Paralegal

Overview

Are you intrigued by the law? If you love to research, read, write and have an eye for details, consider a paralegal career. Whether you already have a degree or just starting your college journey, you can work toward an ABA-approved paralegal certificate at ECC. This credential is recognized nationally, and most legal employers require or prefer certification.

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.

What is a Paralegal?


Paralegals are essential 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.

Paralegals' strong social and communication skills are necessary because they frequently interact with attorneys, office staff, court personnel, and clients. Paralegal courses include an introduction to law, civil litigation, legal research, legal writing, family law, criminal law, business entity formation, real property law, 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. 

Prepare for Immediate Employment

The future employment outlook for paralegals is positive. The growing demand for legal services in the healthcare, financial, and business industries is expected to drive the need for paralegals. Over the next ten years, there are projected to be, on average, 45,800 new employment openings annually. In May 2021, the yearly paralegal salary was $56,230.

Additionally, the increasing use of technology in the legal field is expected to streamline legal processes and create more opportunities for paralegals to assist with tasks such as document management and research. Refer to Career Coach to learn more about related occupations and compensation.

Median Pay Rates

Plan of Study and Course Descriptions

Review the ECC catalog for details about the paralegal plan of study and course descriptions.

Basic Vocational Certificates

Basic Vocational Specialist (BVS) in Paralegal


Paralegal courses may be taken by any student interested in the topic and who meets the course's prerequisites. Graduates of the ECC paralegal program will demonstrate entry-level competency for employment in the local legal community. Read the learning outcomes for the Paralegal program in the ECC catalog.

AA+BVS

Students who do not already have a degree can complete the paralegal certificate (BVS) in conjunction with their associate degree. To work on both simultaneously, students should use their "Major Field and Elective Courses" in their AA to complete the paralegal courses for the BVS. This will allow students to complete an associate 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. The student must supply proof of a completed degree before ECC will award the paralegal certificate.

BVS

Students with an associate or 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 much does the ECC paralegal program cost?

At $132 per credit hour, you can complete a certificate at Elgin Community College for a fraction of the cost over the price of a public or private university, and you’ll expand your career opportunities and earning power. Scholarships and financial aid funding are also available to help you finance your education at ECC. Our tuition cost calculator is a good place to figure out the total cost of your program.

Can I complete the ECC paralegal certificate online?

Yes, students can complete the paralegal program without coming to campus. All core paralegal courses are offered face-to-face (during the day) and in a synchronous online format (in the evening on Zoom®). Students should check the schedule each semester. Courses are subject to change based on student enrollment.

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. Completing your paralegal training at ECC 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 growing 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 state-by-state 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 with 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.

Learn more about the Paralegal department at ECC!

Earning a certificate in paralegal studies if you already have an Associate or Bachelor's Degree can set your career in motion.

Apply today