About the Paralegal Studies Program

ABA-Approved Program

SF State's Paralegal Studies program is a 10-course, 30-academic-unit certificate program that offers instruction in practical paralegal skills and substantive law. Taught by a faculty of practicing attorneys, paralegals and law school instructors, courses are conducted at the upper-division level and include the option for a valuable internship.

Online Courses

Paralegal Studies features remote instruction via Zoom, with live, real-time class sessions held on specific days and times. Students can access course materials through Canvas and utilize integrated tools like Westlaw, the SF State Law Library and Zoom to participate in the interactive classroom. Through live, online breakout sessions, students can collaborate with peers and ask questions of the instructor. With the convenience of online synchronous instruction, you can complete the ABA-approved program in as little as one year or three semesters.

Video Information Session

Find out about SF State's ABA-approved Paralegal Studies program and the paralegal profession. Get the answers to your questions in this video information session.

About the Program

Our Paralegal Studies certificate program requires students to complete ten, three-unit courses, each priced at $899, for a total program cost of $8,990. It's important to note that the cost of books and other materials are not included in this fee. Additionally, students are responsible for paying for their classes at the time of registration each semester.

Find information about the curriculum, classes and the internship.

The mission of the ABA-approved Paralegal Studies certificate program is to meet the evolving needs of the legal community and prepare students from diverse backgrounds for employment in the legal profession by providing a comprehensive curriculum taught by experienced legal professionals that includes procedural and substantive law; ethics; and legal research, writing and analysis.

The primary goal of the Paralegal Studies certificate program is to educate students for positions as paralegals as a means of improving the quality, accessibility and affordability of legal services.

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to:

  1. Apply ethical principles that guide paralegal conduct in real-world situations
  2. Compile and evaluate research to support attorney needs
  3. Apply legal knowledge to support the litigation process
  4. Demonstrate clear, concise and organized oral and written communication skills
  5. Utilize fundamental legal concepts which govern the practice of law

The State of California has adopted legislation that defines the titles "paralegal" and "legal assistant" and sets educational criteria and continuing education requirements for paralegals. The San Francisco State University Paralegal Studies certificate program meets the educational requirements of the law by virtue of being offered by an accredited institution and consisting of more than 24 semester units of paralegal coursework. We also offer a series of paralegal continuing education courses to meet the continuing education standards established by the Business and Professional Code Section 6450 et seq.

The statute defines "paralegal/legal assistant" as "a person who contracts with or is employed by an attorney, law firm, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs substantial legal work under the direction and supervision of an active member of the State Bar of California..." The statute is intended to differentiate paralegals who work under the supervision of an attorney from persons who provide services directly to the public and are required under California law to be registered as legal document assistants.

Paralegals perform a wide variety of tasks, some of which are set forth in the new law. Among these are "case planning, development and management; legal research; interviewing clients; fact gathering and retrieving information; drafting and analyzing legal documents; collecting compiling and utilizing technical information to make an independent decision and recommendation to the supervising attorney; and representing clients before a state or federal administrative agency if that representation is permitted by statute, court rule, or administrative rule or regulation."

Standards are high in the legal profession and most law firms require some college background and formal paralegal education. Large firms usually require a BA degree. Employers also require paralegals to have highly developed oral and written communication skills, plus organizational and computer skills*.

* For a complete description of the California legislation, see Business and Professional Code section 6450.

Advice from Paralegal Graduates to All New Students

  1. Study hard. It gets easier as you go along.
  2. Come prepared and be willing to learn. Participate in class discussions.
  3. Be courteous. An instructor can assist you as a paralegal graduate by writing letters of reference for employment, and as a student with scholarship opportunities.
  4. Join or form a study group. This has many benefits from networking to helping each other understand the course material.
  5. Take as many electives as you can. Having a working, basic knowledge of various practice areas can help you in your career, as the practice areas do overlap. You may also discover a new passion for a particular area of law.
  6. Join your local paralegal association. They can provide networking, jobs, scholarships, and additional seminars to help you increase your knowledge.
  7. Participate in a pro bono event, such as a law clinic through the local bar association or paralegal association. This gives you valuable experience while making a valuable contribution to your community. This may even lead to a job offer.
  8. Turn in your assignments on time. Law is time driven, and turning in late assignments is a bad habit, which in "real life" can cost the law firm big money, and you your job.
  9. Do your best in every assignment. If you don't understand something, ask. There is no such thing as a stupid question. Once you are working, you will need to ask questions to clarify assignments delegated to you.
  10. Take the internship class to gain real life work experience and office skills.
  11. Watch your time management in completing homework and class assignments. It is difficult to catch up if you fall behind. Poor time management skills translate to poor job performance reviews.
  12. Remember to have fun. Find a balance in choosing classes, and do not overload by taking too many "heavy homework" classes in the same semester
  13. Be honest and be sure that this is what you really want to do. Have a realistic idea of what paralegals do in their jobs by doing informational interviews of working paralegals.
  14. If you are having difficulty in class, ask for your instructor's help as soon as possible.
  15. Learn as many computer programs as possible, from word processing to litigation software to legal research.
  16. Pay attention in class. Turn off your electronic devices and be respectful of those who wish to learn. Texting, surfing the web, and other non-class activities are very distracting and show disrespect to the teacher and your classmates.

Membership in the ABA is free for paralegal students. ABA members have access to over 600 widely-accredited online webinars and on-demand programs, with more programs added each month, career and networking resources and content produced by ABA Sections, Forums, Commissions and Divisions.

To join, visit the ABA Membership page and complete the following steps:

  1. On the membership page, click on the "Join Now" link.
  2. Enter your email address.
  3. Create a profile with a username and password. 
  4. Customize your membership by selecting the “Others interested in the ABA” category.
  5. Enter your Legal Career Details by selecting "Student" and entering your institution name, anticipated graduation date and degree being pursued (Paralegal).
  6. Choose your free member groups.
  7. Complete your profile.

After graduation, the annual membership fee for paralegals is just $75 and paralegal faculty can join for $150 annually.

Financial Assistance

SF State's College of Professional & Global Education receives no state money to support its programs; therefore, Federal Financial Aid is extremely limited. In order to be eligible for Federal Financial Aid, you must have completed 60 units or 90 quarter units prior to your acceptance into the program. Federal Financial Aid is only available in the fall and spring semesters. Students should start the financial aid application process as soon as possible.

For further information, see our financial aid section, and go to the SF State Office of Student Financial Aid site. For financial aid questions, please contact:

Financial Aid
(415) 338-7000

Students who don't qualify for Federal Financial Aid or have conditional acceptance into the program, can finance their program through the Alternative Loan Program.

CalJOBS connects dislocated workers with employment training opportunities. SF State is an eligible training provider.

Find out about the David Goldstein Memorial Scholarship for Criminal Law Students.

Veterans may be eligible for educational benefits.



SF State Paralegal Studies logo



ABA Approved Paralegal Program Logo



ABA-Approved Paralegal Program

The SF State Paralegal Studies certificate program is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).



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