Colorful word cloud of terms related to paralegal studies

The Duke name led to interviews but it was the solid class work that landed me the job.

Karen, Spring 2011

Paralegal Classroom Program

This certificate program is designed for individuals who are seeking a career change and the skill-set for a successful transition into the paralegal profession.  The Duke Paralegal Studies Program is a comprehensive course of study designed to train students in the aspects of the profession most in demand and most desired by attorneys. The classroom program has been designated as a “qualified program” by the NC State Bar and graduates of the program are eligible to apply for the NC State Bar Paralegal Certification Exam.   The program is taught by licensed, practicing attorneys.
The program meets several nights a week, and occasional Saturdays over 5 months for a total of 300 course hours.  A minimum of an US level two-year associate degree is required for application for this program.
The skill-based format of the Duke Paralegal Program provides students with practical training in preparation for the workplace. When students finish our program they are ready to enter the workforce as a paralegal. Each student finishes the program with a client file filled with documents prepared as part of their studies. The client file will serve as a showpiece during interviews and provide students with an end product that represents the skills they acquired through their studies in the program.


Here are some advantages of the classroom program:
  • NC State Bar qualified program
  • Students are prepared for a new legal career in only 5 months
  • Full access to Lexis Advance and Westlaw Next legal research sites with video and classroom tutorials
  • Learn from several different instructors, who are licensed attorneys with at least ten years of experience practicing law
  • Curriculum created for paralegals by paralegals to teach the skills most sought after and in demand within the legal industry
  • Unsurpassed supplemental website support includes lecture notes, writing labs, video tutorials, quizzes, and mock exams
  • Review class available prior to sitting for the NC Paralegal Certification exam
  • Earn a paralegal certificate from Duke University Continuing Studies
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Curriculum & Course Details

The Duke Paralegal Studies Program is a 300 hour course of study designed to train students in the aspects of the profession most in demand and most desired by attorneys. The program has been designated as a “qualified program” by the NC State Bar and graduates of the program are eligible to apply for the NC State Bar Paralegal Certification Exam.

The Duke Paralegal Certificate Program curriculum is based upon criteria established and approved by the NC State Bar. Therefore, the program meets the certification requirements of the State of North Carolina. It is incumbent upon out-of-state students to ensure that the program meets the requirements for paralegal certification and/or education training in their state of residence or intended state of employment.

The Duke Paralegal Certificate Program will not assume responsibility for providing additional curriculum or contact hours to meet other state requirements.

Following is the course curriculum for the Classroom-based program. The structure may vary for the Online program.

Essential Skills for Paralegals

  • Fundamentals of the Profession
  • Evidence and Investigation
  • Legal Research and Writing 
  • Pleadings and Discovery
  • Motion Practice
  • The Legal Environment
  • The Law Office
  • Legal Ethics
  • North Carolina Courts
  • Federal Courts
  • Legal Technology
  • Extra-Judicial Processes

Substantive Legal Studies

Contract Law - A rocket-sled ride through basic Contract Law, this course introduces students to fundamental contract theory and terminology. Topics covered include contract formation, modification, breach, and remedies. Upon completion of the course, students will be able to identify key theoretical concepts and apply simple analysis to contract problems.

Tort Law - Tort Law deals with a class of civil wrongs or harms to people or property. Students in this class will learn about negligence actions, intentional torts, and the process of civil litigation. Emphasis will be placed on the practical skills that paralegals need to help attorneys prepare to prosecute or defend civil matters from pre-filing through trial to post-trial motions.

Family Law - Students will embark upon exploration of Family Law to:  (1) understand the fundamental elements of Family Law, (2) identify core legal issues within the field, and (3) understand the duties of the paralegal in the Family and Matrimonial arena. 

Real Property Law - This course has two main goals: to familiarize students with the basic concepts of Property Law and to introduce students to the practice of title searches and loan closings. The study of Real Property Law provides a basis for the work in a Real Estate practice. At the end of this course, successful students will be able to conduct their own title search from a home computer and be ready to understand the workings of a real estate firm.

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The North Carolina State Bar has designated Duke Continuing Studies Paralegal Certificate as a qualified paralegal studies program.  Upon completion of the classroom program, students are prepared for the North Carolina State Bar Paralegal Certification Exam.  Please see some general FAQ’s below.
Is Duke's Program Qualified by the NC State Bar?
Yes, Duke University's Classroom-based Paralegal Program has been designated as qualified and meets the NC State Bar standards for paralegal education. Students who successfully complete the Duke Program will be eligible to apply for the certification exam to be administered by the State Bar twice a year.
What is Duke's pass rate?
See the pass rates for Duke and for all paralegal programs in North Carolina.
What is State Certification?
In June 2005, the North Carolina State Bar began implementing a plan to offer voluntary certification to North Carolina Paralegals. Paralegals who work in North Carolina may now pursue certification that will enable them to call themselves "North Carolina Certified Paralegal". The Plan does not restrict the use of the term "paralegal," nor does it differentiate between the services offered by a certified and a non-certified paralegal.
Why is the Plan voluntary?
The Plan is voluntary because it only applies to paralegals who wish to use the titles "North Carolina Certified Paralegal", "North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal", or "Paralegal Certified by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Paralegal Certification". A paralegal can choose not to participate and still perform substantive legal work under the supervision of an attorney as a "Paralegal", "Legal Assistant", or any title other than those listed above.
What is required of me once I receive the certification?
The certification is awarded for 12 months. Six hours of continuing legal education, including one hour of legal ethics, are required annually of all paralegals using the North Carolina State Bar certification titles, including those who meet the grandfathering provisions. The Duke University Paralegal Program sometimes offers these CPE credit courses. We suggest that you check the website regularly to ensure you are aware of our latest course offerings.
For more information on State Bar Certification visit the website.
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An application must be submitted in order to be considered for admission. Admission is competitive, therefore submission of an application does not guarantee admission. For details on the admission process and/or to apply, se the Application Process section.

To be considered for admission, candidates for this program must meet the following requirements.

  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • Possess word processing and internet skills.
  • Have an email account and regular access to a computer.
  • Hold either an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree. Upon notification of admission to the program, an official sealed transcript must be submitted. For degrees earned outside of the US, proof of equivalency to a US degree will need to be provided by World Education Services (WES) in place of a transcript. WES must be contacted directly by the applicant.
  • Be fluent in the English language (including reading and writing).
  • Upon notification of admission to the program, be able to pay the tuition fee in full or in accordance with the payment plan as described on the Payment Plan page of the Paralegal Studies website. Additionally, Duke Continuing Studies must be notified of approved loans by the established deadline.

If a student is admitted to the program, payment in full is expected at the time of registration. Payment can be made online with a credit card or can be made by check or money order made payable to Duke University. Student loans are another option for funding. Please see the funding sources in the Tuition & Payment section for more information about loans and government payment options. Admitted students also have the option of a payment plan for paying tuition.

Certificate requirements

  • Students must achieve an 80% minimum score in the Essentials Skills portion of the program and an 80% in each substantive area of law. Class projects, including library research, exams, and a comprehensive final will be administered. Because this is a non-credit program, students are not assigned a final grade in the course. Transcripts will be issued upon request with all course work marked either "Complete" or "Incomplete". There is a $10 fee for each transcript requested.
  • The attendance policy dictates that students must attend at least 80% of Essential Skills classes. Additionally, students are not allowed to miss more than one class for each of the four (4) substantive courses.
  • In the event that a student must miss a class, the student must notify the instructor and discuss how missed work might be completed. The Duke Paralegal Program adheres strictly to its attendance policy in both the Essential Skills portion of the program and in each of the four substantives classes. If a student violates the attendance policy, he or she will be asked to leave the program.
  • Tuition must be paid in full.
  • Parking permit (if applicable) and building access card must be returned to Paralegal Program.
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Application Process

Individuals interested in attending the classroom Duke Paralegal Certificate Program must submit an application during the application period in order to be considered for admission. Applications can only be submitted via the online application that is available on the Duke Continuing Studies Paralegal Certificate website. Applications submitted in any other form will not be accepted.

Application Process 

1. Submit the online application during the Application Period and pay the $25 non-refundable application fee. 

2. Submit your supplemental documents to the Program Manager

  • Résumé
  • Reference Letter
  • Signed Program Policy (will be mailed upon application)

Supplemental documents can be sent by postal mail (see Contact Information on right), email (, or fax (919-668-6747).  All supplemental documents should be sent to the program office within two weeks of application submission.

Applicant files are reviewed to determine approval within 5 business days of receiving all supplemental documents.  Applicants who are approved will continue through the enrollment process and complete steps 3 and 4.

3. Submit an official, sealed college transcript to verify a conferred Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree.

Transcripts must be received no later than Thursday, February 2, 2017.  For degrees earned outside of the US, proof of equivalency to a US degree will need to be provided by World Education Services (WES) in place of a transcript. WES must be contacted directly by the applicant.

4. Register for the program and pay tuition

Approved applicants must register for the course and pay tuition no later than Thursday, February 2, 2017.


Once all supplemental documents are received by the program office, applications will be reviewed to determine approval. Applicants will be notified of their admission status within one week of complete submission. Please note that submission of an application and payment of the application fee is not a guarantee of admission to the program. 

Admission to the program is discretionary and space is limited. Duke Continuing Studies, Professional Certificate Program requires students to be at least 18 years of age and meet minimum suitability standards for admission. Admitted students are Duke University Continuing Studies students and not matriculated Duke University students, therefore university student privileges do not apply.

Important Dates 

Monday, October 3, 2016 Application period opens: Applications must be completed and submitted online.
Friday, January 27, 2017 Application period closes: All applications must be submitted online and application fees paid by midnight of January 28, 2017.
Monday, January 2, 2017 Registration opens: Admitted applicants can register and pay tuition.
Thursday, February 2, 2017 Registration and transcript deadline: All applicants who wish to enroll in the Spring 2017 program must register, submit their official transcripts, and pay tuition by midnight of February 3, 2017.
Monday, February 13, 2017 First day of class.


Application questions?

Email us at

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Schedule & Registration


The next program will take place in the Spring 2017 semester. Classes begin on Monday, February 13, 2017.


Currently, the Duke Paralegal Studies Classroom program is only offered in Durham, NC.  The program is offered in the evening and on weekends in the fall and spring of each year. Classes meet Monday and Wednesday, with some Thursday and Saturday classes.

  • Weekday classes (Mondays, Wednesdays, and some Thursdays): 6:00pm to 10:00pm
  • Saturday classes: 8:30am to 4:30pm

The schedule below includes the dates for the Spring 2017 class.  Please note this schedule is subject to change.

Program and Dates

February: 13, 16, 20, 22, 23, 27

March: 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 13, 16,  18, 20, 22, 23, 27, 29, 30

April: 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13,  19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27

May: 1, 3, 4, 8, 10, 11, 17, 18, 20, 22, 24, 25, 31

June: 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 12, 14, 15 and 17

Duke University Campus, Durham, NC
Purchased separately. Not included in tuition.
($625 - $800)


The Registration Period for approved applicants opens on January 2, 2017 and closes on February 2, 2017. Admitted students wishing to register must enroll in the course, pay tuition, and submit an official sealed college or university transcript by the close of the Registration Period.

Duke Continuing Studies reserves the exclusive right, at its sole and absolute discretion, to withhold registration or require withdrawal from the program of an applicant or enrolled student. Admitted students are registered on a first-come, first-served basis.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How often do you offer this program?

The Duke Paralegal Certificate Program is offered in Durham in the evening and on weekends twice a year, each fall and spring. We also offer a seven-week Summer Intensive day program in Durham each May through June. Read more about the Summer Intensive ProgramNOTE: The classroom-based program in Charlotte is no longer offered. 

Do you have a registration deadline?  

Applicants must apply during a pre-established period of time and submit requested documentation in a timely manner to be considered for acceptance into the program.  Applicants who are accepted into the program will receive additional information regarding when and how to register for the program.

What are the prerequisites to apply to the program?

  • Applicant must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Applicant must hold either an associates or bachelor's degree.
  • Applicant must be able to submit documentation (such as an official sealed college transcript substantiating degree, reference letter, and other documentation) in adherence to deadlines.
  • Applicant must be fluent in English (including reading and writing).
  • Applicant must have regular access to a computer with a valid email account, basic computer skills such as attaching and manipulating documents and internet research familiarity.

Note: There are no experience requirements and students are not expected to have a legal background.

What is the amount of tuition for the program? 

The classroom paralegal program tuition fee is $5,395. Books are not included in the tuition and are an additional $625 - $800.

Do I pay Duke Continuing Studies for my books? 

No. Students are responsible for purchasing their own books.  A booklist is sent via email to students once they are registered for the course.

Do I have to pay tuition all at once? 

You may pay tuition all at once or utilize our three-part payment plan: $1800 upon acceptance into the program, $1800 six weeks into the program, and $1795 ten weeks into the program. Failure to meet financial obligation will result in immediate dismissal from the program and pursuit of monies owing to Duke.  Note that there is no payment plan option for the Summer Intensive program.

Is financial aid available? 

There are a number of different options available for funding. As a non-credit/non-degree program, students cannot use federal financial aid.  However, Duke Continuing Studies accepts Continuing Education student loans, VA funding, and funding through the Workforce Investment Act. We have more information about these options, as well as contacts for these alternative funding sources in the Tuition & Payment Options section.

Should I include the cost of books with my tuition when applying for a loan? 

No. Since we do not include books in the tuition, Duke Continuing Studies can only certify (approve) the exact amount of the tuition. Any loan amount in excess of the tuition will not be certified.

Can I apply for federal funding or FAFSA? 

No. The Duke Paralegal Certificate Program is non-credit (not applicable toward a degree) and therefore NOT eligible for federal education loans. Please do not submit FAFSA forms for this program.

Does Duke University provide a 1098-T form for tax credit for tuition?  

No. Non-credit programs at Duke Continuing Studies do not generate 1098-T forms, in accordance with the following IRS guideline:

Instructions for Forms 1098-E and 1098-T published by the Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, state “You do not have to file Form 1098-T or furnish a statement for:  Courses for which no academic credit is offered, even if the student is otherwise enrolled in a degree program…”

Can I use this program for university credit elsewhere?  

No. The Duke Paralegal Certificate Program is a professional non-credit program, which will award you a post-baccalaureate certificate. There are no college credits associated with this certificate program. Therefore, the status of "complete" or "incomplete" are the only notations on the permanent student record.

How long has this program been in existence?  

The Duke Paralegal Certificate Program is a well-established program that started in the fall of 2003 in Durham and fall of 2005 in Charlotte.  Since that time, we have been offering a high-quality program that trains students for careers in the paralegal profession. 

Who are your instructors?  

All of our instructors are licensed attorneys who practice law in North Carolina. We have an excellent group of instructors who are committed to student success and to sharing their knowledge and love of the law with students.

Can I take individual classes?  

No. The courses in the paralegal program are not offered separately.

What is required to earn the certificate of completion?

  • Students must achieve a 80% minimum score in the Essentials Skills portion of the program and 80% in each substantive area of law.
  • Students must attend 80% of class sessions. Additionally, students are not allowed to miss more than one session in each of the four (4) substantive law courses.
  • Tuition must be paid in full.

Is your program NC State Bar Qualified?  

Yes. Our classroom-based program is designated as qualified by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Paralegal Certification. Upon successful completion of the Duke Paralegal Program, students will be eligible to apply for the NC State Bar Paralegal Certification exam. Those who successfully pass the exam can use the designation NCCP or North Carolina Certified Paralegal. Students are responsible for submitting all application materials and fees, if they wish to take the exam. The Duke Paralegal Program will provide transcripts for the exam upon request only. 

Further information on the NC Program qualification process, the voluntary state exam and its implications for paralegal students who reside in North Carolina can be found at the North Carolina Paralegal Certification website.

Does the program meet certification requirements of other states?  

The program curriculum is based upon criteria established and approved by the NC State Bar and may not meet the criteria for certification/and or education training in other states. It is the responsibility of the student to acknowledge and accept that this training discrepancy may exist as the Duke Paralegal program will not assume responsibility for providing additional curriculum or contact hours to meet the requirements of another state.

Is your program ABA approved?  

The Duke Paralegal Certificate Program has chosen not to pursue ABA approval, as is the case with the majority of paralegal programs. Of the approximately 1,000 paralegal programs nationwide, 267 are ABA approved (The Directory of ABA Approved Paralegal Programs, June 2014 ). The ABA does not formally “accredit” any paralegal program, but for a fee, the organization will approve programs that meet certain standards. Duke University is ranked in the top ten in the nation, and students can be assured that when attending the Paralegal Program at Duke, they will be receiving an education that meets Duke’s high academic standards.

Do you have job placement services?  

Duke Continuing Studies does not offer job placement, job searching, or career services assistance. While we do our best to prepare students for the job market, it is ultimately incumbent upon students to find their own employment upon completion of the program.  We offer our students an Employment Strategies Seminar with an academic career counselor and invite graduates of the program to come in and speak.

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Tuition & Funding Sources



Tuition for the Duke Paralegal Classroom Program is $5,395.00. If you are interested in funding assistance options, please review the Funding Sources below.

Textbooks are not included in tuition and must be purchased separately. The total cost of textbooks is between $625 and $800 depending upon whether purchased new, used, or directly from the publisher.

Payment Plan

The paralegal certificate program expects payment in full upon admission to the program. For students who wish to make an alternate arrangement, a 3-part payment plan is available. This payment plan is available for the fall and spring programs only. It is not available for the Summer Intensive Program.

Students choosing to utilize the payment plan understand that he/she is obligated to pay the entire tuition due as scheduled, regardless of whether the student withdraws from the program after it begins.

Failure to adhere to the payment plan below will result in dismissal from the program with no refund of tuition amounts previously paid.

Fall/Spring Program Payment Plan

  • Due upon notification of acceptance to the program: $1800
  • Payment #2 due by week six of class: $1800
  • Payment #3 due by week ten of class: $1795

Read more about private loans and other funding sources below.

Funding Sources

Our Professional Certificate programs are non-credit (not degree applicable); therefore, they are NOT eligible for federal education loans. DO NOT SUBMIT FAFSA FORMS for these programs. Some of our programs may offer payment plans. Please see individual program web pages for those details.

No loans (Wells Fargo Graduate loan, Sallie Mae Smart Option Undergraduate loan, etc.) can be construed to imply any degree-seeking status for students of Duke Continuing studies. Duke Continuing Studies courses are non-credit.

Duke Continuing Studies (DCS) will not certify (approve) loan amounts greater than the amount of the tuition regardless of the amount approved by the lending agency. DCS reserves the right to reject any loan which exceeds the tuition amount. DCS will not be responsible for refunding monies in excess of the tuition. Students needing to secure loan funding for books or other items in relation to the program are responsible for making separate loan arrangements with the funding agency. No loan funds will be refunded to the student.

Should a student choose to borrow less than the tuition amount, the balance must be paid prior to the close of the registration period.

Please note that DCS will not certify amounts that include separate fees for books, materials, etc.  Should you choose to borrow less than the amount of the program, you are responsible for paying the balance prior to the program start date.

Loan Options

Your local bank may offer other options for loans or a "line of credit" service. Contact your bank for more information on financing choices.

Other Funding Sources

The funding options listed below may not be applicable to all programs at this time. Please contact the organization offering the funding to see if you qualify and if the funds can be used for the program in which you are interested.

Sallie Mae Smart Option Loan

To apply for this private student loan, visit Sallie Mae’s website, select the Undergraduate Student Loan and then click Apply Now.   The following application should populate with the pertinent information for Duke Continuing Studies.

Wells Fargo Graduate Loan

To apply for this loan, visit Wells Fargo. Duke Continuing Studies will be required to certify your loan application for the Graduate Loan should you be approved by Wells Fargo.

You will need to enter the following information after clicking on Apply Now in the Before Starting Your Application section:

  • Find a loan for: Graduate School Expenses
  • I am a: Student
  • School state: North Carolina
  • School name: please type Duke University Continuing Education
  • Grade Level: Beyond 3rd Year Graduate
  • Field of Study: Undecided or select Other and type in the field of study
  • Citizenship: Select as appropriate

Duke Hospital Employees

Duke University Hospital employees may be eligible for support from the Employee Development Initiative (EDI), which helps employees pay for short-term career-related programs, workshops, and seminars. For more information, visit the Employee Development Initiative site or call Duke Hospital Human Resources at (919) 668-2170.

Montgomery G.I. Bill (VA)

Educational assistance is available to those persons who qualify under the conditions set forth by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Students may contact 1-888-GI-BILL-1 (1-888-442-4551) to speak with a Veterans Benefits Counselor or visit the G.I. Bill website

At this time, the only program that has applied for and been approved by the North Carolina State Approving Agency for VA funding is the classroom-based Paralegal Certificate Program (both Durham and Charlotte).  Those students who qualify for funding through the VA should apply for the paralegal program and let the DCS registration office know that this type of funding is being sought. The DCS registration office will then put Paralegal students in contact with Duke University’s VA official.  Any questions about VA program approval should be directed to individual program directors.

Workforce Investment Act

The WIA provides professional and basic skills training services to those who have been unable to find employment. Please keep in mind that this process can be lengthy, so plan to apply well in advance of the program start date.  For more information on eligibility, the application process, or to find your local Workforce Development Board, visit the NC JobLink Career Center website.


AmeriCorps Education Awards are available only for AmeriCorps volunteers and can be used for educational expenses for non-degree courses, such as Continuing Education courses offered by qualified schools. For more information on qualified schools and programs, contact the National Service Trust at 1-800-942-2677, or visit the FAQ page of the AmeriCorps website.

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Policies & Procedures

To receive a refund minus a $100 processing fee, we must receive your written cancellation request at least two weeks before the course begins. Include your name, address, phone number, and course to be dropped. You may inform us by: 

Fax: 919-668-6747

Program Manager, Duke Paralegal Studies
Duke Continuing Studies
114 S. Buchanan Blvd, Smith Warehouse, Bay 6
Box 90708
Durham, NC  27708

Please contact the program office at 919-684-6259.

In the event that a student must withdraw from the program due to unforeseen circumstances, or in the event that a student does not successfully complete the program, the student may request to enroll in a subsequent offering of the Duke Paralegal Program within one year. All requests for readmission should be submitted in writing to the Program Manager for review. Approval of a readmission request is at the discretion of the Program Manager.

Bad Checks

If a check is returned for insufficient funds, we will charge a returned check fee of $35. Checks will not be resubmitted. The replacement payment must include the additional $35 and be in the form of cash, money order, or credit card.

Course is Filled / Waiting List

If a course is already filled, a waiting list is usually available instead. If you are interested in placing your name on the waiting list, follow the checkout instructions to do so. If a space becomes available, a registration staff member will call you and ask if you are still interested. If you are interested, registration staff can take your payment information over the phone and complete your registration at that time.

If We Cancel a Course

Sometimes we have to cancel a course that does not meet minimum enrollment, or due to unforeseen events. If that happens, you will receive a full refund. Duke Continuing Studies reserves the right to substitute instructors or change the day a course meets.

Tax Deductions

Course fees and expenses are sometimes tax deductible. Please consult an accountant concerning this matter. Non-credit programs at Duke Continuing Studies do not generate 1098-T forms, in accordance with the following IRS guideline:

Instructions for Forms 1098-E and 1098-T published by the Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, states “You do not have to file Form 1098-T or furnish a statement for: Courses for which no academic credit is offered, even if the student is otherwise enrolled in a degree program…”

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