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 right for you. Whether you already have a degree, or you are just starting your college journey, you can work toward an ABA-approved paralegal certificate at ECC. This credential is recognized nationally and is often listed as a desired qualification in paralegal job descriptions.

Paralegals are important members of a legal team. They perform substantive legal work under the supervision of an attorney. This helps free up the attorney’s time for legal tasks that cannot be delegated to a paralegal, like giving legal advice and representing clients in court.

Strong social and communication skills are necessary for paralegals because they frequently interact with attorneys, office staff, court personnel, and clients. Paralegal courses include introduction to law, civil litigation, legal research, legal writing, family law, criminal law, business entity formation, real property law, and wills trusts and probate. For more information, including specific courses and class descriptions, visit the ECC Catalog.

Paralegals may not provide legal services directly to the public, except as permitted by law. 

Basic Vocational Specialist (BVS) in Paralegal

Paralegal courses may be taken by any student who is interested in the topic and meets the course’s prerequisites.

AA+BVS

Students who do not already have a degree can complete the paralegal certificate (BVS) in conjunction with their associate’s degree. To do this efficiently, students should use their “Major Field and Elective Courses” to complete the BVS requirements. This will allow students to complete an associate’s degree and a paralegal certificate in two years of full-time classes. The student must supply proof of a completed degree or a degree waiver from the program coordinator before ECC will award the paralegal certificate.

BVS

Students who already have an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree can complete the BVS requirements in one year of full-time classes (24 credit hours). The student must supply proof of a completed degree before ECC will award the paralegal certificate.

Program Approval

The American Bar Association approves the ECC paralegal certificate.

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.

How do I become a paralegal in Illinois?

There are no licensing or certification 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? The Illinois Work Net Center shows Legal Assistants at a Glance estimates that paralegal and legal assistant jobs will grow 15.5% in the next 10 years which is much faster than the average career field (accessed March 10, 2021).  The median wage for paralegals can be found on  Elgin's Career Coach site.

Get additional information, including course listings and class descriptions.

Program Highlights


Prepare for Immediate Employment

Basic Vocational Specialist 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.

Learn more about the Paralegal department at ECC!

Earning an Associate Degree at Elgin Community College can set your career in motion.

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