Paralegal

Overview

Are you intrigued by the law? If you love to research, read, and write and have an eye for details, a paralegal career may be an excellent fit. If you already have an associate or bachelor’s degree, you may consider a BVS certificate in Paralegal.

You may be asking yourself, what do paralegals do? A paralegal is a person qualified by education, training, or work experience who performs substantive legal work under the supervision of a lawyer. Paralegals may not provide legal services directly to the public, except as permitted by law. Strong social and communication skills are highly valuable because paralegals frequently interact with attorneys, office staff, court personnel, and clients. Paralegal courses are an excellent way to explore if a career in the legal field is a good fit for you.

Certificate Option

If you already have a bachelor’s degree or an associate of arts or science degree, you can enroll directly in the paralegal certificate program. This option eliminates the general education requirements of the AAS degree and allows you to focus purely on paralegal training. Students who do not have a degree will need to choose an Associate Degree Option.

Basic Vocational Specialist (BVS) in Paralegal

Full-time BVS students may be able to complete the program in one year. Your official transcripts of the completed bachelor’s degree, AA, or AS degree must be provided to the college before the paralegal BVS certificate will be awarded.

Associate Degree Options

If you plan to transfer to a four-year institution to pursue a bachelor’s degree and want to complete paralegal training, you may choose to complete a traditional transfer degree (Associate in Arts or Associate in Science) while working toward a paralegal certificate (See BVS below). Some additional coursework will be required for this option. Some four-year schools will accept an Associate of Applied Science in paralegal. Meet with your academic advisor to determine which associate degree meets your needs and develop an appropriate academic plan.

Program Approval

The American Bar Association approves ECC paralegal programs.

Earn an industry-recognized credential that is valued by local employers and nationally recognized. The ABA approval process is designed to promote high-quality paralegal education and training. ABA representatives’ intensive review process examines all aspects of the program for compliance with the ABA’s Guidelines.

Course Information


The Introduction to Law course is a survey course designed to give students a realistic view of what it’s like to work as a paralegal. Since paralegals work under licensed attorneys’ direction and supervision, the course also gives students an inside look at the type of work students perform.

Students will learn to locate and interpret cases and statutes. This course includes legal terminology, core grammar skills, legal citation, ethics, investigation skills, and a thorough discussion of the structure of both the federal and state judicial systems. Students will be introduced to legal technologies, including legal research databases, court databases, and case management software.

How do I become a paralegal in Illinois?

There are no licensing or certificate requirements to work as a paralegal in Illinois. What you need is an attorney who is willing to hire you. By completing your paralegal training at ECC, you will show your future employer that you are committed to working in the field and that you have the skills and knowledge you need to continue to grow as a professional.

What's the difference between a Paralegal and a Lawyer?

The amount of training between a paralegal and a lawyer is significant. Lawyers must have a bachelor’s degree (four years) and a law degree (three years). To be licensed to practice law, a lawyer must pass a state’s bar examination and be sworn in by the state’s supreme court. Licensing is done on a state-by-state basis and allows the lawyer to provide legal services directly to the public. A lawyer can lose his or her law license if the lawyer fails to comply with the legal ethics of the state in which the lawyer practices.

Paralegals do not work independently. They work under the direction and supervision of a licensed lawyer. The paralegal’s goal is to make the lawyer’s job easier and more efficient by completing the lawyer’s tasks as those tasks are delegated to the paralegal. The paralegal and the attorney will work closely together on cases as the attorney must oversee the paralegal’s work. Not all tasks can be delegated to the paralegal. Only the attorney can engage clients and set the fee for representation. Licensed attorneys are the only professionals who can represent clients in legal proceedings and give legal advice. Paralegals are problem-solvers and positive influences on a legal team. They help manage case files and prepare the materials the attorney needs. Many lawyers expect their paralegals to have some amount of education and training.

What do paralegals do?

  • Organize client files and maintain contact with the client throughout the case.
  • Conduct interviews of clients and witnesses.
  • Locate parties and complete investigations and research.
  • Research legal authorities.
  • Draft pleadings, motions, discovery requests, correspondence, and other documents for the attorney to review.
  • Review and summarize case facts and prepare evidence for presentation.
  • Accompany the attorney to court or administrative hearings and assist the attorney during the proceedings.

Paralegals are in demand


Why choose paralegal as a career? Paralegal education at Elgin Community College includes the study of major areas of law. Courses emphasize hands-on, practical applications that will prepare you to enter law-related occupations. You’ll use online legal research tools to prepare documents for court and business transactions. The US Department of Labor estimates that paralegal and legal assistant jobs will grow 12% by 2028. That’s much faster than the average career field. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants, (accessed August 7, 2020).

Get additional information, including course listings and class descriptions.

Program Highlights


Prepare for Immediate Employment

Associate of Applied Science

Basic Certificate

Planning to Transfer

Learn more about earning a Bachelor’s degree, earning summer credits for transfer, or dual admissions with a university by visiting University Transfer & Partnerships.