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Paralegal Frequently Asked Questions   (FAQ)Questions and Answers

 

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:
  1. Performing legal and factual research.
  2. Drafting documents for filing with courts and agencies.
  3. Drafting contracts, mortgages, and all manner of legal agreements.
  4. Organizing trial documents, evidence, preparing witnesses & assisting at trials.
  5. 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 product.
Want to know more?

Are paralegal jobs available?

Absolutely… With the field's low cost of entry, paralegal is #3 in Degrees That Are Good Investments.   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 18% for at least the next decade.  The Michigan Department of Career Development has forecast that the need for paralegals will grow by 14.9% over a ten-year period ending in 2018 "In addition, paralegals’ work is less likely to be offshored than that of other legal workers."  Although we would not argue with the experts, we believe that the recent downward revisions from 23% nationally and 19.6% in Michigan to be overly pessimistic.  

OCC’s program actively assists in career placement and tracks employment of its graduates. The latest data shows that more than 80% our 2010-2011 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 2010, 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 2010) paralegals earned, on average, an hourly wage of $23.00 and $51,000. These values are consistent with national averages. Paralegal employment also typically includes benefits such as: health, retirement, and vacation. See the 2006 Michigan Salary and Benefit Survey.

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 $71.40 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 retraining programs.

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.
  1. OCC provides a recognized, high quality paralegal education.
  2. All faculty are attorneys, judges, or qualified paralegals who love to teach.
  3. Classes are small; students build professional relationships with faculty.
  4. OCC students get personalized attention, free tutoring, and technical support.
  5. 93% of paralegal employers would recommend OCC paralegals to others.
  6. The OCC Paralegal Program provides career assistance and internship opportunities with high placement rates.
  7. If you already have a bachelor's degree and are looking to switch careers, the program can be completed in 1 year.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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 and the 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 Certificate Program.  If you do not have a bachelor's degree at the time of your enrollment, enroll in our Associate's Degree Program.

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 campus.

Does it take a long time to get through the program?

No. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, our Post Bachelor’s Certificate Program takes only 1 year. If you are seeking an associate’s degree, most students can complete the program in 2 years.

Is there an internship option?

Yes. It is a highly recommended program option. As part of their internship program students have the opportunity to:
  1. Work with other legal professionals.
  2. Apply the information learned in the classroom to real life situations.
  3. Learn job skills that will help when they are employed after graduation.
  4. Develop a better understanding of paralegal work.
  5. Build 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 counseling department 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 in accordance with the ABA approved program guidelines before starting the Paralegal Program. 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  or the associate’s degree, you must apply for graduation.

 

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