Paralegal Studies Certificate

James Madison University

How long?

  • 7 weeks
  • online

James Madison University


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Who should attend

  • Legal staff wanting to advance their careers by completing a formal paralegal studies education
  • Career changers looking for a profession with strong earning potential

About the course

Strengthen Your Legal Career or Start a New One!

JMU’s Paralegal Studies Certificate program is ideal for legal assistants and staff wishing to augment their training and experience with a professional credential — or career changers with little to no legal experience seeking a profession with strong compensation.

Are you interested in enhancing your professional credibility, employment prospects, and income potential in the legal industry? If so, the JMU Paralegal Studies Certificate is for you!

Program Overview

James Madison University’s Paralegal Studies Certificate is specially designed for working adults.

Our program is offered in a convenient online format and combines the theoretical and practical sides of law. Students log into live, instructor-led classes twice a week, where they participate in class discussions. This program of study is convenient for you as an adult learner so that you can start your legal career in just a few short months.

The skills, training, and knowledge acquired in this program include an advanced understanding of legal procedures, ethics, and substantive law as well as research, communication, and writing skills

Paralegal Certificate Program Courses

Career Preparation - The Career Preparation sections provide up-and-coming paralegals with the tools they need to compete for jobs. This course also provides an introduction to the paralegal profession and workforce.

As part of the Career Preparation classes, you will complete a paralegal career portfolio. The paralegal career portfolio is a collection of written assignments from the paralegal program along with your résumé and cover letter. It is a visual tool that highlights skills employers want - this is an opportunity to showcase your formal training potential employers.

Introduction to Law – provides an overview of the environment in which a paralegal works, in addition to legal writing and citation, the operation of the court system, the role of government in the legal system, and the basics of attorney/paralegal ethics.

Legal Research & Writing – provides the foundation for finding legal authority, conducting legal analysis, and writing a basic legal memorandum. During this course, students will conduct legal research through LexisNexis’ online database. Paralegal Studies Certificate students will identify and distinguish the difference between primary and secondary authority, and author a legal memorandum.

Civil Litigation – prepares students to work in the context of civil litigation. Note that Virginia’s legal system is similar to many other states, and this knowledge is applicable outside of the Commonwealth of Virginia. During the course, students will learn both the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures (applicable in all federal courts) and the Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure.

Contract Law – provides an introduction to the broad area of contract law, the basics of contract law, and the elements necessary to create a valid contract. During this course, students in the Paralegal Studies Certificate program will learn the basic requirements of an enforceable contract, contract performance, and remedies available upon the breach of a contract..

JMU Paralegal Certificate or Certification?

A few states require paralegal certification. To become “certified,” the paralegal passes an exam given by a formal organization, such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA.) Virginia, however, does not require paralegal “certification and certification is not required by the American Bar Association. Employers value paralegals who possess job-related education or training. JMU’s Paralegal Studies Certificate is taught to provide the student with a command of several essential skills paralegal employers are looking for, including knowledge of legal procedure, research, and ethics, and the ability to draft legal documents.

JMU’s Paralegal Studies Certificate is NOT a certificate of participation, which is given to individuals who attend very brief workshop events and aren’t required to demonstrate mastery of the learning material taught in our course.

Our program is an assessment-based certificate program, not certification. This program is also not a post-baccalaureate certificate. For information on paralegal certification, please contact National Association of Legal Assistants, National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Association for Legal Professionals, American Alliance of Paralegals, or your local state bar.

Becoming a Paralegal

Are you...

  • A legal assistant who wants formal education to give your career a boost?
  • Looking to start your legal career with strong earning potential?

Completing a paralegal certificate offers many exciting opportunities!

What Jobs are Available for Those Who Complete a Paralegal Certificate Program?

One of the most exciting aspects of becoming a paralegal is the wide range of career opportunities. Here are some examples of industries that hire paralegals:

  • Litigation
  • Bankruptcy
  • Immigration
  • Criminal Law
  • Workman's Compensation
  • Construction Defect
  • Contract Law
  • Corporate Law
  • Real Property
  • Administrative Law
  • Court Clerk
  • Prosecutor's Office
  • Public Defender's Office
  • Incorporation
  • Oil and Gas
  • Environmental Law

Paralegal education provides additional professional advantages. There are many careers that, while not titled paralegal, are able to make use of a paralegal's skills. Some of these professions include:

  • Real Estate Professionals
  • Landlords/Property Managers
  • Patent Clerks
  • Investigative Positions
  • Social Services
  • Office Managers

What Does a Paralegal Do?

A legal assistant or paralegal may perform any function supervised by an attorney, including but not limited to:

  • Conducting client interviews and maintaining general contact with the client
  • Locating and interviewing witnesses
  • Conducting investigations, as well as statistical and documentary research
  • Conducting legal research
  • Drafting legal documents, correspondence, and pleadings
  • Summarizing depositions, interrogatories, and testimony
  • Attending executions of wills, real estate closings, depositions, court or administrative hearings, and trials with the attorney
  • Authoring and signing correspondence, provided the legal assistant’s status is clearly indicated and the correspondence does not contain independent legal opinions or legal advice

NOTE: We do not recommend that paralegals offer their services directly to the public. To do so risks engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.

Will You Help Me Get a Job?

We want you to be a successful graduate, so we have set aside class sessions in the program that teach career development skills including résumé-writing and interviewing techniques. You will also learn to create a client file and work documents based on specific cases, and you will earn a Certificate of Completion from James Madison University. While we can’t guarantee you a job offer after this program, we can certainly equip you with the tools needed to be highly competitive.

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Paralegal Studies Certificate at James Madison University

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