Frequently Asked Questions
What do paralegals do?
As defined by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Assistants, paralegals perform "specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible." USD’s courses are taught by practicing attorneys who are familiar with those tasks and are committed to training successful paralegals. They research and manage cases, draft documents, interview clients, and prepare trial exhibits.
Where do paralegals work?
Paralegals work in law firms, corporations, insurance companies, banks, hospital districts, government agencies and other legal entities.
Will I need a license to be a paralegal?
Paralegals always work under the supervision of an attorney. Although there are some national exams sponsored by professional associations there is no required license for paralegals. Attorneys typically look for employees possessing an American Bar Association approved certificate. USD is proud to have held this distinction since 1977. Although there are over 900 paralegal programs nationwide, fewer than 20% are approved by the ABA.
Will my paralegal classes transfer to law school?
No. USD’s course is a certificate program and classes do not transfer in or out of the course. You will find, however, that should you go on to law school, your knowledge of legal terms and research skills will make your first year a bit easier. Furthermore, your knowledge of the practical aspects of practicing law will enhance your success as an attorney.
Are Continuing Education classes required?
Yes. In fact Section 6450 (d) of the Business and Professional Code that pertains to the continuing education requirements for paralegals has recently changed:
Old Requirement: 4 hours of mandatory continuing legal education in legal ethics every three years. New Requirement: 4 hours of mandatory continuing legal education in legal ethics every two years. In addition (this has not changed) paralegals must have 4 hours of mandatory continuing legal education in general law or an area of specialized law every two years. USD offers continuing education classes on a regular basis covering areas such as Ethics, Intellectual Property, Computerized Legal Research and many others.
What makes USD’s program better than the others?
USD’s Paralegal Program is the oldest ABA approved program in San Diego. For over 30 years, we have established our reputation nationwide as well as here in San Diego. USD students benefit from an on-campus law library, faculty who are practicing attorneys, and small class size.
What are the admissions requirements?
Programs are available to both graduates and undergraduates. Each student’s qualifications are reviewed with a Program Assistant during their personal interview. This should be arranged by contacting the Program Office.
Can I get Financial Aid?
Federal government loans are available to qualified graduate students. Amounts are determined by the individual’s economic situation and cost of education. USD’s Financial Aid Counselor works with each student to expedite the process. Undergraduate loans are also available through alternative loan programs. Financial Aid information.
I don’t have any legal experience. Will that be a disadvantage?
People from a variety of backgrounds enter the paralegal profession. The USD internship program provides practical training and allows students to gain legal experience. Employment workshops and individual appointments help you tailor your resume to the type of job you want and guide you through your job search.
Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 28 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employers are trying to reduce costs and increase the availability and efficiency of legal services by hiring paralegals to perform tasks once done by lawyers. Paralegals are performing a wider variety of duties, making them more useful to businesses.