Frequently Asked Questions
What is a paralegal?
Paralegals work closely with attorneys, judges, prosecutors, or public defenders and perform a wide range of professional tasks, such as legal research, writing, interviewing, document preparation, and office management. Paralegals work in law firms, business corporations, and government agencies. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), “A paralegal is a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible." American Bar Association, 2020. See the ABA Standing Committee on Paralegals web site for more information. Please note that paralegals may not provide legal services directly to the public, except as permitted by law.
Also, State Bar of Georgia Advisory Opinion No. 21, revised, sets forth the following definition:
"For the purposes of this opinion, the terms "legal assistant," "paraprofessional," and "paralegal" are defined as any lay people not admitted to the practice of law in this state who is an employee of or an assistant to, an active member of the State Bar of Georgia or of a partnership or professional corporation comprised of active members of the State Bar of Georgia and who renders services relating to the law to such member, partnership or professional corporation under the direct control, supervision and compensation of a member of the State Bar of Georgia."
Did that help? If not, we’ll go over all of this in the PARA 1101 course. The general tasks which paralegals may and may not perform are listed in Georgia Bar Advisory Opinion No. 21 in conjunction with Advisory Opinion No. 19.
How are paralegals regulated?
In the State of Georgia, there is no licensing requirement to become a paralegal. Paralegals and all other non-attorneys in Georgia are governed by an "unauthorized practice of law" (UPL) statute (O.C.G.A. sec. 15-9-50, et seq. - accessible from our home page under the heading "Georgia Research," and the topic "GA Bar"), which sanctions people who engage in the practice of law without a license.
In addition, there is no certification requirement for paralegals working in Georgia. Individual certification is a voluntary process offered by national paralegal organizations through rigorous examinations. For more information on such organizations, including NALA and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), please visit their web sites which are linked to our Home Page under "Paralegal Organizations." To be a "certified paralegal", you must pass one of the two national exams, either the CP exam or the PACE exam. If you pass one of these exams, you are authorized to call yourself a "certified paralegal" and you may use the letters "CP" or "RP" after your name.
How much education is required to become a paralegal?
There are no formal education requirements to work as a paralegal in the State of Georgia. However, education guidelines have been set up by national paralegal organizations on the subject. Aside from law course offerings, such organizations place importance on general education requirements offered at the college level.
What work qualities are important to become an effective paralegal?
This is a very subjective question. The answer depends on the attorney you eventually work for and the type of tasks you will be performing. Some of the qualities attorneys look for in a paralegal are:
An ethical, detail-oriented, computer-proficient person who can work in a "team" setting, and who possesses effective organizational, communication (especially writing), and critical thinking skills.
Is the Clayton State Legal Studies Program ABA-approved?
Yes, the programs housed in our Legal Studies Program (B.S. degree in Legal Studies, A.S. in Paralegal Studies, Paralegal Certificate) are all ABA-approved (except the minor in Legal Studies, which is not approved by the ABA).
When are Clayton State paralegal/legal studies classes offered? What is the cost of the Paralegal Certificate, B.S. in Legal Studies, or A.S. in Paralegal Studies?
Most PARA-coded or LGST-coded classes meet at least once during weekday evenings from 6:30pm-9:00 pm, Monday-Thursday. In addition, we offer several online or hybrid online courses and occasionally offer a class on Saturdays. All general education classes are offered at a variety of times in the morning, afternoon and evening hours. Clayton State is on a semester system, with Fall (August), Spring (January) and Summer (May) sessions.
You should contact the CSU Financial Aid Office (678-466-4185) for all questions pertaining to financial aid.
See the Registrar's Home Page for tuition/fees. For the Clayton State Admissions Office, call (678) 466-4115, or visit its web site on the University Home Page.
How are computers used in the program?
In the Legal Studies Program, we recognize that there are many learning styles which deviate from traditional lectures. In addition, attorneys and other employers are demanding that college graduates become computer-savvy in order to effectively compete in the workplace. Our graduates obtain extensive computer training and are exposed to the use of case management and billing software; legal research via the internet, Westlaw, and several word processing languages. In short, they will be ready to walk into a law office or other legal setting with an array of skills.
What is the curriculum like in Clayton State’s Paralegal and Legal Studies Programs?
We receive input on curriculum development from an Advisory Board comprised of community leaders, judges, attorneys, paralegals, supervisors of paralegals, and businesspeople.
Students learn substantive rules of law and gain "real world exposure" to the legal field. In addition, students may complete an internship in a law firm, corporation, or government agency.
Students learn how to draft several pleadings, memos and other legal documents in an interactive classroom environment and then must draft these documents for a grade.
Who teaches the law courses in the program?
All instructors are attorneys with experience in the discipline that they teach.
To which Professional Associations does Clayton State's Paralegal Studies Program belong?
American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE)
Where can I get assistance with resume writing and my job search?
The program works very closely with CSU’s Office of Career Services on developing job leads. Routinely, we receive job postings from potential employers by e-mail and forward them to students. Some legal employers post them directly with the Office of Career Services, which is located in the Student Center. You should check your CSU e-mail for weekly postings and visit this office regularly! Counselors are available to review your resume and cover letter and to discuss interviewing strategies and attire. They will even conduct mock interviews.
Furthermore, you can make an appointment with Prof. Antoinette France-Harris, who serves as the department’s advisor in the area. With Prof. Harris, you can brainstorm about your search for paralegal employment and receive additional assistance. Moreover, you will find several resources in her office and in the CSU Library geared exclusively to paralegals on these topics.
What if I have further questions?
Please contact the Program Coordinator, Prof. Antoinette France-Harris.