College of the Canyons is now offering a paralegal certificate for students who are interested in pursuing a career in what has become the fastest growing profession in America. A paralegal program is one that residents have said they wanted for some time. In many ways it can be said that paralegals are a lawyers’ right hand. According to the U.S Department of Labor, paralegals help "lawyers prepare for closings, hearings, trials, and corporate meetings. Paralegals investigate the facts of cases and ensure that all relevant information is considered." Paralegals may also "prepare written reports that attorneys use in determining how cases should be handled. Should attorneys decide to file lawsuits on behalf of clients, paralegals may help prepare the legal arguments, draft pleadings, and motions to be filed with the court, obtain affidavits, and assist attorneys during trials."
The certificate program begins with an Introduction to Paralegal Studies, which addresses what paralegals do and the necessary skills required of them. The introductory course is meant to aid students in the decision of whether paralegal is the right career for them. In an effort to facilitate that decision, students in the certificate program can take an internship class where students can work in the industry but still have a connection to the classroom to help with any questions they might have about the field. The Paralegal certificate program has 30 units of paralegal studies classes and requires 30 units of general education. Upon completing the program, students receive an associate degree and can work as paralegals. What makes paralegal an appealing career choice is that, "Paralegal studies is a program where you can take a two-year course of study and become a professional," said Debora Orlik a paralegal instructor at College of the Canyons. "We don’t talk about ‘jobs.’ We talk about a profession." The present and future job market for paralegals is uncommonly promising. According to the US Department of Labor, "While some paralegals train on the job, employers increasingly prefer graduates of postsecondary paralegal education programs; college graduates who have taken some paralegal courses are especially in demand in some markets." Orlik said that, "As the need for legal services remains largely unmet, we are always seeking paralegals to meet the need and keep the cost of legal services down." Students who are interested in going to law school can also benefit from the new paralegal certificate. "There is no doubt that people with paralegal education and experience do better in law school," said Orlik. "Paralegal studies are about the hands-on part of law, whereas law school concentrates on the theory of law." The career choices for students are endless, but Orlik believes that careers in law and in paralegal are challenging and exciting avenues for students. "A paralegal has an opportunity to work in a fast- paced environment, helping people, making a positive impact on our society, and getting paid well." There will be an Introduction to Paralegal Studies class offered during the college’s Winter Intersession, but no late start classes. For more information regarding the paralegal certificate and classes, visit the College of the Canyons website at www.canyons.edu.