Paralegal Studies

Earn Your Paralegal Certificate from Duke University

Paralegal Online program

Duke Continuing Studies has been proud to offer a certificate in Paralegal Studies since 2003. The Paralegal Online Certificate, created upon the foundation of the classroom program, is a 300-hour course of study designed to train students in the aspects of the profession most in demand and desired by attorneys. The curriculum is applicable to all 50 states, and is offered entirely online, as a self-paced program- therefore there are no defined due dates or deadlines.  Students have one year, under the supervision of a licensed attorney instructor, to complete the coursework in its entirety.

Students who complete program requirements will be awarded a certificate of completion from Duke University Continuing Studies.

About the Paralegal Profession: 

What is a Paralegal?

A legal assistant or 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 who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible. (From the National Association of Legal Assistants website).

The terms legal assistant and paralegal are used interchangeably, much like the terms attorney and lawyer. The practice of law is regulated by each of the 50 states. In all states, paralegals are prohibited from practicing law without a license.

A legal assistant/paralegal cannot give legal advice, represent a client in court, set a fee, or accept a case - all of which are generally considered the practice of law. Working under the supervision of an attorney, the legal assistant's work product is merged and becomes part of the attorney's work product. In communication with clients and the public, the legal assistant's non-lawyer status must be clear. A legal assistant may perform any function delegated by an attorney, including but not limited to the following:

  • Conduct client interviews and maintain general contact with the client, so long as the client is aware of the status and function of the legal assistant, and the legal assistant works under the supervision of the attorney
  • Locate and interview witnesses
  • Conduct investigations and statistical and documentary research
  • Conduct legal research
  • Draft legal documents, correspondence, and pleadings
  • Summarize depositions, interrogatories, and testimony
  • Attend executions of wills, real estate closings, depositions, court or administrative hearings, and trials with the attorney
  • Author and sign correspondence provided the legal assistant status is clearly indicated and the correspondence does not contain independent legal opinions or legal advice
  • Professionally, a paralegal's time for substantive legal work (as opposed to clerical or administrative work) is billed to clients much the same way as an attorney's time, but at a lower hourly rate

A Note about Certificate Programs

Paralegal programs are offered in a variety of models. Duke has elected to offer our Paralegal Program as a non-credit Certificate program. Certificate programs allow students to concentrate their studies in the specific content areas relevant to the profession. By focusing their coursework on paralegal skills, students in our program are able to complete their educational requirements in a shorter period of time and at a significantly lower cost.