Illinois State University has been providing quality paralegal education since 1975. The ISU Legal Studies Program, an American Bar Association approved program, prepares students for a career as a paralegal in public and private law offices, corporate law departments, and government agencies. Students learn how lawyers think and how to communicate effectively with both lawyers and laymen. When acting under an attorney's supervision, a trained paralegal can perform many law-related tasks although they do not give legal advice to clients, set fees, or represent clients in court. Paralegals may not provide legal services directly to the public except as permitted by law.
The Legal Studies Program offers five program options: Major in Legal Studies; Minor in Legal Studies; and two non-degree alternatives (Certificate in Legal Studies with a Bachelor's Degree and Certificate in Legal Studies without a Bachelor's Degree). Students who successfully complete one of the options earn a Legal Studies certificate, a respected credential that is helpful in securing employment. Specific information for each course of study is provided on the Program Options page.
Students in all options must successfully complete a 15 semester hour core that covers: the operation of the legal system and the role of the paralegal within that system; an overview of major substantive areas of the law; legal research and writing; as well as civil and criminal practice and procedure. They also must complete nine semester hours of paralegal specialty coursework.
Internships provide students with an opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to real world problems. Legal Studies majors are required to complete three credit hours of Paralegal Internship (135 clock hours) and may complete an additional three credit hours (135 clock hours) of internship which counts toward the elective requirement. Minors and non-degree option students may complete up to six credit hours of internship (270 clock hours) to satisfy part of the nine hour elective course requirement.
Internship placements involve different areas of law in a variety of settings such as private law firms, the State's Attorney's Office, the Public Defender's Office, and corporate legal departments.
The paralegal profession is expanding much faster than the average for all United States occupations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of paralegals and legal assistants will grow 28 percent between 2008 and 2018. Similarly, the Illinois Department of Employment Security projects that employment of paralegals and legal assistants will grow 24.99 percent between 2008 and 2018. Of the 915 occupations considered in the IDEC projections, paralegals/legal assistants rank number 36 in terms of employment growth rate during this ten year period.
Legal paraprofessionals work in a variety of private and governmental settings. Depending on the area of legal specialization involved, legal assistants or paralegals may interview witnesses and take statements; gather medical records, government records, and corporate documents; undertake legal research and write legal memoranda; develop preliminary drafts of pleadings and agreements; calculate taxes; arrange for expert witnesses; digest deposition transcripts; maintain a law library; or coordinate real estate closings.
Salaries vary widely and depend upon the degree of formal education, the level of prior experience, the type of employer, the specialty area involved and the geographic location. Local paralegal associations are the best source for specific information.
Illinois State University is committed to helping its Legal Studies graduates obtain appropriate paralegal positions. While the University does not guarantee placement, it will assist the graduate in locating employment within the paralegal profession. The Legal Studies Program publishes a bi-monthly placement e-newsletter for graduates and students entering their last semester of studies. The University maintains a Career Center which provides assistance in resume drafting, interviewing strategies, and job search techniques.
Paralegal job search link: TopUSAJobs
Students who completed legal specialty courses at a school that has an articulation agreement with the Illinois State University Legal Studies program can receive credit towards a Legal Studies Major, Minor or non-degree students seeking a certificate. Students should contact the Director of Legal Studies to determine whether they are eligible for this credit.
Students who have completed legal specialty courses in other paralegal education programs may receive up to 12 credit hours towards their graduate or undergraduate certificate. The Director of Legal Studies shall have the discretion to award this credit based upon the following factors:
• Whether the course was taken through an ABA approved paralegal education program
• Similarity of course content (e.g. textbooks used, topics covered, nature of assignments)
• Date of course completion
• Grade received