Paralegal Online Program Curriculum | Penn Foster
Student Login
Start for or Save up to ! 1-800-275-4410
Enroll Now Get Info Enroll Today! 1-800-471-3232
> > Program Details

Paralegal Curriculum

In the Penn Foster College online Paralegal classes, you'll cover topics such as legal terminology, the U.S. court system, how to conduct legal investigations, legal writing and legal research, and more. If you are interested in furthering your studies, you can also transfer many of your lessons and continue on with Penn Foster College's Paralegal Studies Associate Degree Program, which is licensed by the state of Arizona.

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal

The Paralegal Diploma program is designed to prepare students for entry-level positions as paralegals or legal assistants, while providing a strong foundation for further training.

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to...
  • Demonstrate a general understanding of the duties a paralegal performs, the importance of privileged communications with clients, and how to avoid conflicts of interest
  • Discuss the legal system in the United States, including the origins and history of the law, the development of common law, statutory law, and constitutional law, and the litigation process for both criminal and civil litigation
  • Understand the litigation process for both criminal and civil litigation, including discovery, depositions, interrogatories, laws of evidence, venue, important hearsay exceptions, and rights of the accused
  • Demonstrate computer literacy using office software
  • Demonstrate effective written office communications
  • Recognize and use legal terminology appropriately
  • Recognize ethical violations and understand ethical rules that regulate conduct of lawyers and paralegals
  • Describe different forms of business organization, advantages and disadvantages of various entities, types of torts, defenses to negligence, and the paralegal's role in preparing commonly used documents
  • Write an effective legal memorandum; state and characterize facts and legal arguments to best advance a legal position
  • Research primary and secondary sources to determine relevant case law, find statutes and other information from appropriate sources using and other Internet sources, and correctly cite sources

Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program.


  • Understand how to use your Student Portal.
  • Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers.
  • Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.
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.


  • Summarize how the role of paralegals have developed over the years
  • Illustrate the duties and challenges of the paralegals in their different practices
  • Explain the intricacies involved in working with attorneys and law firms
  • State the education qualification and licensing required in paralegal practices

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.


  • Describe the general terminologies of precision, common English terms, and Latin laws
  • Explain the term litigation as well as the common terms associated with the legal practices
  • Classify the various processes involved in a trial
  • Identify the basic principles of tort law
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.


  • Describe the basic elements of criminal law and various types of offenses
  • Explain contract law and its types
  • Illustrate the issues and the regulations of property laws
  • Define the various terminologies associated with family law
Strong critical thinking skills improve your own arguments and your ability to evaluate the arguments of others.


  • State the need for self-evaluation
  • Identify the ways in which one could use critical thinking in an argumentative scenario
  • Describe the ways in which one could use logic in the critical thinking process
  • Recognize how emotions, agenda, tactics, and illogic can manipulate ones thinking ability
  • State how close scrutiny can ensure critical points in ones thinking ability
  • Identify how the causes and comparison of things ensures in having an effective reasoning ability
  • Define the terms intellectual laziness, personal values, and own beliefs
  • Explain how the conflicting viewpoints and the source consideration have an impact on critical thinking
  • Identify the elements of critical thinking that ensures something is wrong in an argument

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


  • Recognize ethical rules, regulations, and laws that affect lawyers, organizations, governments, and paralegals
  • Summarize the emergence of unauthorized practices of law and the reasons to avoid them
  • Identify the ethics of confidentiality as an important factor impacting attorney and client
  • List the types of conflicts that affect attorneys as well as paralegals
  • Describe the differences between advertising and solicitation and the rules and regulations that restrict advertisements
  • Identify the ways to handle client and attorney funds, and the consequences of mixing both
  • Explain competence, incompetence, and malpractice in the context of a lawyer's job
  • Identify zealous representation and the ways to keep within the bounds of the law
  • Identify the importance of professionalism in law

Prepare a report on situations involving breach of ethical rules by paralegals and attorneys.

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.


  • State the five sources of American Law
  • Explain the structure of legal community in America
  • Describe the role of a legal assistant
  • Illustrate the importance of ethical consideration in an attorney-client relationship
  • Explain the structure of state and federal courts
  • Describe the function of federal, state, concurrent, and pendent jurisdiction
  • Recognize the process of case briefing and legal analysis
  • State the purpose of subnative and procedural due process
  • Recognize the different factors related to conflicts of law and enforcement of judgments
  • Describe the term statute of limitations, res judicata, and immunity
Learn how history has shaped the organization of contemporary courts as well as the legal system of case law, codes, and administrative regulations.


  • Outline the history of organized law
  • Identify the various legal terms and their utilization under the legal system
  • Summarize the importance of English common law in the emergence of American law
  • Define case and the reason behind its legal usage in various scenarios
  • List the types of sources for studying law
  • Recognize the basic workings of state courts and their structure
  • Explain the working process and the structure of the modern federal court system
This lesson helps you develop a better understanding of the litigation process in state and federal courts.


  • Identify the working process of the civil litigation system in America
  • Describe the steps in civil procedure and trial in federal courts
  • Recognize the elements and procedures in civil litigation in state courts
  • Define the important process of criminal litigation in federal and state courts

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.


  • Describe how each kind of organization is formed and operated from a legal standpoint
  • Describe the general principles of the various kinds of entities
  • Show the format of recommendation letter and signing of lease and liability
  • Classify the legal rules governing formation and operation of entities
  • Explain how confidentiality and conflicts of interest are important parameters in ethical consideration

Modify a generic partnership agreement form to meet the needs of two hypothetical clients.

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.


  • Explain the sources of tort laws
  • Identify the function of different types of torts
  • Describe the various factors require for raising defenses to negligence
  • Recognize the various negligence principles applicable to the intentional torts

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


  • Explain the types of civil litigation and the role of paralegal in litigation
  • State the functions of courts, jurisdiction, and an overview of the litigation process
  • Describe evidence law and the requirements to make evidence admissible
  • Classify the evaluation and investigation process of a case
  • Explain how to prepare and file a complaint, including serving the complaint and summons
  • Summarize the rules for counterclaims and cross-claims
  • Describe motion basics and how it concerns to pleading and procedural defects
  • State the factors associated with settlement negotiations and alternative dispute resolution
  • Explain the post-trial motions
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.


  • Explain the purpose of discovery, types of discovery, and timing of discovery
  • Write the exceptions to discovery
  • State the procedure, court use, and paralegal's role in a deposition
  • Recognize the process of framing questions, answers, and objectives for interrogatories
  • Define Rules 34 and 35, and describe the procedures for using them
  • Explain the purpose of requests for admissions and the consequences of denying with grounds matters
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.


  • Identify the major kinds of ADR mechanisms and their key elements
  • Recognize the federal, state, and ethical guidelines for ADR
  • State the importance of developing interviewing and communication skills
  • Describe the negotiation process for an ADR
  • Explain the tasks of the paralegals in mediation process
  • State the advantages and disadvantages of different types of arbitration
  • Illustrate the dispute resolution process in the court system
  • Identify the ADR mechanism involving hybrid resolution measures
The study of criminal law and litigation is concerned with what’s considered "criminal" by the law.


  • Explain the reasons behind criminal laws
  • Identify the different elements of crime
  • State the differences between crimes against a person, a property, and the public
  • Recognize the role of the judge, prosecution, defense, and law enforcement officers
  • Describe the importance of Miranda warnings and the rules of search and seizure
  • Identify what happens from the time a person is arrested until trial

Learn how to use Microsoft® Word™ to create, edit, and illustrate documents.
  • Create, edit, format, and merge Word™ documents.
  • Add graphics and tables.

Develop the literature for a Welcome Package for Healthy Home Care, Inc.

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.


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

Design a spreadsheet that tracks the cost of elementary school supplies distributed to teachers over a two-month period.

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


  • 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.
This course will allow you to build your computer skills through a combination of reading and hands-on practice while learning Microsoft® Office.


  • 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.

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.


  • Know the parts of speech.
  • Use correct capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Develop sentences and paragraphs.
  • Improve your writing.
In this lesson, you’ll work on polishing your writing so letters and documents look professional and communicate clearly.


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


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


  • Compose a variety of sentence structures.
  • Construct unified, coherent paragraphs.
  • Connect paragraphs to build a well-organized, logical document.
This lesson is designed to help you make the best use of your writing tools as you plan, develop, revise, and present your work.


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


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

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.


  • 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.

Prepare a letter, a deed, and a memorandum using the skills acquired from the course.

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.


  • 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.

Prepare a report and memorandums on the parental custody case.

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®


  • 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.
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.


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

Apply the skills of CALR system to complete legal research assignments.


Access to®

Additional Details

Licensing and/or certification requirements for jobs in this field are not the same in every state and may include educational, testing, and/or experiential requirements beyond those offered in the Penn Foster Program. Prospective students should contact the state professional licensing board or similar regulatory body in the state(s) where they plan to work to determine their requirements before enrolling in this Program. Click here for contact information for state licensing/regulatory boards and certain industry licensing information.
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.

Penn Foster College Accreditation & Licensing Details

Penn Foster College has been nationally accredited for over 40 years, and has met the high standards of integrity and performance set by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) in Washington, D.C. Penn Foster College has been thoroughly reviewed and has earned several important accreditations and licensing. We also participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements.

Surround Sound Support

Surround Sound Support

Whether you prefer chat, text, email, or phone, our faculty is here to help you achieve your goals. Penn Foster students also have access to our expert team of Success Coaches to help with budgeting for your education, career guidance, or simply some extra motivation.

Progress Tracking and Goal Setting Tools

Our customizable goal-setting tools will help you create a schedule and stick to it. Need some extra time to complete a lesson or take an exam? Not a problem — you can adjust your study plan at any time to set a pace that works for you.
Progress Tracking and Goal Setting Tools
Penn Foster Student Community

Student Community

Looking to connect with other Penn Foster students? Our Student Community is the perfect place for you to interact with your peers — as well as Penn Foster faculty and staff — to discuss your online learning experience, congratulate fellow students, and share your Penn Foster experience.

Sample Paralegal Lesson

Penn Foster courses are written in a way that is easy to understand, and materials are broken down into manageable lessons. Take a look at what a Paralegal course would look like.
Penn Foster Dog Trainer Sample Lesson
Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. In addition, 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, and an email account to participate in and complete your program.
We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
Microsoft and Windows 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.
Enroll Now Get Info