Q. Why choose a career as a paralegal?
A. The number of paralegals in the United States is expected to continue growing. Law firms and corporate legal departments are relying more heavily on paralegals, as cost-savings measures, to perform tasks once routinely handled by attorneys. The Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, forecasts a faster-than-average growth rate of 8 percent through 2024. Job rewards and satisfaction for paralegals include excellent salaries and benefits with opportunities for bonuses and advancements; recognition for contributions to case resolutions; meaningful work helping clients; and challenging and interesting work in a professional environment surrounded by talented, educated colleagues.
Q. What is the average salary for a paralegal?
A. Earnings of paralegals vary greatly, depending on education, training, experience, the type and size of employer and the geographic location of the job. In the Bay Area, paralegals can earn from $51,000 to $66,000, while nationally, salaries average $52,000. Historical trends provided by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations' 2016 National Utilization and Compensation Survey Report show gross salaries growing by 5% over the years.
Q. What are the advantages of enrolling in UC Berkeley Extension's Certificate Program in Paralegal Studies?
A. Our comprehensive, accelerated certificate is designed by paralegals for paralegals, and taught by practicing attorneys. When you enroll in Essential Paralegal Skills Part II: Authority, Research and Writing, you are granted a one-year access to LexisNexis and a six-month access to Westlaw. (You get an individual password.) You also have access to extensive resources including customized texts, hands-on workbooks, a toll-free support line and online study tools at the ParalegalSpace website that include practice exercise questions, lecture notes, quizzes, mock exams, and research and writing labs. Please feel free to test drive the ParalegalSpace website and experience the unparalleled support that UC Berkeley Extension's Certificate Program in Paralegal Studies provides.
Q. How does this certificate qualify under the California Regulatory Requirements for paralegals?
A. The UC Berkeley Extension online Certificate Program in Paralegal Studies is in compliance with California Business and Professions Code 6450 through 6456. The California regulations require that a paralegal certificate offer either 24 semester units or an equivalent amount of hours related to law. This course meets or exceeds the regulatory standard of 360 classroom hours. In addition, you earn up to eight semester units of academic credit for the certificate. You should expect to devote at least 360 hours of academic work of online instruction.
Q. Is this certificate approved by the American Bar Association (ABA)? What does ABA approval mean?
A. While the ABA cannot accredit a paralegal certificate, the ABA, for a fee, approves certificates that meet certain standards relating to how a certificate is administered. Approximately 25% of the paralegal programs in the country opt to pay for ABA approval.
UC Berkeley Extension's Certificate Program in Paralegal Studies has been approved by UC Berkeley and meets the California state requirements that regulate paralegal training. UC Berkeley Extension has determined that opting for ABA approval will not enhance the quality of the certificate.
Note: Prospective students should be aware that some employers do require training from an ABA-approved program. Research job listings to determine if the type of position and the employers you are targeting require training from an ABA-approved program.
Q. Can I preview the certificate program?
A. Yes. Please test-drive the ParalegalSpace website.
Q. Who designed the certificate program?
A. Alyssa Navallo and Daniel Barber are paralegals and nationally recognized educators who have designed and developed courses and who have consulted for paralegal programs at some of the most highly respected universities in the United States, including Duke University, DePaul University, UC Berkeley Extension, UC Davis Extension, Rice University, University of Miami, University of Tennessee, Emory University, Xavier University and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, among others.
Q. Who are the instructors?
A. The Paralegal Studies instructors are attorneys who are members of the State Bar of California and Florida, have been approved to teach by UC Berkeley and have demonstrated teaching ability and subject expertise. See the individual course descriptions to read the biographies of the instructors.
Q. What happens after enrolling in a course? How long do I have to complete each course?
A. These are the next steps after enrolling in a course:
- Your instructor will email you an online access passcode and welcome letter within a few days after signing up for your course.
- You have three months from the day that you receive your access passcode to complete Essential Paralegal Studies Part I or Essential Paralegal Studies Part II. You must complete Part I before enrolling in Part II.
- You have two months from the day that you receive your access passcode to complete an elective paralegal course. We strongly recommend that you complete an elective course before enrolling in a subsequent one.
The time you spend online is determined by your own schedule. All assignments, quizzes, exams and projects must be completed within the time frame allotted for the course. Your instructor will set individual due dates for your assignments, projects and exams.
Q. How do I complete the certificate?
A. You must successfully complete the core requirements—Essential Paralegal Studies Part I and Part II, and Paralegal E-Discovery Process and Practice—along with three elective courses of your choice from the list, for a total of 8 semester units and 360 hours of study. Projects, exams and assignments, including a comprehensive written final exam, will be administered. You are expected to complete the course requirements within one year of registering for the certificate.
Q. What if I am unable to complete all assignments or exams before the course ends?
A. It is important that you and your instructor coordinate and agree in advance on a specific plan for successful completion. Please refer to your Welcome Letter and our Incomplete Policy for full information. Failure to abide by this policy could negatively impact your ability to receive an Incomplete and finish the course.
Q. What if I fail an exam or fail a class?
A. You are expected to pass all exams and all classes with a minimum grade of C or better. If you fail an exam, you may not repeat it. If you fail a class, you will have to take the class over again.
Q. Can I transfer paralegal or other law courses from a non-UC institution to apply toward successful completion of the Certificate Program in Paralegal Studies?
A. No. We do not accept the transfer of any outside courses toward the Certificate Program in Paralegal Studies at UC Berkeley Extension. In order to earn the Award of Completion, you must take all certificate courses through UC Berkeley Extension.
Q. Can I work as a paralegal in any state with an Award of Completion from UC Berkeley Extension?
A. No state other than California has requirements to work as a paralegal. Some states (e.g., North Carolina and Florida) have voluntary certification exams, but even these are not required. You will, therefore, be eligible to work as a paralegal in any state.
Q. Is independent certification or credentialing necessary once I complete the UC Berkeley Extension Certificate Program in Paralegal Studies?
A. While no state requires you to sit for an exam to be a "certified" or "credentialed" paralegal or legal assistant, many choose to attain the professional designations to enhance their stature in the field. The CLA (Certified Legal Assistant) and CP (Certified Paralegal) exams are the nation's premier certifications, along with the NFPA Pace exam. For more information about sitting for these exams, please visit the National Federation of Paralegal Associations Inc.
Q. Is the certificate approved for Veterans' Educational Benefits?
A. UC Berkeley Extension no longer certifies Veterans Administration benefits for students.
Extension fees are no longer eligible for waiver under the benefits provided through Cal-Vet nor for veterans' dependents under the California Education Code.
If you are eligible to be reimbursed for online courses under the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES), you should contact your military education officer.
Q. Can I access my course from anywhere?
A. You can access the course anywhere that you have Internet access. Some companies have firewalls that prevent you from participating in the chat sessions. Please check with your company before you attempt to access the course.
Q. Is my online course an instructor-led course?
A. No. This is a self-paced course. However, you will be given a recommended course syllabus to follow. Your instructor will be available via email to respond to any queries you may have.
Q. Will I be able to see my online instructor or communicate with him or her by telephone?
A. Unless there is an extreme instance, all communication with your instructor will be done through email, the discussion forums or the chat sessions. Please do not expect your instructor to telephone you or meet with you in person. We strongly encourage you to use these modes of communication; faxed or mailed assignments are not accepted.
Q. Whom do I contact if I am having problems with the instructor?
A. Please contact Alyssa Navallo at firstname.lastname@example.org immediately to help us determine the problem. Your instructor should be very explicit on the course syllabus or welcome message as to his or her availability. If the instructor is going out of town or will be away from Internet access for an extended period of time, he or she must notify each student.
Q. How many hours are required outside of class time to complete reading assignments and homework?
A. You should expect to spend up to a minimum of 360 total hours of study for successful completion of the online certificate. You will most likely spend approximately 17 hours at least per week going over class lecture notes, performing exercises, viewing demonstrations, using online labs and other online support materials, and completing assignments. Approximately 10 hours will be needed for the core Essential Skills part of the certificate, and approximately seven-plus hours for the substantive courses. The actual time required for each course will vary from student to student.
Q. Are there specific dates that I need to log on to the website?
A. No. The online certificate is self-paced. You may sign up for any course at your convenience during the time the course is open.
Q. What happens if I fall behind or complete the course early?
A. The online paralegal courses are self-paced within the time frames allowed, but you will have deadlines and due dates for assignments just as you would in a traditional classroom setting.
Q. What kind of computer peripherals are required to take an online class?
A. You will need either a PC computer or Mac. A high-speed Internet connection is highly recommended, but not required, and Internet Explorer is the preferred browser. You must have Microsoft Word.
Q. What happens if I have trouble accessing the URL with my login and password?
A. Contact our technical support team at TechSupport@berkeleyparalegal.com. We will assess and work to fix any problems in the most expeditious manner. In order to better serve you, please note the problem as it occurred.
Q. Do I need to have cookies enabled?
A. Yes. Your Internet browser must be set to accept cookies.
Q. How do online courses work?
A. Once you begin your course, you will be able to access the Study Support website. Your instructor will contact you to provide you with contact information and additional getting started tips. You will work through the core Essential Skills part of the certificate in Segments, earning passwords to continue as you complete assignments and exams. The substantive programs are set up chapter by chapter. For each chapter of the books, you will have online study support. It is recommended that you read the assigned material chapter by chapter, reviewing the online study support as you progress. Please contact your instructor with any questions you may have, but also check the online Help page in the Web modules for commonly asked questions.