The Paralegal Studies Program
SF State Extended Learning offers a 30-academic-unit certificate program in paralegal studies, providing instruction in practical legal skills and substantive law. Courses are conducted at the upper-division level and are taught by attorneys and paralegals, all of who have practical experience in the field. This program is a member of the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE), which requires that all of its member programs be in substantial compliance with nationally recognized guidelines. It is also accredited through San Francisco State University by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the official regional accrediting body for academic institutions in the western part of the country. The program is also approved by the American Bar Association.
Paralegal Studies Program Objectives
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.
The program's key objectives are:
- to educate and prepare students for a paralegal career
- to provide students with an overview of the legal system and law practice
- to provide students with in-depth knowledge and skills to work in civil litigation
- to prepare students to perform legal research and to draft a variety of legal documents
- to teach students the rules and laws governing the conduct of paralegals and to help them internalize high ethical values and behavior
- to help students develop strong oral and written communication skills
- to provide students with the opportunity to learn the skills needed to function in one or more areas of practice other than litigation
Length of Program
The 30 units required to earn the certificate may be completed in as short a time as 18 - 24 months — 4 or 5 semesters — or students may choose to take as long as four years.
International students and other students who are required to complete this program in one year; or students who wish to complete this program in 12 months (3 semesters); are encouraged to see Mali Kigasari, Interim Academic Director, for academic counseling.
The recommended course load per semester is 3 or 4 courses. Students are not permitted to register in more than 4 courses per semester.
Cost of Program
The total cost of the program is approximately $8,990 a $50 non-refundable application fee. Most courses are $299 per unit. Lab fees are added for courses that require computer lab sessions. Students pay for courses on a semester-by-semester basis only. Additional costs for texts and materials vary by course from approximately $50 to $150.
Students are required to have a minimum of 60 semester or 90 quarter units of prior academic course credit to be admitted to the program. Students who hold a baccalaureate degree are automatically eligible for admission to the program. Students who do not have a BA/BS but have completed the required units of academic college work are eligible if their college work includes at least 30 semester or 45 quarter units of academic general education courses in four basic skills courses: oral communication, written composition, critical thinking, and mathematics or quantitative reasoning; and have completed those courses with a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or better, within ten years of their application to SF State Paralegal program.
Students with at least three years of legal experience who have at least 45 semester or 68 quarter units of college work may petition for conditional admission. Transcripts verifying units must be accompanied by an attorney declaration attesting to their legal work experience, which must have been within five years of their application to SF State Paralegal program. Students with conditional admission do not qualify for federal financial aid.
A non-refundable application fee of $50 must be paid when submitting the application. All students must supply official transcripts of their college work. Students with baccalaureate or academic associate degrees need to provide official transcripts from the college from which they graduated. Students without such a degree must provide college transcripts from all the colleges they attended. All transcripts MUST be attached to the application for a student to be accepted as a certificate student.
Those who already have experience in the legal field and who wish to take selected courses without applying to the program may register for courses with the permission of the individual instructor, and the program director. Non-certificate students are required to provide documentation (transcripts) of course work taken and/or legal experience (attorney letter) which satisfies PLS prerequisites for the course(s) they wish to take.
Transfer of Credits
A maximum of nine upper-division, academic semester units may be transferred from another ABA-approved paralegal program; if the student received a grade of 'B' or better. Transfer units must have the same three semester unit weight and be a substantial match for course content to SF State courses in order to replace a required SF State course. Students who wish to transfer units from another ABA-approved Paralegal Program must submit transcripts and full course descriptions of each course at the time they're submitting their application to the Paralegal Program. We reserve the right to accept courses based on how closely they match SF State Paralegal courses. Courses that are not an exact match may, at our discretion, count as electives. Courses that are quarter units will be converted to semester units for transfer credit. Courses must have been completed with five years of application to the SF State Paralegal Studies program. Law school classes from an ABA-approved law school are not transferable with the sole exception of Legal Research & Writing.
Paralegal courses require strong writing skills. Certificate students who do not have a bachelor's degree are required to register for PLS 414 Introduction to Professional Legal Writing, which counts for credit as a elective course and also satisfies the literacy requirement. At the discretion of the Program Director, students who are non-native English speakers are encouraged to take PLS 414 to develop their written and oral communication skills in English.
Basic computer proficiency is essential in the legal workplace and all new students are subject to the following requirements:
- New students must verify that they have basic computer literacy, including the ability to use a common word processing program, email, and the Internet, or develop these skills before they graduate. Students without basic computer literacy must attain these skills through self-study or adult education or junior college.
- Computer Applications in Law Practice, PLS 430, is strongly recommended, but not required, for students who have not worked in a legal setting. Any student may take this course as an elective. Students must have basic computer literacy skills, including word-processing, email, and the Internet, before they enroll in this course.
Credit Toward a BA Degree
Units earned in this program carry full upper-division academic credit. All units may be applied as general elective units toward a Bachelor of Arts degree at SF State and other CSU institutions. Students should consult universities for their transfer credit policy.
Repeat of Courses
Students may retake a required course only once to get a passing grade. Students who fail a required class after two attempts, may NOT continue as certificate students.
Paralegal textbooks will be available for purchase ONLY from the SF State Bookstore (main campus). For more information, please call 415.338.7054.
Paralegal Library - Room 615
The paralegal library is open to all prospective and current students and contains books on areas of instruction, the paralegal profession, student internship journals, legal newspapers, career resources, and professional association newsletters and magazines.
Students who did not purchase a Lexis subscription but are enrolled in PLS 320 Legal Research and/or PLS 430 Computer Application in Law will receive a free 30-day Lexis account.
Student Subscriptions are available for purchase at the start of the fall and spring semesters for registered students.
LexisNexis CaseMap and Concordance On-Demand Modules for Paralegal Students
LexisNexis offers CaseMap and Condordance On-Demand Modules for Paralegal Schools. These web-based, self-paced training modules offer hands-on, practical training on CaseMap and Concordance - with the ultimate goal of making paralegal students more marketable upon graduation.
The regular cost for modules is $200 per module. Students who have individual Lexis subscriptions pay ONLY $25 per module, and receive a Lexis Mastery Certificate on successful completion of the module. Please contact Eduardo Cerpa for further information on how to register for these modules.
- The $25 CaseMap course consists of five on-demand modules.
- The $25 Concordance course consists of four on-demand modules.
Each course begins with a Course Materials section. The Course Materials provides background and context for the information covered in each module. In order to gain maximum benefit from each of these course, it is recommended that students.
- Print and read the Course Materials section before beginning each course, and
- Refer back to the Course Materials while completing the modules.
iLearn is an online tool, where instructors post the course syllabi and handouts.
Paralegal Studies Graduate Benefit
Paralegal graduates may audit an elective course of their choice at a 50% registration fee discount. Registration forms must be submitted to Eduardo Cerpa for verification. Payment must be made in person at the 6th floor front desk.