Course Descriptions

Earning Your Certificate

The general certificate comprises a total of 33 Continuing Education Unit (CEUs). The CEU is a nationally recognized, standard unit of measurement that has been adopted for post-secondary programs and educational courses not carrying credit. Ten (10) hours of in-class participation equals one CEU.

Students must successfully complete ten (10) courses to earn their Paralegal Certificate. Seven (7) of those courses are required, core courses. Students may choose to take any three (3) electives.

The Paralegal Institute's core courses are offered various terms. Students are advised to complete Introduction to the Legal System and Paralegalism first, however students are permitted to choose their classes every term.

Paralegal Institute class are now all online. There will be both asychronous and real-time learning commitments, but classes do not meet in a physical classroom. Students must have their own computer, webcam and reliable internet service.

Core Courses

501 Introduction to the Legal System and Paralegalism

This introductory course will provide students with an understanding of the language of the law, important legal concepts, the workings of the American legal system and most significantly, the role of the paralegal in this system. Students will be introduced to the major substantive areas of the law as well as the procedural aspects of the practice of law and professional ethics. Although students will receive a national perspective on the law, there will be coverage of Pennsylvania practice.

505 Professional Responsibility and Paralegal Practice

The aim of this course is to introduce students to the ethical dimensions of paralegal practice: the rules by which lawyers practice law and the standards of conduct for non-lawyer personnel working in the legal profession. The course will also examine law office management principles so that students will understand the context in which their skills will be applied. This course provides a forum in which paralegal skills will be combined with the organizational, administrative and professional skills essential to paralegal success.

510 Civil Litigation I

Students will learn the basic aspects of civil litigation, which include jurisdiction, venue, identification of local courts, initiation of civil proceedings, motions practice, e-discovery and discovery procedures, trial procedures, and basic evidentiary problems. The course emphasizes those areas in which a paralegal may assist counsel in preparation for litigation, such as identification of factual and legal issues, drafting pleadings, interviewing witnesses, preparation of witnesses for trial, obtaining evidence through discovery, organizing documentary evidence, and the use of demonstrative evidence. References will be made to administrative law and appellate procedures.

517 E-Discovery

This advanced-level course regarding civil litigation in federal and state courts focuses on e-discovery which has become a substantial component of most civil suits filed in the United States. Students will learn how the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and analogous state rules address the discover of electronically store information (ESI), and will examine a number of key court decisions relate to e-discovery. Students will also study analyses prepared by the Sedona Conference, the leading organization studying the escalating effects of e-discovery on civil litigation. The course will provide practical instruction about the administrative and mechanical aspects of obtaining and providing e-discovery in litigation, as well as common issues related to using ESI as evidence at trial.

542 Technology in the Law Office

This course is an introduction to computer technology and its applications. Knowledge of Microsoft Office is assumed. The primary objective is to provide students with practical computer skills as applied to the law office and other legal entities based on evidentiary, ethical and substantive considerations. Technology and legal principles are explained as students gain hands on instruction in several software programs. Upon completion, students will be able to utilize various applications commonly used in the legal environment, such as calendaring and communication systems, time and document management software, and litigation support systems and trial presentation software. It is recommended students take the (510) Civil Litigation course  before or in conjunction with this course.

550 Legal Research Methods

This course will provide an introduction to legal research methods utilizing print, online databases (i.e., WestlawNext and LexisNexis), and fee and free Internet sites. The course will cover primary sources (constitutions, statutes, regulations and case law) and secondary sources (encyclopedias, periodicals, ALR, treatises, etc.).

551 Legal Writing and Case Analysis I

Using real-world fact scenarios, this course teaches students the skills needed to understand legal fact patterns, analyze the law as it applies to those fact patterns, and write the various legal documents that often are generated when law firms are presented with similar situations. The course will emphasize the process model of writing where the students will work closely with their peers and instructor on creating numerous drafts of a document before producing an end product. Students will learn to think and write using the conventions of the legal profession.


512 Estates, Wills and Trusts

Students will be introduced to the various forms of ownership of property. Students will also learn about the distinction between probate and non-probate assets, the difference between the probate estate and taxable estate, Pennsylvania law of intestate succession and formal requirements for drafting Wills and Trusts. Students will learn how to complete all forms required by the Register of Wills. The importance of establishing tickler dates for various date-driven tasks will be emphasized. Students will also take part in the preparation of Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax and Federal Estate Tax Returns. Practicing paralegals may provide presentations.

513 Domestic Law

Students will be introduced to family law, its court system and procedures. The areas discussed will range from requirements for a valid marriage to dissolution of marriage, via annulment and divorce. In addition, spousal and child support, alimony, alimony pendence lite, paternity, custody, adoption and the very volatile area of domestic violence will be explored.

515 Real Estate Law

This course will be a survey of the language, concepts and transactions used in that area of the law called “real estate” or “real property.” The objective of this course - is to provide the paralegal with the skills necessary to comprehend the documents, follow the procedure, and understand the theory necessary when a law office is retained to represent buyers, sellers, mortgage lenders, builders, developers, landlords, tenants, or any other interested parties to a real estate matter.

516 Criminal Law

Students will be introduced to criminal law, definitions, penalties, realities of criminal practice, and federal, state and local rules of procedure. The student will learn about search and seizure, bail hearings, pretrial discovery, indictment, arraignment, pleas, and trial procedures. Motions and other related documents may be prepared.

518 Torts/Personal Injury Law

Students will be introduced to the substantive law of torts. Students will learn the basic elements of negligence/medical malpractice claims, intentional torts, claims of strict and products liability, defamation and related privacy torts as well as automobile insurance claims. Students will learn all viable defenses to each tort. The course will also examine issues surrounding the legal concepts of causation, damages, remedies and vicarious liability. Students will learn how to analyze facts and recognize a potential tort/personal injury cause of action, as well as how to assist in the preparation and adjudication of a tort/ personal injury trial.

519 Internship

Students may be placed in a paralegal position with a private law firm, government agency, court office, corporation, insurance company, bank, real estate company, community service agency, health care facility or other appropriate office. The term of the internship is 16 hours per week for 10 weeks. Internships are offered during daytime hours. There will be an additional classroom component and projects and assignments due. The student will learn the practical daily operation of the assigned office. Supervised by a licensed, practicing attorney and usually by a practicing paralegal, the student will be both an observer and a participant in the operation of the assigned office. Normally the student receives no salary or compensation for his/her service. An internship at a student’s place of employment will be allowed only under restricted circumstances. (Prerequisites: 501, 505, 550, 551)

524 Corporate and Business Law

Students will be introduced to corporate and business law concepts. There will be a general discussion of various types of business organizations such as sole proprietorships, general partnerships and limited partnerships. The emphasis of this course, however, will be centered on various types of corporations such as nonprofit, professional, close and business corporations. Regulation of public companies will also be reviewed. Students will learn how to prepare minutes and resolutions of shareholder’s and director’s meetings and other related documents.

 530 Immigration Law and Procedure

The Immigration Nationality Act of 1952, as amended, is examined and emphasis will be placed on the most commonly used non-immigrant working visas, permanent residency (both family and employment related) and alien labor certifications. This is a hands-on course in which students learn how to prepare various applications and petitions particular to this field.

540 Intellectual Property Laws and Procedures

Intellectual property (patents, trademarks, and copyrights) is a rapidly increasing area of law wherein paralegals are an integral part. This course will focus on the law of the procurement and protection of intellectual property rights. Emphasis will be placed on the application of intellectual property law principles and preparation of the commonly used forms and submissions in practice. Students will gain a basic understanding of intellectual property law and a strong understanding of the application of the law. In-class projects, assignments and computer research will provide hands-on experience with finding the answers often posed to intellectual property paralegals.

548 Advanced Legal Research

This course will enhance the legal research skills that students developed in their introductory legal research course. It will cover the use of primary and secondary legal resources, developing an appropriate research strategy, and advanced searching skills. Students will learn how to gather information through effective and efficient research strategies and will apply information effectively to resolve a specific issue or need. This course will build on what was learned in the Legal Research Methods class to gain a more in-depth understanding of both primary and secondary legal research materials. (Prerequisite: 550 Legal Research Methods)

552 Legal Writing and Case Analysis II

Students will be asked to build upon the skills learned in 551 Legal Writing and Case Analysis I and taught to research, draft and edit complex legal documents. Emphasis will be placed on the writer’s audience and critical legal analysis skills to translate pertinent ideas into cogent and successful legal documents using, where appropriate, classical rhetorical devices to dispute, explain, and convince an audience of the legal merits of their argument. (Prerequisite: 551 Legal Writing I)