There are so many ways to dive into a law-related profession. Of course, there is law school and the rigamarole associated with becoming a lawyer. There are also less academically demanding jobs, like becoming a paralegal. The role of a paralegal is the hand behind every lawyer and a jack-of-all-trades in the legal field. They are responsible for so much of the behind the scenes work that often goes nameless and faceless, however, it is a critical contribution. Paralegals are often the ones in charge of legal official correspondence, affidavit preparation, creating legal documents, fashioning legally binding contracts, among other legally binding documentation like real estate closures.
Interested in a Fast-track Paralegal Program?
There are many ways to go about embarking on this journey. Some law firms require a four-year bachelor’s degree in something related to Paralegal Studies. However, most are happy with a Paralegal Certificate and some related work experience. Many people take this career path when they want a second career, in which case, they don’t want to spend a ton of time in school. The good news is there are many fast track paralegal programs out there. There are many intensive paralegal programs out there that enable you to achieve a certificate within 4-6 months. Because we know many of you want to use the summer to study hard and walk away with a certificate, we came up with a list that might pique your interest. Here you will find the programs that offer the fastest way to become a paralegal that are specifically Summer paralegal programs. Some of these can be accomplished entirely online, some are in person, and many offer a hybrid of the two. All of these are considered affordable, and will be ranked accordingly.
1. St. Cloud State University
If you’re looking for the fastest way to become a paralegal, The Center for Continuing Studies at St. Cloud State University offers a Paralegal Certificate Program that might just fit the bill. They are specifically targeting legal workers, who are either in the early stages of their careers or more advanced workers in the field of law. This is by far one of the most affordable programs out there. Participants will learn how to interview witnesses, support trials, conduct legal research effectively, work on case preparation, and become experienced fact-checkers. The entire program consists of 90 instructional hours over the course of two sessions that run consecutively. There will also be close to 15 hours of mandatory reading per week. The program is delivered either online or via an instructional DVD. Graduates will earn a St. Cloud State Certificate and have submitted five legal documents that can be used for a portfolio later.
2. Texas Christian University
Texas Christian University offers both a Paralegal and Advanced Paralegal Training Course through their Extended Education Program. This is a partnership with TCUs Center for Legal Studies. Both programs are delivered in multiple formats that can be selected by the student based on their schedule needs. The programs are divided for beginning and advanced students. They are both intensive 12-week programs. The online version of the program is delivered asynchronously, meaning it is entirely flexible and the student can log in to complete coursework when it is convenient for them. During the summer session, live lecture class sessions will be offered on both Saturdays and Sundays from nine am to five pm, if you choose the on-campus course delivery. In order to pass the program, students must pass every assignment with a 70% or better and be present for 80% of the class session time.
3. University of Georgia
Through the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education and Hotel you will find a Paralegal Certificate Online Program. This offering is a response to the fact that the paralegal profession has a high projection of increase nationally, and the demand requires new skill development amongst prospective professionals in the field. Some of the skills that this particular program imparts includes the following: litigation process-legal terminology and ethics, the rules behind civil procedure and evidence collection, critical techniques for investigation and interviewing and how to engage with evidence, identification of relevant law, preparation of legal documents, as well as critique and preparation of legal memoranda. A certificate will be granted when the 9.0 continuing education units are completed for this course of study. The grading is calculated on the basis of test completion, class participation, assignments placed on the virtual bulletin board and writing assignments.
4. Florida Gulf Coast University
Florida Gulf Coast University offers a remote certificate program in partnership with their Center for Legal Studies. There are no on-campus requirements for this program and it is self-paced. They have a variety of classes to choose from that tie together a variety of themes related to legal studies. They pride themselves on being one of the most flexible programs to choose from. In fact, the delivery of the program is in a variety of interesting formats including online, text-only, and DVD. This offering is facilitated by practicing expert lawyers, legal advisors, and paralegals. Some of the classes include: paralegal certificate, advanced legal research and writing, alternative dispute resolution, LSAT preparation, victim advocacy, and many more. Students can even take some of the live courses from the Center for Legal Studies that are delivered from their location in Naples. The program cost does not include textbooks that will need to be purchased.
5. Auburn University
Auburn University offers a comprehensive Paralegal Certificate Course through their University Outreach Program. It is delivered on campus on Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 5pm. This is definitely one of the premier fast track paralegal programs, and it’s intensity is made clear through their coursework and subsequent deadlines. Students will learn how to work alongside trial attorneys, conduct witness interviews, look deeply at fact patterns, and execute effective legal research. The only prerequisites for the program are a GED or High School Diploma. Students will learn how to be more efficient in an office setting while also gaining more job skills that are marketable. Students will be required to pass several quizzes, complete many technical legal writing assignments, along with a few other relevant tasks. All of the textbooks required for this course of study are purchasable directly from the Center for Legal Studies.
6. Brandman University
Brandman University offers an Undergraduate Paralegal Certificate Program that is dedicated to developing new talent in the legal field. Not only can this certificate get you closer to the paralegal certification test, but it can also contribute to a bachelor of arts degree program in paralegal studies. Students will learn the underpinnings of the legal system and specifically learn how to meet all of California’s state requirements. Students will learn how to create an overview understanding of a civic trial as it relates to complaint filing for appeals processes. They will also grow an acute understanding of the legal system in the United States, conducting legal research, and they will learn how to write in order to contribute effectively to a law office setting. Prospective students must have a minimum of 12 transferrable bachelors level credits. The faculty is made up of two law professors who are experts in the field.
7. University of California Santa Cruz
The University of California Santa Cruz offers a Paralegal Study Series through the Silicon Valley Extension. The structure of this program is a delivery of two paralegal training levels. Paralegal one and two are each seven weeks in length. They will cover all of the necessary practical skills that are needed to assist an attorney in a trial. These include: witness interview best practices, prepping cases for litigation in the courtroom, and learning how to investigate and fact check. There is also the CLS Advanced Paralegal Certificate Course Option which includes six seven-week sessions. This program will allow students to engage in topics that are of interest to them including: Advanced Legal Research, Bankruptcy Law, Alternative Dispute Resolution (Mediation), Business Law, Bankruptcy Law, Criminal Law, Education Law, among many others. The course topics for the advanced class can be taken in the order that the student chooses. The program is offered online and culminates in a certificate.
8. Sonoma State University
Sonoma State University offers an intensive and fast Certified Paralegal Program through their School of Extended and International Education. This course of study offers all of the fundamental principles necessary to become a skilled and successful paralegal in today’s world. Participants will learn how to conduct legal comprehensive research, to understand complex legal analysis, participate in legal interviewing. Students will also learn how to work in a variety of settings and understand how to be effective in each of those places. Each student will create a capstone project and a portfolio that will follow them into their subsequent job search following completion of the certificate. The only prerequisite for the program is a high school diploma or GED, however, to sit for the NALA Certified Paralegal Exam, participants must hold a degree, which can include an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. The course is delivered in an open enrollment online format, meaning students can start whenever they are ready.
9. James Madison University
James Madison University offers a Paralegal Certificate Program that was designed for professionals. Those already working in the legal field as staff members or assistants and are interested in furthering their career options might find this program especially beneficial. This online program synthesizes both the theory and practice of law. There are two live classes per week that students can log into and are able to engage in class discussions. The topics of the program cover extensive career preparation, Introduction to legal writing, citation and the court, civil litigation, and contract law. This is a certificate program that is assessment based, however, it does not provide a certification. Those who complete a program such as this one are eligible to apply to jobs that include: litigation, immigration, bankruptcy, contract law, corporate law, among many others. This offering brings students specific coursework on career development. There is a summer intensive program in addition to other start dates throughout the year.
10. Boston University Online
Boston University offers one of the best intensive paralegal programs. They have an Online Paralegal Studies Certificate Program that starts in the summer. This course of study includes seven modules that are all two weeks in length. The certificate itself can be achieved in fourteen weeks upon completion of all of the sections. Legal research is a key component of the program. Students will learn both online research methods using WestlawNext as well as hands-on use of stacks. Students will also learn the foundations of legal writing and reasoning as well as legal technologies. Much of the coursework is related to the necessary skills to contribute to a modern law office. Other topics include: business law, probate and family law, and litigation. This program is known for its affordability and all-inclusive price. The facilitators of the program are all attorneys that are currently practicing.
11. University of Houston Downtown
The University of Houston Downtown offers one of the great fast track paralegal programs. The facilitator of the program is an expert attorney, and along with a team of paralegals and other members of the legal community, they will be giving students multiple perspectives. They bring to campus around 25 guest speakers that make up a variety of niches and disciplines. One aspect of the program is highly prepared for mock trials where participants will engage all of their new skills. Some of the curriculum includes a wide base of legal terminology, best practices around conducting legal research, and how to make the most out of technology that is industry standard and utilized in the majority of legal scenarios. Students get a discount if they can pay the tuition in full, otherwise, payment plans are available. They offer a weekend delivery format that is conducted over the course of 18 classes.
12. University of South Carolina
Through the continuing education program at the University of South Carolina you will find one of the excellent fast track paralegal programs. Prospective students must already have a four-year degree to participate in this intensive summer program. THe program is delivered in both an online or classroom format. Students will learn the important foundational skills to become successful paralegals, including how to conduct legal research, tracking down witnesses and expert techniques for interviewing them, courtroom conduct, among many more complex skills. The program is six months in length and includes 120 hours of class time. There will be opportunities to look at real-life fact pattern scenarios and put them to the test in mock trial exercises. This particular course of study was designed for legal professionals. This summer intensive begins in July.
13. University of North Carolina – Charlotte
The University of North Carolina Charlotte Continuing Education Program offers a Paralegal Certificate Program. Students can choose if they want to participate in the online or on-campus delivery method. The program is specifically tailored for the local business and legal communities to increase their career potential and grow new relevant skills. In fact, they offer a discount to the University of North Carolina community, which includes faculty and staff. Graduates of the program will walk away with a University of North Carolina Charlotte Certificate. Some of the key skills that will be covered in this program include: legal research, legal technology, American jurisprudence, creating trusts and wills, legal writing, and legal ethics, among many others. The last week is dedicated to a focus on general law practice and provides an overview of many legal disciplines including: family law, real estate, commercial law.
14. Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University offers an on-campus Fastrack summer Paralegal Certificate Program. The coursework for this program includes eight unique classes that are delivered in sequence. Three of the classes are electives with legal specialties. The entire curriculum is delivered by legal faculty that are also experienced educators. Another important aspect that makes this program stand out from some of the others is the required 150-hour internship that offers hands-on job experience. Students will also participate in an online seminar course on legal ethics. Also included is a field experience in a courtroom. Though this is a non-credit certificate program it is the only one that the state of Louisiana American Bar Association has approved. All of the classes take place at the LSU Baton Rouge Campus. The program is consistently guided and evaluated by an advisory committee made up of a variety of legal professionals.
15. Long Island University – Brooklyn
Long Island University Brooklyn Campus offers a summer paralegal fast track certificate program. The entire course of study consists of 328 credit hours that will prepare students to play an essential role at any law office, government agency, corporate law department, real estate office, insurance company or firm. Though this is a non-credit certificate program it is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). Applicants for the program must have completed 60 or more college credits. Some of the skills students will gain from this course of study include improving technical written and oral communication skills, understanding theoretical and practical legal applications, obtaining proficient skills in legal technology usage, and grasping the ethical considerations that are necessary for a variety of circumstances paralegals will encounter. Some of the classes students will take include: Introduction to Law, Litigation and Trial Preparation, Probate Trusts and Estates, and many more.
16. Duke University Continuing Studies
Through the Continuing Studies Department at Duke University, you will find the Duke Paralegal Summer Intensive Program. Intensive is an understatement for this fast-paced fast track gem that will kickstart a paralegal career path over the course of a summer. The North Carolina Bar Association considers this offering a “qualified program.” All aspects of the coursework are facilitated by attorneys who are licensed and currently practicing. Students will meet 5 or six days per week for eight weeks to make up 300 in-class hours. Students must be able to commit all of their energy to this program while they are enrolled, as it demands full attention. In order to qualify, prospective students must have at least a two-year associate’s degree under their belt. Graduates will walk away from this program with a myriad of relevant skills that are essential in any law office. The program will suggest housing options for students who are moving to Durham to participate
17. University of California Santa Barbara
University of California Santa Barbara offers a Paralegal Studies Certificate Program through their Professional and Continuing Education Department. They pride themselves on being the only program of its kind on the California Coast that has been approved by the American Bar Association. This is a great way to kickstart a summer that will take you where you want to go in your career as a paralegal. The coursework enhances and develops practical legal skills that are critical for the success of paralegals in the workplace. Students will also learn how to effectively map out and plan for cases, which includes interviewing and research skills. Students will also learn how to follow directives from a variety of attorneys. Another important skill that will be covered at length is fact gathering, fact-checking, and tracking down critical information. Advisors are on hand to answer pertinent questions for prospective and current students.
18. University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin offers a fully Online Paralegal Certificate Summer Program. The entire course of study has no on-campus requirements making it both convenient and fairly flexible, though still intensive. Students will have twelve months to complete the entire program with a summer start. The most current and in-demand legal skills are regularly assessed by the program advising committee and brought forth. Students will learn how to utilize traditional texts, take online lecture notes, participate in writing labs and use reference materials that come from all 50 states, and take part in mock exams that will prepare students for the official certification exam. Participants will get to choose the electives that interest them including: Tort Law, Contract Law, Family Law, Business Organizations, and Criminal Law. This is an excellent and relevant program for any professional or otherwise considering a career in law or specifically as a paralegal.
19. University of California Irvine
The University of California Irvine offers an American Bar Association approved Paralegal program that is delivered on campus or online, as per the student’s choice. The entire course of study can be completed in three months if the student chooses the full-time option. The part-time version of the program can be completed in 12-24 months. This is to say that the choice is there to make this one of the intensive paralegal programs. They request that you engage in the coursework in sequence, and some of the classes include fundamentals of the paralegal profession, contracts, legal writing, legal research, civil litigation, ethics for the paralegal, technology practicum for the paralegal, and legal career skills, among others. Students can choose between a variety of electives that include corporate law, criminal law, and paralegal internships, among others. Prospective students must either have an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree to apply.
20. University of San Diego School of Law
The University of San Diego School of Law offers a Paralegal Certificate Day Program. In fact, this is one of the notable intensive paralegal programs out there. Students can complete the entire certificate in only four months’ time. The culminating certificate is approved by the American Bar Association. Participants will be able to acquire the skills that will bring them a high level of professional competency in the field. Some of these include an understanding of legal terminology, how to conduct effective legal research, court structure, the ethics of legal support, among many others. Students in this day program must undertake 24 units over the course of two terms. This program is known for its rigor and required stamina, so it is specially tailored to those who want to begin working in the legal field as soon as possible. The summer term runs from May to August.
21. University of Massachusetts – Lowell
The University of Massachusetts Lowell offers one of the fast track paralegal programs that can be achieved entirely online. There are, however, options to take it in a blended online and on-campus format. The program is a synthesis of practical hands-on legal skills and legal theory. Many of the courses engage relevantly and cutting edge topics to the legal field. Included are real estate law, litigation and research methods. The program is customizable to meet the unique academic and career goals of each participant. There are also a variety of electives including property and corporate law, family law, estates and trusts, wills, and even special topics like women and the law. If the student decides to move into a relevant bachelor’s program all of this coursework can apply to that academic path. In order to obtain the certificate, students must complete all of the coursework.
22. University of California Davis
The University of California Davis Continuing Education Program offers a Paralegal Studies Certificate Program that is delivered entirely online. The format is extremely flexible and self-paced. Being one of the great options within intensive paralegal programs, this program can be completed in as little as six months’ time, but students can choose to take it slower. Their curriculum is facilitated by leaders in the field of law who are currently practicing. There are many networking opportunities throughout the course of study and beyond. They will impart best law practices in the curriculum including skills like: conducting effective legal research, client management, litigation procedures, and understanding nuances in personal injury malpractice and liability. Students will gain practice working with legally binding contracts, analyzing them and drafting them. Students can enroll in this program at any time. The course of study is in alignment with the California Business and Professionals code for paralegal education.
23. University of California Berkeley
The University of California Berkeley Extension offers a certificate program in paralegal studies. This program is delivered entirely online with no need to ever step foot on campus. This is one of the fast track paralegal programs that can be completed in as little as six months’ time. Students can easily tailor the program to their interests by way of elective courses whether they want to emphasize family law, criminal law, estate law, or another discipline. There are three classes that are mandatory and three elective courses to complete. In all, this accounts for eight-semester units that come out to 360 instruction hours. Participants will have access 24 hours a day seven days a week to not only resources but also support services. All of the classes are self-paced with self-designed due-dates to keep students accountable. Prospective students must have a minimum of a high school diploma to participate.
24. Duquesne University
Among the fast track paralegal programs, you will find the notable Duquesne Paralegal Institute Summer Intensive option. If you want to find the fastest way to become a paralegal, you came to the right place. This program can be completed over the course of 11 weeks. This course of study is certainly full-time and then some. They require that you give this your all and nothing else while you are undergoing the coursework. Students will have to attend classes on campus Monday through Friday. There are housing options for students who participate in the program from other regions. There is also a part time option in which students will have access to evening classes. The summer program begins on June 1. The application is free and user friendly. There are many exciting possibilities in the Duquesne University Law program, including opportunities to engage with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.
25. Capital University
Capital University’s Law School offers a renowned Paralegal Program that supports students to develop advanced skills that will support them to be competitive candidates for jobs in the legal field. They have been on the front lines of paralegal training for 50 years with an excellent track record. This certificate program is approved by the American Bar Association. Prospective students must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to be considered for the program. Students will learn how to conduct legal research effectively and efficiently, provide professional case management, understand important issues that tie into legal theory as well as practical hands-on skills. They pride themselves on fostering diversity in all of their programming and creating a flexible option that can be achieved by many different kinds of learners. Most of the classes take place on campus, however, there will be several field trips that include courtroom experiences.
As you can see from the comprehensive list above, there are several fast track paralegal programs out there. Many of these options are perfect for students who are interested in a career change, a career boost, or a way to turn the page to the next chapter in their lives. If you are looking for a summer paralegal program that will culminate in a certificate there are several to choose from. One of the variables includes format. For instance, some of these programs are conducted online, though many require you to log in at a certain time. What this means is they may be convenient, but not necessarily flexible. Some of the summer paralegal programs take place on campus, and due to the nature of their intensity, it might be a residential experience.
How to Become a Paralegal
Becoming a paralegal means brushing up and acquiring some critical skills that will make you an asset to any legal office. One skill that is highly in demand is the ability to write and reason. This requires a great deal of context and understanding of the law as well as the ability to comprehend the rationale and logic of the text. Most of these programs train participants to think and reason like a lawyer. Generally, the coursework is writing-intensive with several legal writing assignments that will be evaluated at great length. Later, this work can contribute to your portfolio. Other skills embedded in the fabric of a paralegal certificate program generally include comprehensive research methodology as well as case analysis. Many of the programs offer units on job searching and networking. You will see that many of the programs at hand require a capstone project of some kind, which generally includes some form of hands-on experience. Finding an extensive internship opportunity in a summer paralegal program is not common, because of the truncated length. However, many of the longer programs give students the opportunity to participate in extended internships and even gain work experience at clinics that are pro bono or otherwise. It is important to have a sense of what your priorities are when going after a program, as they all feature something a little different.
Legal technology could be an entire course of study in itself, though it is touched upon in all of these programs at varying degrees. There are a variety of computer applications that paralegals must be fluent in to contribute effectively to the office for which they work. Many of these programs prepare students to gain literacy in legal software packages. Among the soft skills, students will learn are a variety of theoretical concepts that may include topics like ethics and hard skills like interviewing a witness and general client engagement.
Whatever it is that brought you to look at intensive paralegal programs, we hope you have enough information here to weigh the variety of offerings and lean into something that speaks to you. Whether you want something that is remote and flexible, or you want to travel to a new place to hunker down and learn in-house there are many options.