Paralegal Studies Certificate Curriculum

Our Paralegal Studies program is a 10-course, 30-academic-unit, 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, which may be taken concurrently, must be completed with a grade of C or better before a student may take any other class in the Paralegal Certificate program. These prerequisites will be strictly enforced. Students who receive an Incomplete in either PLS 300 or PLS 320 must clear that Incomplete before attempting to register for any other course in the Paralegal Studies program.

PLS 395: Pleadings and Motions must be completed with a grade of 'C' or better before a student may take PLS305: Investigation, Discovery and Trial Prep.

Required Courses Schedule

Required Courses Schedule
Course Title Fall Spring Summer
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*    

• = the course is offered
*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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 and 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.

See Apply for details.

Register for Courses Early

Admission to the Paralegal Studies program does not guarantee a seat in class. Registration for individual courses is on a first-come basis. Early registration is strongly advised. See the Register pages.

The paralegal certificate is especially well suited to students who have a legal background and have worked as attorneys in their home countries as well as students who have an interest in learning about the law. After students are accepted by the College of Extended Learning and have student visas, their transcripts are reviewed by the paralegal program director, and they are advised on a course plan for completing the certificate.

Most common student visa requirements are that they must take 12 units, four courses per semester, and finish the paralegal certificate in one calendar year. Students may begin in the spring or fall semester.

Suggested Courses for Three Semesters

First Semester

PLS 414 Intro to Professional Legal Writing - required in the first semester.
PLS 300 Intro to Law/Civil Procedure - prerequisite for all other classes
PLS 320 Legal Research and Writing - prerequisite for all other classes
PLS 430 Computer Applications - elective

Second Semester

PLS 310 Communications and Legal Ethics
PLS 395 Pleadings and Motions
Choice of two elective courses

Third Semester

PLS 305 Investigation, Discovery and Trial Prep.
PLS 380 Paralegal Internship* or a choice of one elective course

*Students may be approved to take an internship depending on their visa status and must consult the International Student Advisor to determine eligibility.

There are only 10 courses — 30 units — required for a paralegal certificate, so students in their last semester are allowed to take a reduced course load.

All questions about visa and internships/work/OPT should be directed to

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