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Cal State L.A. is a four-year institution offering a number of post-baccalaureate certificates through its Extended Education department. The Certificate Program in Paralegal Studies is one of the school's best certificate programs; it was founded in 1972 and has had long-standing approval by the American Bar Association. The program can be completed in a minimum of nine months, and the school operates on a quarter system. Applicants must prove that they have earned associate of arts degrees or baccalaureate degrees from accredited institutions; each applicant also must have a minimum of 58 quarter or 39 semester units of post-secondary credit. Night classes are available.
The courses in Cal State L.A.'s paralegal studies program are divided into three tracks. The first of these is the litigation track, which trains students to help attorneys gather factual materials for discovery, pleadings, and investigatory work. Classes required to complete this track include a family law course, a probate procedure course, a three-course sequence in civil procedure, and an elective course in legal writing, law office administration, real estate for paralegals, or corporate law for paralegals. The second track is the corporate track, which trains students to become either in-house employees who handle corporations' legal housekeeping or law firm paralegals who are involved in organization and liquidation of corporations, corporate mergers and acquisitions, maintenance of corporate files, and other related matters. The course list for this track includes classes in income tax law and civil procedure, a three-course sequence in corporate law for paralegals, and one elective course in legal writing, law office administration, or real estate for paralegals.
The third track offered by Cal State L.A.'s paralegal program is the general track. This track allows students to acquire the general background necessary for effective functioning in the legal profession and to elect courses that meet individual career objectives. Required courses include a course on legal research, a course on law office administration, a course on civil procedure, and three elective courses chosen from the lists of electives offered to students on the litigation and corporate tracks. Although the program has designed its course tracks to offer educational variety, students are still required to take two core courses regardless of the tracks they choose. These are "The Role of the Paralegal" and "Introduction to the Law." Students are urged to get these courses out of the way as soon as possible.
According to the school's website, the Certificate Program in Paralegal Studies at Cal State L.A. offers lifetime placement assistance, and free student information sessions are held quarterly to ensure that students get the most out of their time at Cal State L.A. The paralegal program is so dedicated to career services that it requires students to attend information meetings, job fairs, and placement workshops as part of the formal program requirements. Career services advocates for the paralegal program use the contacts that the program maintains within the legal community to help graduates find employment in law offices, banks, financial associations, insurance companies, corporations, and government agencies at all levels. In order to provide extra help in finding employment, the program offers seminars on job seeking and resume writing.
Paralegal internships, which are both highly recommended by the paralegal program's coordinating staff and an important component of any resume, can be handled in one of two ways. Students can enroll in a course called "Paralegal Internship" through the Cal State L.A. paralegal studies program and earn academic credits for their work. Because "Paralegal Internship" is a course, students who elect to complete internships in this way must pay tuition and complete coursework. Alternatively, students may elect to intern unofficially by contacting sponsors directly and arranging the terms of the internships themselves. Although this does not earn students academic credits, it is an acceptable method by which they can gain intern experience, and the Cal State L.A. paralegal studies program assists students who choose this route by listing potential sponsors and their requirements on the program website. In addition to local internship opportunities, the program website lists numerous job postings.
Opportunities for tuition assistance within the Cal State L.A. Certificate Program in Paralegal Studies include a 10% discount on tuition for members of LAPA, the Los Angeles Paralegal Association; assistance through TERI, The Education Resource Institute; and private scholarships from sponsoring law offices.
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