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Law and Paralegal

Paralegal student standing by bookshelves containing law books

Department: Law & Paralegal

Program Type: Career and Technical Programs

Planning to Transfer? Learn more about the transfer process including the importance of choosing a major and transfer school.


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 are just starting your college journey, you can work toward an ABA-approved paralegal certificate at ECC. This credential is recognized nationally; most legal employers require or prefer certification.


Paralegal coursework can help students considering a Prelaw degree prepare for their four-year degree. ECC paralegal graduates have worked as paralegals while completing their bachelor’s degrees and preparing for law school.

ABA-accredited law schools require applicants to have completed a bachelor’s degree. No particular bachelor’s degree is required. ECC students who identify as prelaw should work closely with their academic advisor to choose a transfer institution and major. Some four-year colleges have a legal studies major. These schools generally recognize PAR coursework as legal studies coursework. 

Prelaw students should choose courses that build logical reasoning, critical thinking, and writing skills. The Law School Admission Council (“LSAC”) provides resources to students planning to attend law school.

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, with law firms and other sectors driving demand in the healthcare, financial, and business industries. Over the next 10 years, there are projected to be, on average, 45,800 new employment openings annually. In 2023, the yearly paralegal salary is $58,555.

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.

Plan of Study and Course Descriptions

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

Paralegal Certificate

Paralegal Certificate

Paralegal courses may be taken by any student interested in the topic as long as the course's prerequisites are met. Future lawyers attending ECC are encouraged to take elective paralegal courses to see the practical side of legal work. Graduates of the ECC paralegal program will be prepared for entry-level paralegal employment in the local legal community. Read the learning outcomes for the Paralegal program in the ECC catalog.

Associate Degree (AA or AS) + Paralegal Certificate (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 associate degree program to complete the paralegal certificate courses. 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 waiver before ECC will award the paralegal certificate.

Paralegal Certificate (BVS)

Associate or Bachelor's degree students can complete the paralegal certificate (BVS) in one year of full-time classes (23 credit hours). However, before ECC awards the paralegal certificate, the student must provide proof of a completed degree.

Program Approval

The American Bar Association (ABA) approves the ECC paralegal certificate.

Earn a nationally recognized credential valued by legal employers in the United States. The ABA approval process is designed to promote high-quality paralegal education and training. The ABA examines all aspects of the program to ensure compliance with the ABA's rigorous academic guidelines for paralegal programs.

How much does the ECC Law and Paralegal program cost?

At $135 per credit hour, you can complete a certificate at Elgin Community College for a fraction of 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 an excellent 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 synchronously online in the evening on Zoom. Students should check the schedule each semester. Courses are subject to change based on student enrollment. Traditional face-to-face paralegal class sections are offered during the day.

How do I become a paralegal in Illinois?

There are no licensing or Illinois paralegal 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 have the skills and knowledge you need to continue growing professionally.

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, allowing 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 paralegal 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.

Student Testimonials

Julissa Alvarez

Julissa Alvarez discusses how she returned to Elgin Community College to earn a paralegal certificate and start a new career after receiving her bachelor's degree at a four-year school.

Ana Rojas

ECC student Ana Rojas talks about her experiences at Elgin Community College.

Learn more about the Paralegal department at ECC!

Earning a certificate at Elgin Community College can set your career in motion.

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ECC's Paralegal Certificate is ABA-Approved

ABA Approved Paralegal Program

ABA Approved Paralegal Programs

Are you unemployed or looking for a better career?

ECC is partnering with Kane County WIOA to offer free career training for in-demand jobs. Learn more and see if you qualify.

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Laura Haske, JD, Paralegal Instructional Coordinator


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