Free Online Paralegal Courses
Learn how to enhance your career as a paralegal or legal assistant through free online paralegal courses. Choose from several paths to become a paralegal.
Attending paralegal schools online can help aspiring professionals develop key career skills. Online paralegal courses can allow students to explore areas of personal interest such as environmental, corporate, or personal injury law. More than 50% of the law students polled in a 2022 Reuters survey said they preferred remote learning over in-person classes.
Open courseware sites and many renowned colleges and universities offer paralegal classes online. While online paralegal courses do not count toward a paralegal degree, they can enhance a student's law expertise. Professionals can also take paralegal classes online to fulfill continuing law education (CLE) requirements.
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Pay and Job Outlook for Paralegals
Paralegals enjoy a stable starting salary and faster-than-average job growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paralegals and legal assistants earned a median annual salary of $56,230 as of May 2021. Paralegals working in the federal government earned a higher median salary of $69,680. The top 10% of paralegals earned nearly $89,000 as of May 2021.
The job outlook is also favorable for paralegals and legal assistants. The BLS projects 12% job growth from 2020-2030, especially for paralegals with multi-tasking expertise. Law firms and corporations increasingly prefer paralegals who can take on some of the duties of entry-level lawyers, thereby strengthening their in-house legal teams and avoiding expensive lawyer fees.
How to Become a Paralegal Online
Students may choose from multiple paths to become a paralegal. Schools commonly offer online associate degrees in paralegal studies, widely accepted as the minimum education requirement for paralegal jobs since bachelor's degrees in this major are rare. Some hybrid associate programs now feature American Bar Association (ABA) accreditation.
Aspiring paralegals can also pursue a bachelor's degree in another subject like business, social science, or criminal justice, and a paralegal studies certificate from an ABA-approved program. Even though the degree is in another major, some employers prefer bachelor-level credentials and experience. Most paralegal programs include an internship or hands-on component.
Though rare, some employers accept candidates with no formal education or experience and allow on-the-job training or provide credits to students still finishing their degrees. Students may opt to pursue professional certification through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), which requires them to complete or be in the process of completing a paralegal program and pass an exam. Employers do not require, but may prefer, NALA certification.
Online vs. In-Person Courses
Aspiring paralegals can choose a preferred learning method from online and in-person options. As is true with any college program, students should weigh the pros and cons of online learning.
When choosing an online degree, students should only consider accredited programs. Through a lengthy and rigorous process, independent accrediting bodies approve traditional and online college programs that meet the utmost standards of higher education.
Some paralegal programs are also accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). Though states do not require paralegals to graduate from an ABA-accredited program, many employers prefer candidates with an ABA-accredited degree. The ABA does not accredit fully online undergraduate programs or free online paralegal classes.
15 Free Online Paralegal Course
Udemy offers an overview of the paralegal occupation, including office politics, legal research, and legal technology. Students also learn about the history of the paralegal profession and touch on civil litigation and intellectual property law. The course features 3.5 hours of on-demand video.
This course covers the foundations of law through the statutory rules, provisions, and regulations. Topics explore how judges interpret statutes, presumptions in statutory interpretation, the rules of language and their applications, and construction rules. The course includes three hours and 45 minutes of on-demand video.
This course can especially benefit paralegals who need both legal expertise and advanced administrative skills in their career. Students can learn to build a basic website for a lawyer or law firm using WordPress and Elementor. Though the course is free, students must purchase a web hosting service to construct their website.
Students learn about treaties and conventions, asylum and extradition, international law, and use of force. The course content explores these basic principles around treaties in various countries through practical applications and case studies. Students enjoy one hour and 41 minutes of on-demand video.
This course teaches students to protect their business and themselves with a service contract. The instructor promises to take students from novice to expert over the course of one hour and 50 minutes of on-demand video online. Topics include legal terminology, principles of business law, and steps to draft a service contract.
The University of Pennsylvania offers this class through Coursera. It explores six key areas of U.S. law: tort, contract, property, constitutional and criminal law, and civil procedure. Students learn what differentiates American law from other countries' legal systems. The course takes approximately 12 hours to complete.
Offered by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, this course approaches environmental law as the primary protector of Earth's natural resources. Students explore the legal systems currently in place to manage endangered species, water, pollution, and toxic waste.
Case Western Reserve offers this course in international criminal law to examine its impact on global security and the pursuit of world peace. Case studies include the Nuremberg trial, the prosecution of Saddam Hussein, and Al Qaeda. Students also discuss common global injustices like genocide, terrorism, piracy, and war crimes.
This course offered by Yale University emphasizes foundational legal concepts, terminology, and academic research tools for aspiring lawyers and paralegals. Students enjoy modular coursework consisting of brief lectures and assignments. Each module culminates in a reading list for students to pursue further investigation on their own.
This course offered by the University of Pennsylvania introduces students to the pillars of the U.S. Constitution and explores landmark Supreme Court cases. The coursework explores the nature, structure, and powers of the federal government. Students can complete the course in six hours.
The University of Chicago presents this course in copyright, antitrust, and patent law. Students can also explore topics such as allowing and blocking speech via media platforms and the legal regulation of networks. The syllabus covers seven key developments in the law and economics of media platforms, beginning with the creation of the internet.
Offered by the State University of New York, this course explains the policies governing cybercrime and cyberwarfare that span nation-state borders. Topics take an interdisciplinary approach to cyber conflict that includes understanding the conflict, the actions taken to mitigate it, and its social and psychological effects.
This course, offered by Duke University, introduces students to basic copyright laws in the United States. Course topics include owning rights, fair use, and legal exceptions for professionals working in library services and education. Coursework highlights the benefits and creative implications of understanding copyright law.
Duke University designed this course to benefit paralegals working in the financial industry. Students learn about laws and regulations specific to online wealth management systems, bitcoin, cryptocurrency, and financial account aggregators. Coursework also covers how banks and fintech firms are regulated in the U.S.
This course explains what an argument is, how to decipher when one is being presented, and how to deconstruct it down to its raw elements. Topics also include justification, explanation, persuasion, and argumentative language. Students can pair this Duke University course with the second course, Think Again: How to Research and Argue.
Frequently Asked Questions About Free Online Paralegal Courses
How long does it take to become a paralegal?
Most paralegals pursue an associate degree, which takes roughly two years to complete. Students can attend paralegal schools online, some of which offer accelerated programs that graduate students in as few as 18 months.
Students can take their choice of paths to become a paralegal, which may take more or less than two years. Some law firms prefer to hire paralegals with a bachelor's degree, which can take four years to complete, while others may enable candidates with little to no formal education to build job skills to earn their degree.
How much do paralegals make?
Paralegals and legal assistants earned a median annual salary of $56,230 as of May 2021, according to the BLS. Paralegals working in the federal government, finance and insurance, and local government (excluding education and hospitals) earn the highest wages, between $58,000 and $70,000.
In addition to the above highest-paying industries for paralegals, some states pay paralegals wages well above the national median. The District of Columbia pays the highest wage, at $83,420, followed by Washington state, at $71,900, and California, at $70,290, according to the BLS. Other factors affecting pay include education, certification, and experience.
Do you need a degree to be a paralegal?
Most paralegals hold associate degrees; however, some learn legal assisting skills on the job instead of a formal degree. Alternately, employers may prefer or require paralegals to hold a bachelor's degree in another subject and complete an ABA-approved paralegal certificate program.
Employers generally prefer candidates who complete a paralegal degree program. Online paralegal degrees commonly develop career skills through an internship or experiential learning component and may be accredited by the ABA.
How long does it take to get a paralegal certificate?
Paralegal certificate programs can last anywhere between six weeks and eight months. Paralegal certificates can benefit students who hold a bachelor's degree in a non-paralegal major (since most schools do not offer paralegal baccalaureate degrees) but need to develop career skills fast.
Students can often pursue certificate programs through paralegal schools online. Many colleges and universities design their certificate program as an add-on to an associate or bachelor's degree in a major related to paralegal or legal assisting.
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