Paralegal Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is a paralegal?
Although lawyers assume ultimate responsibility for legal work, paralegals
provide the legal profession with a cost effective alternative to produce legal
work. A paralegal is not a legal secretary, but instead a vital, educated member
of a legal services team. Paralegals, also known as Legal Assistants, work
closely with attorneys to assist in:
- Performing legal and factual
- Drafting documents for filing with courts and
Drafting contracts, mortgages, and all manner of legal agreements.
Organizing trial documents, evidence, preparing witnesses & assisting at
- Many other substantive legal tasks
A Paralegal may
not give legal advice, accept clients, set legal fees, represent themselves as
an attorney or represent clients in a judicial proceeding (court action). For
more information, see the
Michigan Guidelines for Utilization of Legal Assistant Services.
Really, isn't a paralegal just a legal secretary?
NO! A paralegal is not a legal secretary. The differences are huge. A legal
secretary does what all secretaries and administrative assistants do. They type
dictation, organize, schedule, file, and other vital administrative tasks.
Paralegals create legal documents from scratch, strategize possible responses,
research the law, and generally do all of the tasks of a lawyer except those
prohibited by law. (But always under the supervision of a lawyer.) Often, a
paralegal is assigned a legal secretary for support. Two main differences to
keep in mind: 1) Paralegals bill the clients for their time just like a lawyer -
secretaries do not. This makes paralegals a revenue generator, not a cost. 2)
Paralegals are expected to be self directed professionals. This means that they
are responsible for their own professional development and quality of their work
Are paralegal jobs available?
Despite recent downward revisions of
employment estimates, the paralegal career remains one of the fastest growing
career fields in the United States. According to the US Department of Labor,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Paralegal employment is expected to
grow at 17% for at least the next decade
. The Michigan Department of Career
Development has forecast that the need for paralegals
will grow by 15.5% over a ten-year period ending in 2020
"In addition, paralegals’ work is less likely to be off-shored than that of
other legal workers."
OCC’s program actively assists in career placement and tracks employment of its
graduates. The latest data shows that more than 80% our 2012-2013 graduates are
employed as paralegals. (A significant percentage of these graduates who are not
employed as paralegals are pursuing additional education, including law school.)
In 2013, the following organizations were actively hiring paralegals: Law Firms;
Insurance Companies; Corporate Legal Departments; Hospitals; Local, State and
Federal Governments. Particularly strong growth is seen in the immigration
field, although it is still a small segment of the career.
How much do paralegals earn?
In Michigan (as of 2015) paralegal salaries ranged as follows:
- Midsize firm, 0-2 years exp: $33,000 - 42,000
- Midsize firm, 2-3 years exp: $42,000 - 56,000
- Midsize firm, 4-6 years exp: $55,000 - 73,000
- Top Earners: $66,500 - 95,500 (Additional combined skills such as project management and computer information systems may lead to even greater salaries.)
Source: Robert Half 2015 Legal Salary Guide. These values are consistent with national averages. Paralegal employment also typically includes benefits such as: health, retirement, and vacation.
What is the cost of tuition?
Unlike private schools and public universities, OCC is financially supported by
both the state of Michigan and Oakland County. This support allows OCC to
maintain a high quality program and still charge affordable tuition.
With tuition as low as $82.00 a credit hour,
OCC is truly an educational
bargain. For students who qualify,
financial aid is available.
OCC’s paralegal program also qualifies for many
In addition to tuition costs, course specific fees of $10 to $35 apply to
certain courses to cover consumable costs. Finally, there is the cost of
books. Book costs are out of our control, but there are many options such as
renting to reduce costs. Budget $100 a course for books.
Why enroll in OCC’s Paralegal Program?
If you’re looking for a career in this exciting field, OCC has a top quality
program specifically designed for you and your goals.
- OCC provides a
recognized, high quality paralegal education.
faculty are attorneys, judges, or qualified paralegals who love
Classes are small; students build professional relationships with faculty.
OCC students get personalized attention, free tutoring, and technical
- 93% of paralegal employers would recommend OCC paralegals
- The OCC Paralegal Program provides career
assistance and internship opportunities with high placement
- If you already have a bachelor's degree and are
looking to switch careers, the program can be completed in 1
- If you do not have a bachelor's degree, you can
earn an associate’s degree in paralegal, start your paralegal
career or transfer to a 4 year institution to complete your
degree in less time and with lower costs.
- If you are
planning to go on to law school, the practical education in
OCC's Paralegal Program will give you marketable skills which
will give you a distinct advantage in law practice.
This program is Approved by and a member of the American Bar Association, a
member of the American Association for Paralegal Education, and a member of
the State Bar of Michigan, Paralegal Section.
Is the program approved by the American Bar Association?
Yes. The program has been approved by the
American Bar Association
(ABA) for a number of years and just recently
underwent an extensive review by the ABA. The result of the review was that the
ABA has extended its approval of the program.
Do not be fooled! Online Paralegal programs and Non-ABA approved programs make
it extremely difficult to find a quality paralegal job. "Despite projected much
faster-than-average employment growth, competition for jobs is expected.
[Those] formally trained [in ABA approved programs] ... should have the best
employment opportunities." - US Department of Labor
Is the program or its
faculty involved in the paralegal community?
Yes. This program is approved by and a member of the
American Bar Association
, a member of the
American Association for Paralegal Education
, and a member of the
State Bar of Michigan, Paralegal Section
. It also maintains contacts with
several local bar associations including the
Oakland County Bar Association
Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association
Which program do I enroll in?
If you have a bachelor's degree from another college or university, enroll in
our Post-Bachelor's Degree Professional
Program. If you do not have a bachelor's degree at the time of
your enrollment, enroll in our
Is there an application deadline?
Yes. The application deadlines are August 15 for Fall semester starts
and December 15 for Winter semester starts. There are even earlier
financial aid deadlines. To apply, click here
At which campus are the classes offered?
The paralegal core classes are offered at the Orchard Ridge Campus in Farmington
Hills. Some classes will also meet at the Oakland County Circuit Court in
Pontiac. Prerequisites and required supportive courses may be taken at any
How long does it take to complete the program?
If you already have a bachelor’s degree, our
Post Bachelor’s Certificate Program
takes only 1 academic year. (If you are
a full time day student, you could complete this sequence in as little as 9
months - September - May. Full Time night students can complete it in 12 months
September - August.)
If you are seeking an
, most students can complete the program in 2 years. This
time is mostly affected by general education requirements for all degrees. The
paralegal program itself only takes one academic year.
Is there an internship
Yes. It is a highly recommended program option. As part of their
students have the opportunity to:
- Work with other
- Apply the information learned in
the classroom to real life situations.
- Learn job skills
that will help when they are employed after graduation.
Develop a better understanding of paralegal work.
their resume experience and networking contacts.
Can I transfer my credits to a university to pursue a bachelor’s degree?
Yes! OCC’s paralegal program has specific agreements with both Eastern Michigan
and Madonna University which allow you to transfer all your paralegal credits
and obtain a full bachelor’s degree in only 1 additional year.
This is a
huge savings in time and money. Other universities may have different transfer
policies. If you are planning to transfer, please meet with our
to get the details.
Can I transfer to law school after the OCC Paralegal Program?
Yes. However, most law schools require a bachelor’s degree for admission. If you
do not have a bachelor’s degree, we advise that you take advantage of our time
and money saving transfer options. If you plan on becoming an attorney, the
practical education given by our program when added to the law school theory
will give you marketable skills which many legal employers require. We are not
primarily a pre-law program, but many students do use us that way.
Can I transfer paralegal credits from another
institution to OCC?
Yes. However, the American Bar Association requires that any course
substitutions be approved by the Program Coordinator before starting the
Policy on Transfer of Paralegal Credits:
The OCC Paralegal Program will accept Paralegal college credits only if
ABA approved program and equivalent to a required course in our
program. All such transfers must be approved by the Paralegal Program
coordinator. A minimum of ten paralegal credit hours must be taken at OCC to
earn a degree or certificate.
Students should see a counselor
to initiate this process.
Does OCC’s Paralegal Program offer continuing paralegal education?
No. As a college degree and professional certificate program, we focus on
college credit classes. However, many local paralegals and even the occasional
attorney take our Special Topics courses
for continuing education purposes.
What do paralegal students learn in classes?
The Paralegal Program courses include Legal Research and Writing, Litigation,
Substantive Law (torts, contracts & property), Trial Preparation, Legal Ethics,
and Special Topics
. All courses are
taught in a practical, career focused manner. For individual course descriptions
see our Course of Study.
How do I graduate from the program?
Once you have completed the requirements for either the
Post Bachelor’s Certificate Program
, you must
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