PARALEGAL STUDIES PROGRAM
TYLER BUILDING - ROOM 110
3001 NORTH BEAUREGARD STREET
ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA 22311
Thank you for your interest in the Paralegal Studies Program offered by Northern
Virginia Community College. The program is approved by the American Bar
Association, and offers college credit leading to an Associate’s Degree in Applied
Science (AAS). Graduates are prepared to work as paralegals (also called legal
assistants). Paralegals are persons who are qualified by education, training or wok
experience to perform specifically delegated substantive legal work. A licensed attorney
must retain ultimate responsibility for the legal work. Paralegals are not permitted to offer
legal services directly to the public. Paralegals work in private law firms of varied sizes,
for government agencies, in corporate legal departments, for non-profit organizations,
and in variety of other settings. If you would like to know more about the paralegal
profession, including current salary ranges and future employment outlooks, this website,
from the US. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, provides some useful
The paralegal studies curriculum at NVCC consists of eleven courses (thirty-three
semester hours) in legal specialty courses and thirty-two semester hours in general
education courses. The legal specialty courses include an introductory course, skill based
courses in legal research and legal writing, and courses in eight substantive areas of law.
General education courses focus on building skills in the areas of writing, oral
communication, logic and computer competency, and also include liberal arts courses in
the humanities and in the natural and social sciences.
Prospective students often ask whether the College can guarantee placement after
graduation. It cannot. The College has no active internship or cooperative education
programs. The college does, however, have a placement office, where students can go for
help with resume writing and interviewing skills. Information from local employers who
would like to hire students or graduates is kept in the placement office, and students can
access that information both in person and on line. The best way to find an initial job in
the paralegal field is probably to join a professional paralegal organization, for
networking opportunities, while accepting temporary positions through a legal placement
agency. Temporary jobs can often turn into full time positions. Jobs for experienced
paralegals are plentiful and are often advertised within professional paralegal
organizations. The first job in the field is the hardest one to find. Even so, approximately
70% of paralegal studies program graduates are able to find a job in the field within 6
months of graduation.
The paralegal studies program sponsors regular working paralegal nights that
provide students with opportunities to talk with working paralegals and legal staffing
professionals about the job market. Students are encouraged to join the National Capital
Area Paralegal Association (NCAPA), a local group of professional paralegals and
paralegal studies students, to keep abreast of information on developments in the
profession and in the working world. To contact NCAPA, go to www.ncapa.com. A new
professional organization has recently organized in Northern Virginia. That group is
called the Paralegal Association of Northern Virginia (PANV). For information about
PANV, please contact Melissa Muniz: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the organization’s
new website at www.panv.org
NVCC’s paralegal studies program is designed so that students who have no
previous college experience can earn their degrees after four semesters of full-time study.
Students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or
university are exempt from NVCC’s general education requirements, and can earn their
paralegal studies degrees after completing eleven legal specialty courses and a course
designed to insure computer competency. This can normally be done in two semesters
(nine months) of full-time study. All students must take at least 50% of the required legal
specialty courses (at least 6 of the eleven LGL courses) at NVCC, rather than at any other
college, in order to earn the AAS degree.
Most of our students attend on a part-time basis, and complete courses at
whatever rate is best for them. Because many NVCC students hold full-time jobs, both
evening and day classes are scheduled each semester. Each course meets one day per
week for two hours and forty-five minutes. General education courses may be taken at
any campus or on line, at a variety of day and evening times. Students who have taken a
course substantially similar to any course in NVCC’s curriculum at another accredited
college should talk with a faculty member about the possibility of transferring the credit
Because our paralegal studies program grants college credit rather than continuing
education units, the credential awarded to our graduates is called a “degree” rather than a
“certificate.” NVCC does not offer a separate certificate program for graduate students,
although graduate students can take advantage of the short twelve course path to the
degree described above. Many prospective students ask whether the program’s
curriculum leads to paralegal certification. The answer is that it can, when a student
chooses to follow that route. The only way to become a certified or registered paralegal is
by taking and passing one of two exams offered by two national professional paralegal
associations. Students who have obtained certificates, rather than degrees, from other
schools must also take and pass an exam to become certified. (There is a difference, in
the admittedly confusing language used to describe the paralegal field, between being
“certificated” and becoming “certified!”) Although certification can provide a useful
credential in the job market, it is completely voluntary. No state currently requires that a
person be licensed or certified in order to work as a paralegal. That said, obtaining
certification is a good way to distinguish yourself from other candidates in the job
market, and a proactive and forward thinking career move. At present, separate
certification exams are offered by two different national professional paralegal
associations: the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), and the National
Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).
NALA’s certification exam (known as the “Certified Paralegal” or “CP,” Exam)
can be taken by persons who have completed a qualifying course of paralegal education.
No practical work experience is required to take this exam. All students who graduate
from NVCC’s paralegal studies program are eligible to take the NALA certification
exam. In addition, students who already have a bachelor’s degree in any area from any
accredited college can become eligible to take NALA’s certification exam by
completing 15 semester hours (5 NVCC courses) in paralegal studies courses. Those
who pass the NALA certification exam are entitled to use the credential “CP,” which
stands for “certified paralegal.” For more information on NALA certification
requirements, please contact NALA at www.nala.org.
NFPA requires those who take its exam (known as the “Paralegal Advanced
Competency,” or “PACE” exam) to have completed both a qualifying course of paralegal
education and a period of working experience as a paralegal. Students who graduate from
NVCC’s program can sit for the PACE exam after accumulating six years of work
experience. Students who complete NVCC’s program and who have also earned a
bachelor’s degree can sit for the PACE exam after accumulating two years of work
experience. Those who pass the PACE exam are entitled to use the credential “RP,”
which stands for “registered paralegal.” For more information on NFPA’s certification
requirements, please contact NFPA at www.paralegals.org.
A four year college degree is an increasingly desirable, if not always necessary,
educational credential associated with a successful paralegal career. Students who are
beginning their college studies in our program can successfully enter the job market with
their AAS degrees, but should also think about eventually going on to earn a four year
degree at another college. Under certain circumstances, students can apply many of the
credits earned in NVCC’s AAS degree program in paralegal studies toward four-year
degrees. As a general rule, general education courses will be accepted by almost all other
colleges, while legal specialty courses will transfer only to colleges that either offer a
four year degree in paralegal studies or permit self-designed majors. The BIS (Bachelor
of Individualized Studies) program offered at George Mason University, the Bachelor of
Professional Studies offered at Mary Washington University’s Stafford Campus, the
BAIS (Bachelor in Individualized Studies) program offered through Catholic
University’s Metropolitan College, and the individualized study program offered at
National Louis University provide good non-traditional , self designed four year degree
options to many students who live and work in the Northern Virginia area. Most or all of
the credits earned while studying for NVCC’s AAS degree in paralegal studies can be
applied toward these four year degrees.
Students whose future plans include applying to law school should know that law
schools generally prefer applicants who have broad general undergraduate educations in
the liberal arts, and who have developed strong communication and reasoning skills.
Prospective law students, as well as students whose interests are currently broad and
unsettled should think about their AAS degree in paralegal studies as a separate
credential to be earned alongside a more traditional four year liberal arts degree, even
though not all of the legal specialty credits will transfer to the four year school of their
choice. NVCC has an increasing number of articulation agreements with a wide range of
four year colleges both in and out of Virginia: agreements that provide not only for
guaranteed transfer of credits, but also, and under specific circumstances, for guaranteed
admission to the four year schools involved. These articulation agreements apply
primarily to NVCC’s transfer oriented AA and AS degrees: degrees that concentrate on
the study of liberal arts. It is possible for a student to earn both a liberal arts oriented AA
or AS degree (for transfer purposes) and an AAS degree in paralegal studies (for
professional certification and employment purpose) in 5 semesters of full-time study.
Please contact the program’s director, Teresa Blier (email@example.com), or the program’s
counselor, Josh Richey (firstname.lastname@example.org), for more information.
The following pages describe the courses required to obtain the ABA approved
AAS degree in Paralegal Studies. Legal specialty courses are designed to build practical
skills such as solving legal research problems, drafting legal documents, and performing
title searches. The courses are also designed to build knowledge of basic principles of
substantive and procedural law. Legal specialty courses are offered only at the
Alexandria campus. Some courses may be offered on line.
All beginning paralegal studies students should take Introduction to Law (LGL
110) during their first semester of study. Students who are not college graduates should
also take should take ENG 111 (English Composition One), SVD 100 (Orientation: Skills
for Success in College), and ITE 115 (Computer Literacy) early in their course of studies.
All paralegal studies students should take Legal Research (LGL 125) before taking Legal
Writing (LGL 126). The remaining legal specialty courses may be taken in any order.
Please talk with a faculty member or a counselor about a sequence that will work well for
Although our program is designed primarily to prepare students to work as
competent and ethical paralegals, we also welcome students who want to test their
interest in a law-related career. Students who are exploring their interest in law should
consider taking LGL 110 (Intro to Law). Those who have been accepted to law school
might be interested in taking LGL 125 (Legal Research) or LGL 126 (Legal Writing)
during the summer before they begin their law school studies. The program also
welcomes students who have particular personal or work-related interests in certain areas
of law (real estate, wills, or family law, for example).
NVCC operates on the semester system. Fall semester courses begin during the
last week in August and spring semester courses begin in early January. Summer courses
begin in mid-May. Course schedules are mailed to all Northern Virginia residents and
are available on line at www.nvcc.edu. Tuition changes periodically. Current costs can be
checked in the current schedule of classes. Students must be domiciled in Virginia for
one year prior to beginning classes to qualify for in-state tuition rates. Tuition is due at
the beginning of each semester for the courses to be taken in that semester. The cost of
textbooks, which can be found by course title at the Alexandria Campus Bookstore, is
additional. Information on available scholarships, loans and grants can be obtained
through the Financial Aid Office: (703) 845-6350.
The college and the program have an open admissions policy. Students can apply
for admission to the College and register for courses by using Novaconnect (available on
the College website at www.nvcc.edu) or by calling (703) 323-3770. Students may also
register in person at any college campus. Course advisement and counseling are available
during both day and evening hours throughout the registration period. Further
information about the registration process can be obtained from the Student Services
Office, at (703) 845-6330.
If you need additional information about the program or about specific legal
specialty courses, please contact Teresa Blier by email at email@example.com or by phone at
(703) 845-6277. Thank you again for your interest!
Teresa S. Blier
NVCC PARALEGAL STUDIES PROGRAM GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
The primary purpose of the paralegal studies program is to educate
competent and ethical paralegals, that is, persons who are able to perform
specifically delegated substantive legal tasks under the supervision of a
licensed attorney. The program strives to balance theory and practice, so
that graduates are able to perform specific legal tasks but also have a broad
understanding of the principles of law a task involves. The program is
intended to develop critical thinking, analytical and communication skills
across the curriculum.
Although the education and training of those seeking to become paralegals is
the program’s primary purpose, the program also seeks to meet the needs of
community members who want to test their interest in a law-related career,
increase working skills in a particular area of law, or learn about a
particular area of law due to personal need or interest.
The NVCC paralegal studies program is designed to insure that a graduating
1. Speak knowledgeably about the paralegal profession and define the
difference between the roles of attorneys and paralegals.
2. Identify legal issues, as they are presented in the context of hypothetical
client scenarios involving the eight areas of law covered in the curriculum
(business organization, contract, criminal, estate planning and probate,
evidence and procedure, family, real estate, and tort law).
3. Locate governing federal or state Constitutional provisions, statutes,
regulations and case decisions, using both manual and computer assisted
4. Analyze and reason to apply legal principles to factual situations.
5. Identify and locate standard forms appropriate to specific legal problems.
6. Draft legal documents, including but not limited to pleadings, contracts,
wills and deeds.
7. Identify the courts or agencies having jurisdiction over various cases at
various stages in litigation.
8. Speak clearly about a legal issue and its resolution.
9. Write clearly, using appropriate citation form, about a legal issue and its
10. Identify and resolve ethical issues presented in the course of hypothetical
COURSES REQUIRED OF ALL STUDENTS
LGL 110: INTRODUCTION TO LAW
Introduces various areas of law. Includes study of the Virginia and federal court
systems, as well as brief overviews of criminal law, torts, family law, contracts, ethics,
litigation and evidence, constitutional law and other areas of interest. Covers the roles of
lawyers and paralegals. Emphasizes legal reasoning skills, stare decisis and common law
LGL 115: REAL ESTATE LAW
Studies the law of real property, and gives an in depth survey of common types of real
estate transactions, such as deeds, contracts, leases, and deeds of trust or mortgages.
Focuses on drafting the instruments involved. Includes research projects, and study of
the system of recording and searching for public documents.
LGL 117: FAMILY LAW
Studies the elements of a valid marriage, grounds for and defenses to divorce and
annulment actions, separation issues, support, custody, equitable distribution of marital
property, and applicable tax consequences. Focuses on separation and prenuptial
agreements, common pleadings, and applicable rules of procedure. Also includes the
study of juvenile courts, adoptions and the rights and duties of family members in
LGL 125: LEGAL RESEARCH
Provides an understanding of the various components of a law library, and emphasizes
research skills through the use of digests, encyclopedias, reporters, codes, Shepards,
ALR, and other research tools. Includes instruction in computer-assisted legal research
methods, including Westlaw and Internet based research. Students will use George
Mason Law School Law Library, a collection of legal research materials in the
Alexandria campus library,. and on-campus computer labs.
LGL 126: LEGAL WRITING
Requires competence in basic English composition. Includes preparation of various
legal documents, including case, trial and appellate briefs, legal memoranda, letters,
pleadings and contracts. Stresses appropriate use of precedent, analogy and distinction,
citation form and other practical applications.
LL 215: TORTS
Studies fundamental principles of the law of torts, including the preparation and use of
pleadings and other documents involved in the trial of civil actions. Covers personal
injury and malpractice actions, as well as products liability law, intentional and statutory
LGL 217: TRIAL PRACTICE AND THE LAW OF EVIDENCE
Introduces civil and criminal trial procedures and the rules of evidence. Studies the
types and admissibility of evidence, and methods and techniques of its acquisition.
Emphasizes state and federal rules of evidence and procedures. Focuses on elements of
trial and on the problems associated with the trial of a civil or criminal case.
LGL 218: CRIMINAL LAW
Focuses on major crimes: their classification, elements of proof, intent, conspiracy,
responsibility, parties and defenses. Includes general principles of applicable
constitutional law and criminal procedure.
LGL 225: ESTATE PLANNING AND PROBATE
Studies the substantive law of wills and inheritance and the preparation of forms
necessary to probate an estate. Includes instruction on durable powers of attorney, living
wills, and other legal issues associated with death and dying.
LGL 230: LEGAL TRANSACTIONS
Introduces commercial principles and practices. Covers the common law of contracts
and the Uniform Commercial Code. Emphasizes contract formation, title, warranties,
consideration, performance, parties and remedies. Includes study of consumer protection
LGL 235: LEGAL ASPECTS OF BUSINESS ORGANIZATIONS
Examines the formation of business entities, including sole proprietorships,
partnerships, corporations, and modern hybrid forms. Includes principles of law
applicable to each, and preparation of the documents necessary for organization and
ITE 115: COMPUTER LITERACY
Teaches basic Microsoft Office skills, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and
Access. Students who are already competent in these areas may substitute a more
GENERAL EDUCATION COURSES AND ELECTIVES
(required of students who have not already earned a bachelor’s degree)
Students must earn a total of 5 semester hours (typically two courses) in approved
electives. The electives may be in any area consistent with the student’s personal
interests and career goals. Some suggestions are Business, Accounting, Political Science,
History, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, Word Processing, Advanced Writing or
Speaking, Medical Technology or Foreign Language courses. Students may also choose
to take one or more of the legal specialty courses listed below as electives. Elective credit
may be granted for courses taken at other accredited colleges.
LGL 295 OR 298: TOPICAL SEMINARS AND PROJECTS IN LAW
These courses allow students to study specialized areas of law. Past offerings
have included immigration law (now offered as LGL 250), bankruptcy law,
administrative law (soon to be offered as LGL 220) , constitutional law, and legal aspects
of the Internet. Students may substitute any one of these courses for any required LGL
course other than Intro to Law, Legal Research or Legal Writing.
LGL 234 – Law of Intellectual Property
This course covers the law governing patents, trademarks, and copyrights.
Students may substitute this course for any required LGL course other than Intro to Law,
Legal Research or Legal Writing.
B. General education
SDV 100: ORIENTATION TO COLLEGE AND SKILLS FOR SUCCESS
Students who have already had significant college experience may substitute
another SDV course. Options include courses focusing on interviewing skills, resume
writing, career building, interest testing and job searching. The orientation course must
be completed before a student enrolls in his or her 16th semester hour at NVCC. Students
may obtain a free credit in lieu of completing this course if they are able to pass an exam
administered in the counseling center. (1 semester hour)
PED 116: LIFETIME FITNESS AND WELLNESS
Students may take a two credit course in Lifetime Fitness and Wellness or may opt
to take only one credit hour of that course and add an elective physical activity course.
Students who have been on active military duty may request a waiver, but must still have
a total of 65 semester hours to graduate. (2 semester hours)
ENG 111-112 ENGLISH COMPOSITION
Designed to develop English writing ability. ENG 111 should be taken before
LGL 126 (Legal Writing). ENG 125, a literature course, may be substituted for ENG 112.
(6 semester hours)
MATH OR SCIENCE REQUIREMENT
MTH 151 - MATHEMATICS FOR THE LIBERAL ARTS - IS
RECOMMENDED. STUDENTS MAY SUBSTITUTE OTHER MATH OR
Math 151 is designed to transfer to most four year institutions. It includes statistics,
probability, and applications of mathematical principles to computers, logic and problem
solving. Students may choose a higher level math course. Students may also choose to
complete any laboratory science course in place of math. (3 semester hours)
ORAL COMMUNICATION REQUIREMENT
Most students take CST 110: Introduction to Speech Communication. CST 100
(Principles of Public Speaking), CST 125 (Interpersonal Communication) or CST 229
(Intercultural Communication) may be substituted. (3 semester hours)
SOCIAL SCIENCE REQUIREMNT
PSY 201-202 (INTRO TO PSYCHOLOGY) or SOC 201-202 (INTRO TO
SOCIOLOGY) ARE RECOMMENDED.
Students may substitute other approved social science courses in human behavior,
history, government or economics). (6 semester hours)
PHI 112: (LOGIC) OR PHI 115 (PRACTICAL REASONING) ARE
The recommended courses provide practice in reasoning skills and in analyzing
and constructing arguments. Students may substitute another approved philosophy,
ethics, or religion course. (3 semester hours)
(3 semester hours)