Paralegal Studies Introductory Mini-Course Syllabus


Introductory Mini-Course Syllabus for Prospective Paralegal Studies Students

Course Objective: The Introductory mini-course will provide prospective students with an introduction to the AIPS online paralegal training program in single unit. During the course we will explore what paralegals do on the job, what roles they may play in traditional and non-traditional paralegal postings. Further, we will look at what experiences students possess and how those experiences can be combined with paralegal skills to enhance marketability.

Please allow between one and two hours to complete the course. You may login and out as often as you like and work on the course at your convenience. If you’d like to take a stab at the optional Challenge Exercise, please allow an additional hour.

Learning Objectives:

At the end of the introductory mini-course, students will be able to:

  •  Download and access course content including
    •           Unit Study Guide
    •           YouTube Video
    •           Internet Content Link
  • Complete and submit online assessments including
    •          Homework
    •          Discussion Question Postings

Estimated Time Commitment Required: Approximately 1-2 hours

Instructor Feedback: Your instructor will check the classroom at a minimum of twice/day during weekdays and once/day over the weekends. The Discussion Forum will be facilitated following this schedule. Feedback on submitted assignments will be provided within 24 hours via your personal FirstClass email account.

Unit One: Introductions

1.  Topical Outline

a.       Introductions – Who are you? Who is AIPS?

b.       Real life paralegals vs. TV and movie paralegals

c.       Essential skills for paralegals

d.       How your skills and experience can translate to paralegal skills

 2.       Key Concepts

Online learning is the perfect way for busy people to achieve their educational and career goals. At AIPS, we offer a sound paralegal training curriculum taught in a friendly, student-oriented online community. Our smaller classes allow students one-on-one interaction with their instructors and classmates ensuring that they get the attention they need to be successful in their quest for career advancement. 

The paralegal profession has grown and changed dramatically since its inception in the 1970s. While not every paralegal gets to uncover environmental disasters like Erin Brokovitch did, or take part in dramatic depositions and trials, we do get to do some challenging and exciting work – whether it’s working with clients and attorneys in a traditional law office setting, reviewing contacts for Las Vegas casinos, coordinating mental health resources for indigent clients, or being the IT specialist managing the enormous amount of information necessary for litigation. This is a profession that offers great opportunity to people who are interested in being part of something bigger than themselves, who want to use their minds, and who are up for a challenge.

As with every profession, there are skills that you must have to be a successful paralegal. Some of these skills are learned on the job and some through formal education, and many are common to other professions. Paralegals come from many backgrounds; most enter the profession after working in a non-law related job. If you are innovative, resourceful, communicate well, and have good judgment – this could be the career for you.

3.       Reading/Viewing

a.       For the movie version of a paralegal, watch this short clip from “Erin Brokovitch,” a movie based on a “real life” paralegal. Click here for the video:

b.       “Would I Make a Good Paralegal?”

Or, see handout in the Readings and Resources folder.

4.     Discussion Question:

How did you become interested in being a paralegal? What interests you most about being a paralegal? 

5.     Assignment: 

Complete the Skills Inventory and the Skills and Qualifications Assessment exercises. There are homework forms for both exercises in the Homework Form folder.  


Are you ready to try something a bit harder? Give this Challenge exercise a try. You’ll enjoy it!

Challenge Unit: Day in the Life of a Paralegal

1.       Topical Outline

                   a.       Profiles of working paralegals

                   b.       Sample paralegal assignment

 2.       Key Concepts

Depending on where they work, paralegals are called upon to handle a variety of assignments. Most paralegal tasks begin with some kind of critical thinking or analysis and end with a written or oral report to their supervising attorney. For instance, a paralegal working in a firm that specializes in personal injury might be asked to compare a client’s facts to a court opinion then write a memo to the attorney explaining why or why not the client might have a viable claim. Bankruptcy paralegals analyze a client’s financial data then assist the client in completing the forms necessary to file a bankruptcy petition. No matter where they work, paralegals must be able to deal with unpredictable situations, to reason, and to see both sides of issues.

3.       Reading/Viewing

a.     “A Day in the Life of a Paralegal,”

b.      “The Distressed Grandfather,” case analysis. See the Introductory Course Readings and Resources folder for this handout.

4.       Assignment – Analyzing a client’s case, then providing information about that case to the attorney is often part of a paralegal’s responsibilities. Review the case of the Distressed Grandfather. Then, submit your answers in a brief memo to your instructor. A homework form with instructions for this assignment is in the Activities folder.