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?
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
addition, paralegals’ work is less likely to be offshored than that of other
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
. 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
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
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
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
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
, 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
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 in accordance with the ABA
approved program guidelines before starting the Paralegal Program. Students
should see a counselor
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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