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Online Certificate Curriculum
Our Paralegal Studies program is a 10-course, 30-academic-unit, online certificate program that provides instruction in practical legal skills and substantive law. You also have the opportunity to participate in an internship — a practical on-the-job work experience in a supervised setting that makes a valuable addition to a resume. Courses are conducted at the upper-division level and are taught by attorneys and paralegals who have practical experience in the field.
Students are required to take five three-unit courses that develop the following paralegal skills:
- interviewing clients and others involved in legal matters
- performing legal research, including checking the validity of authority and cite-checking
- performing legal research electronically through computerized legal systems and the Internet
- gathering and analyzing legal and other documents
- drafting internal memoranda, correspondence, and legal forms
- drafting legal memoranda reflecting the results of research
- drafting a variety of litigation-related documents
- assisting in the preparation of cases for trial
- resolving ethical dilemmas by applying rules and law to determine the appropriate ethical conduct
- making effective oral presentations
PLS 300 and PLS 320 must be taken concurrently in the first semester and be completed with a grade of C or better before a student may take any elective classes in the Paralegal Studies certificate program.
PLS 395: Pleadings and Motions must be completed with a grade of C or better before a student may take PLS 305: Investigation, Discovery and Trial Prep.
- PLS 300: Introduction to Law/Civil Procedure
- PLS 320: Legal Research and Writing
- PLS 310: Communication Skills and Legal Ethics
- PLS 395: Pleadings and Motions
- PLS 305: Investigation, Discovery and Trial Preparation
- PLS 414GW: Introduction to Professional Legal Writing (required for students who do not have a BA)
Students may choose any electives to complete the 30-unit program. Elective courses offer in-depth instruction in a variety of practice areas and advanced skills in litigation and research. The range of elective options allows students to gain exposure to several different areas of law practice or to concentrate their studies in a cluster of courses that prepare them for a particular kind of employment.
The electives listed below are grouped according to the kind of practice for which these courses are most relevant. Students may concentrate in one area or take any combination of electives suited to their particular interests.
Note: All electives are offered on a rotating basis. Some electives are offered once a year and some are offered less frequently. Electives are three units.
- Corporate and Business Practice:
These electives relate to corporate and business practice areas typically handled by large, mid-sized and specialized "boutique" law firms serving the business sector and by in-house counsel of corporations.
- Advanced Litigation:
These electives enhance the skills provided in the required core courses with more sophisticated and complex skills in civil litigation. Specialties: More than 70 percent of paralegals work in litigation, usually focusing in one or two particular areas, such as Tort or business litigation. Students interested in litigation should also take some specialized practice courses to complement their general litigation skills. Note: Those interested in large law firms should take business-oriented courses; those interested in small firm practice should take Family Law, Criminal Law, and Evidence.
- Estate Planning:
Some attorneys, in both large and small law firms, specialize in the planning and handling of wills, trusts, and estates. Students interested in this area should take Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning, and Probate Procedures; also of particular value in this area are Real Estate Practice and Torts, Contracts, and Elder Law.
- Recommended for all areas, particularly for those without prior legal experience:
Two courses are highly recommended regardless of the chosen area of law practice. Field Experience/Internship gives students practical on-the-job work experience in a supervised setting and makes a valuable addition to a résumé. Computer Applications in Law Practice enhances the student's basic computer skills with hands-on instruction in specific legal applications and is recommended for students who are not already working in a legal setting.
Electives and Their Specialty Areas
|Elective Course Title||1||2||3||4|
|PLS 430: Computer Applications||•||•||•||•|
|PLS 386: Contemporary Legal Issues||•||•||•||•|
|PLS 426: Contracts||•||-||•||•|
|PLS 390: Corporations Law||•||-||-||-|
|PLS 370: Criminal Law||-||•||-||-|
|PLS 325: Employment Law||•||•||-||-|
|PLS 330: Family Law||-||•||-||-|
|PLS 380: Paralegal Internship||•||•||•||•|
|PLS 345: Immigration Law||•||•||-||-|
|PLS 435: Intellectual Property||•||•||-||-|
|PLS 414GW: Introduction to Professional Legal Writing*||•||•||•||•|
|PLS 375: Probate Procedures||-||-||•||-|
|PLS 410: Real Estate Practice||-||-||•||•|
|PLS 425: Torts||-||•||•||•|
|PLS 436: Trademarks and Copyrights||•||•||•||•|
|PLS 355: Wills, Trusts and Estates||-||-||•||-|
*required for students who do not have a BA, highly recommended for non-native English speakers.
Students must take at least nine semester credits or the equivalent of legal specialty courses through synchronous instruction. All face-to-face courses are considered synchronous instruction.*
*The ABA will be accommodating the measures taken by programs during the current COVID-19 public health emergency. Courses taught via remote learning during this time will not be counted towards this guideline.
PLS 380 Internship Class
Internships are highly recommended for all students and are essential career building blocks for students who do not have legal experience. The requirements are:
- 120 hours of internship work which can be stretched over two semesters with prior arrangement
- Attendance at monthly Saturday seminars
- An internship journal
PLS 380 is graded credit/no credit. All paralegal certificate students must have seven graded courses and may take three elective courses on a credit basis.
An internship is not required for graduation.
Online Class Schedule
|Course||Title||Class Number||Meeting and Location||Term||Fee||Refund Code|
|PLS 300 [01Z]||Introduction to Civil Procedure||2128||Tue, 6/5/23 - 8/11/23 6:00 PM - 9:45 PM (Online)||Summer 2023||$899||CEL_ACSU|
|PLS 310 [01Z]||Communication Skills and Legal Ethics||2129||Wed, 6/5/23 - 8/11/23 6:00 PM - 9:45 PM (Online)||Summer 2023||$899||CEL_ACSU|
|PLS 320 [01Z]||Legal Research & Writing||2131||Thur, 6/5/23 - 8/11/23 6:00 PM - 9:45 PM (Online)||Summer 2023||$899||CEL_ACSU|
|PLS 380 [01Z]||Field Experience Paralegal Studies||2137||TBA, 6/5/23 - 8/11/23 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM (Online)||Summer 2023||$650||CEL_ACSU|
|PLS 425 [01Z]||Torts||2136||Mon, 6/5/23 - 8/11/23 6:00 PM - 9:45 PM (Online)||Summer 2023||$899||CEL_ACSU|
ABA-Approved Paralegal Program
The SF State Paralegal Studies certificate program is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).