paralegal Career Diploma Program transferable to the Paralegal Studies Associate Degree Program?

Yes, all 14 credits earned in the Paralegal Career Diploma Program can be transferred into the Paralegal Associate Degree Program, and 9 credits can be transferred into the Criminal Justice Associate Degree Program.

Can I transfer previously earned credits to the Penn Foster Paralegal Career Diploma program?

Yes, you can receive advanced academic credit for some courses within the program, which means you can move through your curriculum faster and earn your certificate or diploma sooner. Learn more about our transfer credit policy.

More FAQs >

Find us on Google+