Paralegal Studies Associate Degree

Why Penn Foster?

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

Program Overview

Take your passion for the law and enroll in Penn Foster’s Paralegal Studies Associate Degree Program. Did you know that paralegal jobs are expected to increase 17% in the coming years?¹

Penn Foster’s online Paralegal Studies Associate Degree Program will teach you to successfully perform paralegal duties, including assisting lawyers and corporations with preparing legal paperwork, filing court documents, word processing, and legal research. You will also receive access to Lexis.com. And all graduates of the program are eligible to sit for the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) certification examination.

Curriculum Details

Semester 1

Basic Skills Assessment

All degree applicants are required to complete two Basic Skills Assessments, one in reading and one in math, to determine the level of readiness for beginning their selected program.  Additional studies may be required.

PLS101 Introduction to Paralegal Studies 1 credit

Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program, and learn the fundamentals of the paralegal field.

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.
  • Describe typical duties carried out by paralegals and how to work with attorneys.
  • 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.
ENG103 Information Literacy 1 credit

Get better at finding and using information!

Objectives:

  • Search the Internet more effectively.
  • Get tips about search engines and reliable websites.
  • Learn how to search libraries and other information centers for important, useful information.
PLS105 Legal Terminology and Critical Thinking 2 credits

Legal Terminology

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.
  • 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.

    Additional Course Materials:

  • Downloadable audio files: Legal Terminology 1
  • Downloadable audio files: Legal Terminology 2

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.
ENG100 English Composition 3 credits

This course will allow you to polish and enhance your writing skills.

Objectives:

  • Effectively use free writing and brainstorming.
  • Perfect your ability to edit and revise your writing.
  • Apply techniques for getting the reader’s attention.
  • Write descriptive essays, first-person narratives, reflective essays, persuasive essays, and effective thesis statements.
PLS110 Ethics 2 credits

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 potential malpractice and conflict of interest issues.
PLS113 Law and the Legal System 2 credits

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

Objectives:

  • Outline the structure, functions and obligations of state and federal courts.
  • Describe the differences between litigation in the state and federal courts.
  • Understand the sources of law and 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.
  • Describe how a case moves through the federal court system.
  • Compare the differences between civil and criminal trials.
  • Understand the steps involved in litigating a civil trial.
  • Examine the legal profession’s working environment, kind of work they do, and special obligations.
CSC104 Computer Applications 3 credits

This course will allow you to build your computer skills through a combination of reading and hands-on practice. You will navigate popular software tools such as Windows® and Microsoft® Office.

Objectives:

  • Create, edit, and illustrate Microsoft® Word™ documents.
  • Apply formulas and functions to large data sets in Microsoft® Excel.®
  • Incorporate useful charts and graphs to summarize data.
  • Add, delete, sort, and lay out table data.
  • Create presentations in Microsoft® PowerPoint® using advanced tools, tables, and charts.
Additional Semester Materials

Learning Aids

Legal Specialties lists some of the typical duties of a paralegal in various fields. It also contains two self-assessment quizzes to help you determine in what field of law you might like to work when you finish your program.

Legal terminology audio files to help you learn the language of the law—including pronunciation! Download mp3 files from your online student account.

Barron’s Dictionary of Legal Terms contains nearly 3,000 legal terms translated into simple English. This reference book will help you throughout your career.

Custom edition of the Little, Brown Essential Handbook customized for Penn Foster students.

Textbook

Successful College Writing

Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 2

HUM106 Interpersonal Communication 1 credit

This course is designed to help you develop professional relationships in the workplace.

Objectives:

  • Understand and explain the components of communication, both verbal and nonverbal.
  • Develop effective listening and observation skills.
  • Recognize prejudice in interpersonal relations.
  • Describe personal traits essential for successful interpersonal relations.
PLS114 Investigations and Interviews 2 credits

Many paralegals spend a great deal of time talking with clients and/or witnesses. This course will teach you how to effectively interview people and conduct legal investigations.

Objectives:

  • Understand the ethical considerations and responsibilities of the paralegal and the attorney in interviewing.
  • Prepare for and conduct an interview and investigation.
  • Use different types of questions to elicit responses from a variety of people.
  • Summarize the information discovered during the interview and investigation process.
PLS121 Torts 3 credits

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. Your textbook provides many interesting real-life examples of cases involving injured parties. Discover how these cases travel through the legal system, beginning with filing a complaint and ending with settlement, arbitration, or trial.

Objectives:

  • Understand the fundamentals of legal analysis and how to prepare a legal memorandum.
  • Outline an investigative strategy for a personal injury case.
  • Draft a complaint.
  • Understand the tests that establish causation.
  • Characterize strict liability in tort and the defenses to liability in tort.
BUS213 Business Law 1 3 credits

This course teaches the legal aspects of business today.

Objectives:

  • Understand the judicial process and alternative dispute resolution.
  • Describe different forms of business organization and their characteristics.
  • Identify elements of contracts and rules pertaining to contracts.
  • Understand law of agency and laws concerning employment.
BUS214 Business Law 2 3 credits

Continue to explore the legal aspects of business today.

Objectives:

  • Handle legal matters dealing with wills, trusts, and estates.
  • Understand laws pertaining to ownership, leasing, and transfer of property.
  • Write sales and lease contracts.
  • Identify the rights of secured and unsecured creditors and the consequences of bankruptcy.
  • Describe the principles of torts and criminal law as they relate to business.
MAT106 Mathematics for Business and Finance 3 credits

This course is designed to help you master the necessary math skills for various business applications.

Objectives:

  • Perform basic operations using whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and percentages.
  • Perform basic business-related math involving invoices and payroll.
  • Calculate cash discounts, markups, markdowns, simple interest, and compound interest.
  • Use a checking account, and prepare a bank reconciliation statement.
  • Write and solve business-related equations.
  • Interpret business data and statistics and present them in an understandable format.
Additional Semester Materials

Learning Aids

Voice and Diction audio files will help you learn to speak clearly and effectively. Download mp3 files from your online student account.

Textbooks

Torts Personal Injury Litigation, Fourth Edition, by William P. Statsky

Business Law with UCC Applications, Twelfth Edition, by Gordon W. Brown and Paul A. Sukys

Practical Business Math Procedures, Ninth Edition, by Jeffrey Slater

Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 3

BUS121 Economics 1 3 credits

Analyze economy-wide phenomena through the study of macroeconomics, including inflation, unemployment, and trade deficits.

Objectives:

  • Study the basic function of economics in our society.
  • Understand the laws of supply and demand.
  • Describe the concept of elasticity to explain changes in a market.
  • Describe the notion of deadweight loss and its relevance to taxes.
  • Identify the pros and cons of trade restrictions.
  • Interpret the unemployment rate and the labor-force participation rate.
PLS202 Legal Research and Writing 4 credits

This course will introduce you legal writing and to the great number of tools that can be used in legal research. You will practice these skills through three writing and research projects.

Objectives:

  • Format legal writing.
  • Perform some basic techniques to enhance your writing.
  • 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.
  • Formulate a search request and search for documents.
  • Locate, profile, and investigate people and companies.
  • Conduct financial and business research.
  • Quickly and efficiently retrieve legal information using Lexis.com.
General Education Elective (Choose one) 3 credits

SSC125 - Introduction to Sociology

This course is designed to introduce you to social structure and social interaction through groups, networks, and organizations. Study politics, the economy, population, social movements, technology, and social change.

Objectives:

  • Describe deviance, crime, and social control.
  • Discuss the effects of stratification, racial and ethnic inequality, sex, gender, and sexuality.
  • Examine the role of health, family, education, and religion in human behavior.

SSC130 - Essentials of Psychology 

This course will introduce you to the relationship between biology and behavior. You will learn about human development throughout the life span.

Objectives:

  • Identify major psychological theories.
  • Discuss consciousness, memory, thought, and language.
  • Define intelligence, personality, and stress.
  • Analyze the role of gender in psychology.
  • Explain how community influences behavior.

SSC105 - World Civilizations

This course will allow you to understand the importance of studying history as it relates to the individual and society as a whole.

Objectives:

  • Discuss the major events of the sixteenth through twentieth centuries.
  • Explain the consequences of events and the trends that they cause.
PLS205 Civil Litigation 3 credits

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.
General Education Elective (Choose one) 3 credits

HUM102-Art Appreciation

This course will provide you with the foundational knowledge needed to critique a variety of artwork.

Objectives:

  • Understand artistic media.
  • Identify historical periods and artistic movements.
  • Explain the roles of the artist and the viewer.

HUM104-Music Appreciation

This course will allow you to understand and appreciate the art of music.

Objectives:

  • Explain the roles of the composer and the listener.
  • Describe music theory, instrumentation, and historical periods.
  • Distinguish various styles of music.
Additional Semester Materials

Textbook

Macroeconomics by Campbell R. McConnell, Stanley L. Brue, and Sean M. Flynn

Learning Aid

Online Resource: Access to Lexis.com,® one of the premier providers of online legal research

Supplement 

Selected Federal Civil Rules

Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 4

PLS211 Criminal Litigation 3 credits

This course provides you with an introduction to the practice and theory of criminal law.

Objectives:

  • Define the role played by the paralegal in various criminal justice agencies.
  • Identify the origins, evolution, and sources of the criminal law.
  • Explain the conduct (actus reus) and the state of mind (mens rea) components involved in criminal offenses.
  • Analyze the important constitutional and statutory defenses that pertain to criminal conduct.
  • Outline the process of criminal case intake and the drafting of formal criminal charges.
  • Track the progression of a criminal case from the pretrial, trial, and post-trial stages, with emphasis on the rights of the accused at each stage of the proceedings.
ENG121 Business and Technical Writing 3 credits

Learn how to write business and technical documents.

Objectives:

  • Organize your material logically and systematically.
  • Use action verbs effectively and construct paragraphs.
  • Conduct research and document sources.
PLS213 Family Law 3 credits

This course will provide you with a solid foundation in the basic legal principles that apply to family law.

Objectives:

  • Describe the origin, development, and current trends in family law.
  • Define the elements of a valid premarital agreement.
  • Discuss the difference between a traditional ceremonial marriage and a common law marriage.
  • Explain the difference between a divorce and an annulment.
  • Understand the differences between a no-fault divorce and a fault divorce.
PLS215 Real Estate Law 3 credits

The real estate industry—real estate development, construction, sales, leases, and financing—generates a great deal of work for law firms. Paralegals often work with real estate law, and this course is designed to teach you the basics. Real estate law varies some from state to state, but most of the principles are the same in all states.

Objectives:

  • Understand the types, content, and preparation of deeds.
  • Understand how real estate is described in deeds.
  • Define and give examples of encumbrances, easements, and licenses.
  • Describe some of the ways government regulates the use of real estate.
  • Describe the components of a real estate purchase contract and the real estate closing process.
  • Explain the role of lawyers and paralegals in the process of real estate financing.
  • List the provisions of a standard lease and explain their purpose.
PLS217 Wills and Estates 3 credits

Paralegals often handle matters dealing with wills, trusts, and/or estate administration.

Objectives:

  • Understand statutes and statutory language.
  • Draft a preliminary will for the supervising attorney’s review.
  • Prepare preliminary drafts of the various kinds of trusts.
  • Prepare legal forms to create an estate plan.
  • Apply the procedures and prepare the legal forms used in probate and estate administration.
  • Prepare the tax returns of a decedent’s estate.
General Education Elective (Choose one) 3 credits

SCI120-Introduction to Biology

This course will allow you to explore the origin of life and the relationships among all living things.

Objectives:

  • Explain how organisms are structured and how they work.
  • Discuss the various forms of life and their processes.

Additional Course Material:

  • Textbook: Essentials of Biology

SCI140-Nutrition

This course will allow you to develop a healthier lifestyle by making smarter nutritional decisions.

Objectives:

  • Explain the various components of nutrition as a science.
  • Describe nutrition from a global viewpoint.
  • Understand the importance of water and exercise.
  • Identify the basics of human growth and aging.
  • Discuss food safety procedures.

Additional Course Material:

  • Textbook: Personal Nutrition
Additional Semester Materials

Textbooks

Family Law for the Paralegal, by Mary E. Wilson

Wills, Trusts,and Estate Administration, by Dennis R. Hower and Peter Kahn

Reality of Real Estate, by Charles P. Nemeth

Criminal Law for Paralegals

Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.


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.

Graduation Requirements

  • Complete all 4 semesters.
  • Pass all courses.
  • Achieve a cumulative Quality Point Average (QPA) of 2.0 or higher.

NOTE: Advanced standing student shipments may vary from the above schedule.
Although this outline covers all four semesters of your program, you receive lesson materials for each semester as you enroll.
We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
Credits earned in Penn Foster programs may transfer to some, but not all, learning institutions. If you are planning to continue your education with another school after you earn your degree from Penn Foster, you should check with that school regarding credit transfer policies.
Microsoft, Windows, Excel, and PowerPoint are registered trademarks and Word is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation 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.

Sample Lesson

To view a Paralegal Studies sample lesson, click here.

Paralegal Studies 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 and interviews
  • Legal writing and research
  • Paralegal ethics and professional responsibility

¹ 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).

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 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 Studies graduate

To any future students who are considering the Paralegal Program, I highly recommend that you do so, and immediately. The program is challenging and provides you with all the essentials you will need when going into the workforce. Penn Foster has a great faculty and staff that truly care about the well-being of their current and future students. Penn Foster has truly helped me obtain my degree through distance learning. I am a military spouse and, up until my last semester, I worked full-time and the convenience to be able to work at my own pace is excellent.

- Shantell P., Paralegal Studies graduate

After completing my High School Diploma at Penn Foster, I went straight to the College to pursue my Associate of Science Degree in Paralegal Studies. The instructors are friendly, professional, available, and patient. They do not just educate you theoretically but prepare you with thorough, practical knowledge for the workforce today and that of tomorrow. Sometimes, when my supervising attorney speaks it’s verbatim of what’s in my Penn Foster study guide. Penn Foster has given me an A-grade education on a pauper’s budget.

- Max G., Paralegal Studies graduate

We make sure you have everything you need:

  • Graduate debt free with 0% interest
  • 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 Studies academic group
  • Your personalized online student homepage and learning portal
  • Additional resources such as our online library and career guidance from Career Cruising

Are other Penn Foster paralegal course credits transferable toward the Paralegal Studies Associate Degree Program?

Yes, credits from all other paralegal courses at Penn Foster are transferable to our Paralegal Studies Associate Degree.

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