Start with your Associate in Science Degree, Finish with a Bachelor's - All at SPC
The Associate in Science Paralegal Studies program at SPC trains you for a career as a legal assistant or paralegal in law firms, governmental entities and corporate legal departments. Our A.S. transfers to our Paralegal Studies BAS degree, which is the only public baccalaureate program in Paralegal Studies in Florida approved by the American Bar Association.
This program prepares you for the following industry certifications:
- National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) Certified Paralegal - Certified Legal Assistant
You can specialize in up to three areas, including:
- Estate and Guardianship Administration
- Real Estate
- Family Law
- Civil Litigation
- Criminal Litigation.
As a graduate, you'll be prepared to assist in:
- Interviews and investigations
- Legal research
- Discovery and litigation support
- Design and development of new procedures.
We prepare you to work as a paralegal or legal assistant, a job that is expected to grow faster than average.
Paralegals are instrumental in the daily operation of the many entities and offices that practice law, including law offices, corporations and governmental offices. Organizational skills remain one of the highest attributes a paralegal can maintain. For many years, paralegals have assisted attorneys in every aspect of their practices, but there have been few defined standards. This is changing rapidly and Florida is one of the states leading the way.
Paralegals are not licensed attorneys. A legal assistant or paralegal is a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.
Approved by the ABA
All of SPC's paralegal programs are approved by the American Bar Association.
Scholarship Resources for Paralegal Studies Students
Paralegal Association of Florida (PAF)
PAF offers scholarships to Paralegal Studies students. For more information, contact the Scholarship/Student Liaison - Linda Borders-DeIorio, CLA by contacting the Executive Director's office at Phone: (800) 433-4352 or (561) 833-1408 or by Fax: (561) 659-1824. You may also email the Executive Director.
Pinellas County Chapter of PAF
The Pinellas County Chapter of PAF awards scholarships to Paralegal Studies students. Contact Cherie Dantzscher, President, Pinellas Chapter, at (727) 586-4224 or e-mail her for more information.
Hillsborough County Chapter of PAF
The Hillsborough County Chapter of PAF awards a $500 scholarship to a paralegal student attending an ABA approved educational institution. The scholarships are awarded each December. The scholarship application period commence on August 1, with a firm deadline of October 1 of each year.
The SPC Foundation offers a great variety of scholarships and grants to SPC students. Some are specific to Paralegal Studies students and others are available to any student, regardless of field of study.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a paralegal?
Paralegals, also known as legal assistants, are a distinguishable group of persons who assist attorneys in the delivery of legal services. Through formal education, training and experience, paralegals have knowledge and expertise regarding the legal system and substantive and procedural law, which qualifies them to do work of a legal nature under the supervision of an attorney. (This is the American Bar Association's definition.)
Is there a difference between a paralegal and a legal assistant?
The terms are used interchangeably, much as the terms lawyer and attorney are used interchangeably. Every state, including Florida, regulates the practice of law through a licensing procedure. In all states, paralegals/legal assistants are prohibited from practicing law without a license to do so. There is no licensing procedure for legal assistants at this time, although the Florida Bar has proposed a scheme of voluntary regulation for eligible paralegals.
How do you become a paralegal?
In the past, many paralegals were trained on the job, but today, most are trained in programs in community colleges and four-year schools. Most of the community college programs are A.S. degree programs, which contain a component of general education courses but are principally devoted to legal specialty courses. The B.A.S. degrees include more general education courses, as well as more focus on critical thinking and communication skills as they are utilized in the law. Employers are often looking for paralegals who have graduated from college programs approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Attending a college with successful job placement services and gaining experience through internship programs are a big help in launching a paralegal career. Although there is no licensing for paralegals in Florida, passage of a voluntary national certification exam called the Certified Legal Assisting Exam administered by the National Association of Legal Assistants adds to your credibility as a professional.Those with a bachelor's degree are eligible to sit for the examination upon completion of fifteen credit hours of PLA prefixed classes.
What is American Bar Association (ABA) approval?
The American Bar Association approves paralegal educational programs that satisfy its strict quality guidelines. An institution's curriculum, faculty, administration, academic resources, student services and library facilities are evaluated as part of the ABA approval process.
Where are paralegals employed?
The most obvious place to find paralegals is in the traditional law office. Although this career is relatively new, having emerged since the 1970's, today firms of all sizes regularly employ a variety of paralegals. Government offices use paralegals, as do private companies. Sometimes the paralegal works in the corporate counsel's office, and sometimes the paralegal hires the outside attorneys for the corporation.
What kinds of work do paralegals do?
Under the supervision of a lawyer, a paralegal may analyze legal issues; investigate and evaluate facts; prepare pleadings, contracts, forms, legal memoranda, and other documents; interview clients; assist in case management; and perform other duties to assist the lawyer in the delivery of legal services to clients. Paralegals can be found interviewing clients or witnesses, preparing documents, conducting legal research, preparing exhibits for trial, probating estates, closing real estate transactions and a long list of other activities. Just as there are an infinite number of ways to practice law, so there are an infinite number of ways to be a paralegal.
What is the difference between a paralegal, a legal secretary and a lawyer?
Generally speaking, a paralegal works independently under the supervision of a lawyer or senior paralegal and uses knowledge of legal concepts and procedures. A legal secretary, on the other hand, assists attorneys and paralegals with tasks which do not require knowledge of the law. Many legal secretaries also perform some paralegal duties. An individual must graduate law school and be licensed as an attorney in order to practice law as a lawyer. Lawyers supervise paralegals and legal secretaries and are ultimately responsible to the client for the quality of the legal services delivered. As a simple example, a paralegal may draft a will based on applicable law and the needs of the client. The attorney reviews the will and makes any corrections. The legal secretary produces a final version of the will ready to be signed by the client.
What is the salary range for paralegals?
Starting salaries in this area are between $27,000 and $32,000 depending on the size of the firm, your skills and your ability to market yourself.
What is the employment outlook for paralegals?
The U.S. Department of Labor projects that paralegal will continue to be one of the fastest growing occupations in the new millennium.
Why is paralegal such a growth field?
For centuries, all law-related work was performed by attorneys. However, as the amount of legal work has exploded in recent times, lawyers have had to become more efficient by using paralegals wherever possible. This process of transferring many legal tasks from attorneys to paralegals is expected to persist indefinitely, continuing to generate demand for qualified paralegals.
What personal qualities should paralegals possess?
Successful paralegals have strong reading, writing, and listening abilities, are disciplined workers, and are very attentive to detail. Computer knowledge is a necessity in most legal offices today. A general interest in law and the legal process is also important.
Do I have to know how to type?
Nobody types any more, but everyone (even the lawyers) has to know how to make the computer generate documents and charts and organize information.
Where can I find more information on the profession?
Try these websites for the two large national organizations:
...or find a paralegal and ask him or her about their job. Chances are they love it and would be thrilled to talk about their career! To find out more about an Associate in Science or a Bachelor's in Applied Science in Paralegal Studies at St.Petersburg College's ABA approved program, contact 727-791-2557 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Associate in Science Program Goals
- The student will demonstrate the ability to analyze a problem; identify and evaluate alternative solutions; formulate logical solutions to problems; construct logical arguments in support of specific positions; evaluate solutions and arguments; and determine which areas of law are relevant to a particular situation. (Critical Thinking)
- The student will demonstrate the ability to organize and manage information effectively and the ability to manage time efficiently.(Organizational)
- The student will demonstrate the ability to interact effectively, in person, by telephone and in written correspondence with lawyers, clients, witnesses, court personnel, co-workers, and other business professionals. (Communication)
- The student will demonstrate the ability to competently use the tools of research available in a standard law library, "cite check" the legal sources, run a computer assisted legal research program, and incorporate the results of the research into a proper memorandum format. (Legal Research)
- The student will demonstrate the ability to write various types of documents, correspondence, pleadings, memoranda, and briefs. (Legal Writing)
- The student will demonstrate the ability to deal with a basic word processing program, a spreadsheet program, and a database as well as presentation software; the student will apply these to solving organizational and management issues in the office setting. (Computer and Law Office Management)
- The student will demonstrate basic interview and investigating skills including identifying and locating witnesses, potential parties to a suit and experts; preparing for and conducting effective interviews, locating information and obtaining records and using the Internet to obtain relevant and reliable information pertaining to a given situation. (Interview and Investigation)
- The student will demonstrate knowledge of the types of work paralegals/legal assistants perform, the nature of supervision that must be present , the manner in which their conduct is directed by the ethical guidelines of the American Bar Association, the Florida Bar and the ethical guidelines. (Professional Ethics)