Paralegal Studies - Classroom
The Duke Paralegal Studies Program is a 300 hour course of study designed to train students in the aspects of the profession most in demand and most desired by attorneys. The program has been designated as a “qualified program” by the NC State Bar and graduates of the program are eligible to apply for the NC State Bar Paralegal Certification Exam.
The Duke Paralegal Certificate Program curriculum is based upon criteria established and approved by the NC State Bar. Therefore, the program meets the certification requirements of the State of North Carolina. It is incumbent upon out-of-state students to ensure that the program meets the requirements for paralegal certification and/or education training in their state of residence or intended state of employment.
The Duke Paralegal Certificate Program will not assume responsibility for providing additional curriculum or contact hours to meet other state requirements.
Following is the course curriculum for the Classroom-based program. The structure may vary for the Online program.
Essential Skills for Paralegals
Fundamentals of the Profession
- Introduction to the Legal Field
Students will learn what kind of job opportunities exist and what tasks a paralegal may perform.
- Legal Terminology
By presenting an actual legal matter and following it throughout the legal process, students are introduced to the most relevant legal terms. The case presented is tracked through both the civil and criminal court procedures.
- Resume Preparation
Students will receive instruction in preparing resumes and cover letters, as well as tips for interviewing.
- Strategies for Employment
Multiple strategies for seeking employment will be discussed, including traditional and non-traditional methods.
Evidence and Investigation
- Stages of Litigation
The three stages of the litigation process are presented, and the functions a paralegal may perform during each stage are discussed.
Students discuss various forms of evidence, including direct, circumstantial, oral, physical, and hearsay. The elements of admissibility are presented, as are the procedures for presentation of evidence to the court.
- Interview Clients
Specific techniques will be presented and discussed for conducting client interviews.
- Law Office Investigation
Skip tracing, formal and informal witness statements, the obtaining of public documents, and other investigative matters are presented.
Legal Research and Writing (Part 1)
- Index Research
Students will learn the "hierarchical structure" of legal indexes and will learn to efficiently utilize these fundamental research tools.
- Legal Analysis
Students will develop the skills to analyze both case law and statutory authority, including the modified IRAC method.
- Legal Memorandum Form
After learning the analytical process, students will analyze cases and statutes. Students will then be taught how to create a legal memorandum.
- Blue Book Citation Form
Students will learn the system of legal citation.
Pleadings and Discovery
- Pleading Preparation
Students will study pleadings and will prepare a complaint as well as a summons.
- Discovery Preparation
Students will be taught to create sets of Interrogatories, Requests for Admissions, and Request for Production and Inspection of Documents.
- Discovery Coordination
Students will learn the rules relevant to discovery and will learn how to track both sent and received discovery documents.
- Preparing for Depositions
Students will study various considerations for deposition setup.
- Deposition Digesting
Students will be provided with a deposition transcript and will be taught to summarize that document.
Legal Research and Writing (Part 2)
- Utilization of Legal Forms
Students will learn to manipulate templates and utilize formbooks.
- Authority Identification
The class will learn to identify primary, secondary, mandatory, persuasive, and non-authority.
- Legal Research Skills
By using hands-on, interactive training devices, students will learn proper law library utilization: how to locate primary authority, how to use secondary sources, how to update research sources, how to validate authority using Shepard's, and how to utilize specific legal materials. Students will be trained in The Key Number System and the Total Client Service.
- Motions, Notices, and Briefs
Students will be introduced to various forms of motions and will be required to prepare a motion, notice, and brief.
- File Maintenance
Proper file maintenance is discussed. Students will be required to assemble all documents created in the class into a client file or evaluation.
The Legal Environment
The Law Office
- Law Office Etiquette
Students will learn how to properly present themselves in a law office environment, including dress considerations, telephone tips, and a discussion of office politics.
- File Maintenance
Students will learn how to create and maintain a client file.
- Tickler and Calendaring Systems
The class will discuss various forms of reminder systems for important due dates, and both hard-copy and computer-based calendaring methods.
- Billable Hours
Student will learn the importance of keeping track of billable hours.
- ABA Rules of Ethics
Students will become familiar with the ABA Rules that guide the ethical behavior of attorneys and will discuss how these rules affect paralegals in their day-to-day lives.
- Law Office Ethics
Students will be taught to maintain a high ethical standard. To facilitate the learning process, students will be presented with ethical scenarios and potential pitfalls to avoid.
- Legal Advice
The class will be instructed in rules preventing a paralegal from providing legal advice and will discuss what does and does not constitute such advice.
- Legal Representation
Students will discuss the rules restricting paralegal representation, and the class will be presented with exceptions to these rules.
North Carolina Courts
- North Carolina Court Structure
Local and state trial and appellate courts will be discussed, including how to access filing procedures for specific courts.
- Court Rules
Students are taught the most frequently used court rules and are also taught the skills necessary for finding any rule for specific procedural questions.
- Government Structure
Students will learn the structure of government and the laws that apply to each branch.
- Federal Court Structure
Students will be instructed in the basic differences between state and federal jurisdiction, as well as the federal trial and appellate jurisdictions. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure will be introduced.
- Electronic Legal Research Skills
Students will learn how to create computer queries in order to use Westlaw and Lexis. Students will also be presented with individual access to LexisNexis online legal research.
- Electronic Discovery
Students will learn the procedures for exchanging discovery documents digitally.
- The Electronic Court Room
The class will discuss the latest techniques for electronically filing documents with the court, and examples of courtroom presentations using such technologies as PowerPoint and Flash will be presented.
- The Arbitration Process
The class will learn how the arbitration process works, will discuss the arbitration system in North Carolina, and will learn the difference between mandatory and binding arbitration. The class will also learn new trends in extra-judicial proceedings, such as "Mini-Trials."
- Informal Advocacy
Students will learn to obtain information, documents, and relevant material in an informal forum, and to act as the attorney's "right-hand" in such situations.
Substantive Legal Studies
Contract Law - A rocket-sled ride through basic Contract Law, this course introduces students to fundamental contract theory and terminology. Topics covered include contract formation, modification, breach, and remedies. Upon completion of the course, students will be able to identify key theoretical concepts and apply simple analysis to contract problems.
Tort Law - Tort Law deals with a class of civil wrongs or harms to people or property. Students in this class will learn about negligence actions, intentional torts, and the process of civil litigation. Emphasis will be placed on the practical skills that paralegals need to help attorneys prepare to prosecute or defend civil matters from pre-filing through trial to post-trial motions.
Family Law - Students will embark upon exploration of Family Law to: (1) understand the fundamental elements of Family Law, (2) identify core legal issues within the field, and (3) understand the duties of the paralegal in the Family and Matrimonial arena.
Real Property Law - This course has two main goals: to familiarize students with the basic concepts of Property Law and to introduce students to the practice of title searches and loan closings. The study of Real Property Law provides a basis for the work in a Real Estate practice. At the end of this course, successful students will be able to conduct their own title search from a home computer and be ready to understand the workings of a real estate firm.