Paralegal Program FAQ’s
Paralegal General Questions
What are paralegals or legal assistants?
Paralegals or legal assistants are people who have special knowledge of legal concepts and procedures qualified to perform work formerly performed only by lawyers. The specialization is acquired generally by way of advanced education or work experience.
What types of work do paralegals perform?
The answer here varies greatly depending on the paralegal’s education, experience, and size of the law firm for which the paralegal works. Paralegals must work under the supervision of an attorney. Under that supervision, the paralegal may perform interviews of clients, conduct legal research and investigation, perform closings, manage cases, and assist the attorney at trial. A complete listing is impossible because the tasks vary greatly. In addition, a paralegal will generally draft documents, including pleadings, contracts, briefs, wills, health care proxies, probate papers, tax forms, etc. Again, a complete list of the forms a legal assistant may prepare is countless.
In what areas may a paralegal be employed?
Paralegals are employed in a wide variety of offices. These include corporations, government, law firms handling litigation, personal injury, insurance, real estate, wills, trusts, probate, tax, bankruptcy, immigration, legal and medical malpractice, collection, employee benefits, intellectual property, securities, workers compensation, environmental law, family law, criminal law, computer law, and entertainment law. The listing here is merely illustrative; it is impossible to provide a full listing.
What is the difference between a paralegal and a legal assistant?
Nothing. Initially, the term “paralegal” was used. Based upon the expanding opportunities, however, the term “legal assistant” seemed to cover a broader range of abilities.
What is the difference between the Associate’s Degree Program and the Certificate Program?
Although exceptions may be made, the Certificate Degree Program is only for students who have completed at least 60 college credits. See transfer policy. Students in the Certificate program must complete 30 credits of paralegal studies. See Program Requirements page. Those courses can be completed in as few as two semesters but must be completed within three years.
The Associates Degree Program is for students who have not completed at least 64 college credits. This program is comprised of general education requirements (e.g. English, science, math) and program requirements. See Program Requirements page.
What Classes Should I Enroll Into?
It depends on whether you enroll in the Fall or Spring and whether you are in the Certificate program or the Degree program. There are certain “core” or “mandatory” courses which students must take. These are Introduction to Paralegal Studies (a prerequisite to all other courses), Litigation, Legal Research and Writing, Computer Applications for the Law Office, and the Internship.
Students then select five (5) “elective” courses from the following: Torts and Investigations, Real Property Law, Estates Wills and Trusts, Partnerships and Corporations, Family Law, Intellectual Property, Medical Malpractice, Criminal Law, Elder Law, Health Care Law, and Immigration Law. The elective courses are rotated, and students must consult the Schedule of Instructions each semester. You can find a link to this off the main Westchester Community College home page:
Fall Schedule for Certificate Degree:
Students in the Certificate Program seeking to finish the program within two academic semesters should be aware that several of the mandatory courses are only offered in the Fall. Therefore, students generally will enroll in the following Fall night section courses: Introduction to Paralegal Studies (a prerequisite to all other courses), Litigation (mandatory), Legal Research and Writing (mandatory), Computer Applications for the Law Office (mandatory), and Partnerships and Corporations (elective).
The intensive Introduction to Paralegal Studies course runs for the first three weeks of the semester. The class meets for three Tuesday and Thursday nights, 6:00-9:00pm, and three Saturdays, 9:00am to 5:00pm.
Once that course is complete, Litigation, Legal Research and Writing, Computer Applications for the Law Office, and Partnerships and Corporations run for the remaining 12 weeks of the semester. As noted above, Litigation, Legal Research and Writing, and Computer Applications for the Law Office are mandatory courses and are currently only offered in the Fall semester.
Spring Schedule for Certificate Degree:
Returning students choose among the electives offered. In Spring and Summer, the following courses are generally offered: Torts and Investigations, Real Property Law, Estates Wills and Trusts, Intellectual Property, Family Law, Criminal Law, Immigration Law and Health Care Law.
Fall Schedule for Associates Degree:
Students just beginning their Associates Degree should enroll in the Introduction to Paralegal Studies course and begin completing their general education requirements. See Program Requirements page to view the general education requirements. Once classes begin, students should speak to Prof. Ippolito to set-up their Spring Schedule.
Can the program be completed on a part-time basis?
Of course. But do note, the Certificate Program must be completed within three years.
How much does the program cost?
The answer to that question depends on whether you are taking classes on a full- or part-time basis. Click for current tuition and fees information.
Does Your Program Have Any Articulation Agreements with Other Colleges?
An articulation agreement is an agreement between Westchester Community College and another college whereby the other college agrees to accept credits earned while at Westchester Community College. Currently, two such agreements are in place: one with Mercy College and the other with SUNY Purchase. Both agreements allow graduates of the Associates Degree program to transfer all their credits to selected programs at the other institution. Hence, graduates of the program will transfer into their junior (3rd) year at the other institution and may obtain a Bachelor’s Degree from that college. This generally results in a large financial savings. See the program director for specifics of the agreement.