Course DescriptionThe Boston University Online Certificate in Paralegal Studies Program delivers the same proven curriculum as the long-standing classroom program, only in an online, interactive, multimedia environment. Those who prefer to study at the time and location of their choosing will benefit from the flexibility of the online program. Students receive input and guidance from instructors with distinguished legal experience and expertise.
The Paralegal Certificate Program covers the following topics:
Students in the Legal Research course learn how to research both online via Westlaw and the old fashioned way in stacks and in stacks of legal tomes. They will be taught to research in each of the Five Primary sources of law: the Constitution; Case Law; Statutory Law; Regulatory Law; and Executive Orders. They learn the hierarchical court structures for both the federal and state systems. Students learn how to utilize each court's respective reporter series, as well as the Massachusetts Digest and the Federal Practice Digest. Additionally, students are instructed on both federal and state statutory and regulatory law, and they learn how to utilize the respective legislative and administrative codes. The instructor then challenges students with hypothetical situations that require them to implement their newfound research tool by finding case, statutory, or regulatory law and systematically applying these laws to the issues presented in the hypothetical situations.
Legal Writing and Reasoning
The most important aspect of legal writing is to understand the logic and rationale behind the writing. Through a series of writing assignments, students will be introduced to the manner in which lawyers reason. Students will be introduced to the distinction between a factual issue and a legal issue, they will be taught to write case briefs, and they will be instructed in the IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion) style of legal writing analysis. In addition, students will be introduced to the concepts of precedential and persuasive authorities. In a final paper, students must synthesize the facts in a hypothetical situation with four case holdings and statutory law.
Technology and the Paralegal
An understanding of technology, and how it is used in the modern law office, is key to a successful paralegal career. This class covers both foundational and specialized software programs. These include cornerstones such as Excel and Internet research, as well as advanced tools such as CaseMap, a leading case management program. Also covered are e-discovery, the system of rules and techniques involving the gathering of electronic information in law suits, as well as the use of PACER for electronic filing of legal pleadings within the federal court system. Students will also have an opportunity to learn and use OmnibusLaw, a specialized legal software tool developed by their instructor. Close attention is paid throughout to the duties of a paralegal, and how technology is used on the front lines of the legal profession.
Real Estate Law
In this course you will learn real estate law in relation to how property is held and how it is transferred. Students learn the importance of the Offer to Purchase, its contents, how to read the offer and incorporate it into the Purchase and Sale Agreement. Other topics include pre-closing items--what they are, how to obtain them, how to review them, and the specific role each plays at the closing. All aspects of real estate closings are covered, including how to prepare deeds and other documents, title searches, title abstracts, certifications of title and title insurance, run downs, payoffs, and recording requirements. A focus of this course is the preparation of the HUD Settlement Statement where students calculate all the buyer’s and seller’s closing figures as well as the final distribution of proceeds from the sale, taking into account all charges, payoffs, and commissions. We will prepare for a hypothetical closing using conveyancing software. Other topics include categories of real property, ownership restrictions, legal descriptions of property, liens on property, due diligence, leases and environmental issues. In addition, you are encouraged to visit a Registry of Deeds.
Business Law is designed to provide students with an introduction to the substantive area of corporate/business law, and the practical skills necessary to serve as a corporate paralegal. Students will learn about the legal formation and functioning of various business entities, including business corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies and learn to distinguish the structure, liability, and taxation attributes of different business entities. Students will also receive a comprehensive introduction to corporate finance and securities regulation, an overview of Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code and highlights of intellectual property law. Detailed analysis of business law transactions will help students gain the requisite legal knowledge and practical skills necessary to assist attorneys with various corporate transactions.
Students in the Litigation course will learn the most frequently employed civil discovery devices and some strategic aspects of discovery. This session begins with an overview of the litigation process from investigation to filing a lawsuit, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (with related references to the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure) and various common law and statutory privileges against disclosure, including marital privilege, the work product doctrine, and the attorney-client privilege. The course will place an emphasis on the use of interrogatories, requests for production of documents, depositions, and independent medical examinations. Students will also be given an overview of summary judgment and the role of experts in preparing a case for trial. Students will review the rules and then read and analyze case law interpreting discovery issues. Students will be given various discovery materials and a hypothetical fact pattern. They will then be asked to prepare responsive documents. The instructor will provide technical education as well as "practice pointers" and strategic aspects of the discovery process.
Probate and Family Law
The Probate and Family Law module has three main areas of concentration: Probate, Estate Planning, and Family Law. In the probate section, students learn about wills and what happens if one dies without a will. A case study illustrates a typical chain of legal events that may unfold after a death. Estate planning discusses wills, trusts, and advance directives which provide clients the ability to legally express their desires if incapacitated in the future. The basics of divorce law are also covered, including child custody, alimony, and division of marital estates. Finally, the class undertakes an exploration of the complex and rapidly changing area of same-sex marriage. Throughout the class, students will be exposed to the forms used in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Law Court, which are similar to those in other jurisdictions.