Paralegal Online Program Curriculum | Penn Foster Career School
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Paralegal Curriculum

In the Penn Foster Career School 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.


  • 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.

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.


  • 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.
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.


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


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

Downloadable audio files: Legal Terminology 1 and 2

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


  • 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.

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.

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.


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


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


  • 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.

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 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.

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.

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.


  • 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.

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


  • 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 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.


  • 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 (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.


  • Explain how ADR differs from litigation.
  • Identify the major kinds of ADR mechanisms and summarize their key elements.
The study of criminal law and litigation is concerned with what’s considered "criminal" by the law.


  • Explain the reasons behind criminal laws
  • Describe the actions that make up a specific crime
  • Distinguish between crimes against a person, crimes against property, and crimes against the public
  • Describe various defenses to a crime
  • Identify what happens from the time a person is arrested until trial
  • Describe the constitutional rights of a person charged with a crime
  • Understand the role of each participant in the criminal litigation process

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

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.

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.

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® 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Attorneys delegate legal research assignments to paralegals on a daily basis. Therefore, paralegals must be able to use CALR systems, such as,® 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.


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 Career School Accreditation & Licensing Details

Penn Foster has been accredited for over 50 years. Penn Foster Career School has been thoroughly reviewed and has earned several important accreditations, certifications, and licensing. Most importantly, Penn Foster Career School is both regionally and nationally accredited.

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.
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