Paralegal Graduate Certificate Program

Rice paralegals are in demand. The Paralegal Graduate Certificate program is skills-based and offered in both a daytime accelerated and evening classroom format. The paralegal studies program is taught by practicing attorneys and includes career search support. Earn a Rice Certificate of Achievement after successfully completing the course. 

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Rice University's Paralegal Graduate Certificate program is skills-based, taught by practicing attorneys and includes career search support. Individuals successfully completing the program will receive a Rice Certificate of Achievement. 

In 2017, Rice's online Paralegal Graduate Certificate Program ranked No. 2 for Best Online Paralegal Programs by College Choice. Our online option is only available in the fall. Sign-up to receive a notification when the online course becomes available.

After successfully completing the essential skills course and substantive topic courses, you can earn the Rice University Paralegal Graduate Certificate. Class projects and exams, including a comprehensive final will be administered. Participants must score 70 percent or better on the final exam, obtain a class average of 70 percent and attend at least 70 percent of the classes in order to earn the certificate.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the paralegal profession is projected to grow 15 percent between 2016 and 2026, significantly faster than the average for all occupations. The median annual salary for paralegals was $49,500 in 2016, with the top 10 percent earning an annual salary of $80,260.


Section Instructor Format Schedule start date
PPAR1001.S18.2 Lori Swann, Patricia D. Petty On-campus 9 a.m.-noon Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Instructor: Lori Swann

Lori Swann -Essential Skills Instructor- Ms. Swann practices with Cunningham Law Group, a small Houston litigation firm that specializes in matters involving fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. She served as an assistant district attorney for 10 years in Harris County where she tried more than 100 criminal cases, including several death penalty cases. Ms. Swann has lectured extensively in many areas of criminal law and advocacy for the Texas Justice Court Training Center, the Houston Area Women’s Center, the Texas District and County Attorney’s Association and the National College of District Attorneys. She has also served as a faculty member for the National Advocacy Center. Ms. Swann is a graduate of Rice University and holds a J.D. from The University of Texas School of Law.

Patricia D. Petty -Texas Civil Procedure Instructor-Ms. Petty is “Of Counsel” at the law firm of Martin, Disiere, Jefferson & Wisdom in Houston, Texas. Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Petty was a partner at the boutique litigation firm of Petty & Petty L.L.P. for 12 years. She is AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell and has been practicing law for more than 20 years. Ms. Petty holds a B.A. from The University of Texas at Austin and is a graduate of South Texas College of Law in Houston. She graduated in the top one-third of her class at South Texas and was an intern at the First Court of Appeals. Ms. Petty is also a founding member of the South Texas Mediation Clinic and is a certified mediator.

Term: Spring/Summer 2018

Start Date: Apr. 03, 2018

End Date: May 31, 2018

Schedule: 9 a.m.-noon

Length: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays

Location: Rice campus

Fee: $4,550 Fee does not include cost of texts, approximately $730.

Early Registration: $4,350 if registering by March 9

CEUs: 6.6

Paralegals play a vital role in the legal system by performing a variety of essential tasks depending on the organizations where they are employed. Tasks include, but are not limited to:

  • Researching legal issues
  • Investigating facts
  • Drafting documents
  • Interviewing attending corporate transactions, depositions, hearings and trials


Experienced paralegals can perform almost any task an attorney performs, but may not give legal advice or represent clients in a court of law. Paralegals work in a variety of settings, but they’re most commonly employed by law firms, government agencies and legal departments at corporations. The majority of paralegals work in the litigation field, but may also work in other areas that include, but are not limited to: 

  • Intellectual Property
  • Oil and gas
  • Immigration
  • Bankruptcy
  • Real estate
  • Many more


How do you become a paralegal?

No state requires that a paralegal take any exam for certification. Students that have a bachelor's degree in any field and have graduated from the Rice Paralegal Graduate Certificate Program in Houston, TX can consider themselves paralegals.

Whether you choose to attend class on campus or the online format, you will attend regularly scheduled classes with live instruction and access to online study tools that include practice exercise questions, lecture notes, quizzes and mock exams. Exams and assignments are delivered online as well. The curriculum consists of Essential Skills and substantive topics such as Tort Law, Civil Procedures and Contract Law.

Participants must successfully complete the Essential Skills course and substantive topic courses to earn the Rice University Paralegal Graduate Certificate. Class projects and exams, including a comprehensive final will be administered. Participants must score 70 percent or better on the final exam, obtain a class average of 70 percent and attend at least 70 percent of the classes in order to earn the certificate.

Not in Texas? No problem.

No matter where you live or plan to practice, the online program provides access to legal research and writing labs for all 50 states, as well as all U.S.. Territories, something no other program offers. In addition, the program trains students in skills that are transferable to any law firm -- in any city. Many of our students complete our paralegal program from outside the United States. In fact, some of those individuals are foreign attorneys studying U.S.. laws in preparation to sit for the LLM.

Topics Covered

Introduction to the legal field Participants will learn about paralegal career opportunities and the types of tasks a paralegal may perform.

Legal terminology By following an actual legal matter through the legal process, participants will be introduced to relevant legal terms. The case presented will be tracked through both the civil and criminal court procedures.

Legal analysis To understand the process and structure of proper legal analysis, participants will develop the skills to analyze both case law and statutory authority.

Legal memorandum form After learning the analytical process, participants will analyze provided cases and statutes to prepare internal and external memoranda.

State-specific instruction Local and state trial and appellate courts specific to Texas jurisdiction will be discussed. Participants will also be provided with information related to researching the law within Texas.

Federal court structure Participants will be instructed in the basic differences between state and federal jurisdiction as well as the jurisdictions for the various federal courts in Texas.

Stages of litigation Participants will learn the three stages of the litigation process and the functions a paralegal may perform during each stage.

Government structure Because each branch of government uses various forms of law, participants will learn the structure of government and the laws that apply to each branch.

Ethical considerations Because a violation of an ethical rule may affect the supervising attorney as well as the paralegal, it is critical that participants be familiar with the rules of ethics and learn to maintain a high ethical standard.

Court rules Court rules are the procedural requirements for trials. Students are taught the most relied-upon court rules as well as the skills necessary to find any rule for specific procedural questions.

Discovery preparation Participants will be taught form utilization and will create sets of interrogatories, requests for admissions, and requests for production and inspection of documents. Participants will be provided with templates, just as they would within a law-firm environment.

Discovery coordination The discovery process is one of the most important aspects of a paralegal’s involvement in the litigation process. Participants will learn the rules relevant to discovery.

Pleading preparation Pleadings are documents filed with the court asking the court to take a specific action. Participants will study pleadings and will prepare a complaint (with a summons) and an answer.

Utilization of legal forms In a law-firm environment, a paralegal would rarely prepare a document from scratch, but would rely on previously existing forms and templates. In this class, participants will learn to manipulate templates and utilize formbooks to become more effective and efficient paralegals.

Preparing for depositions A deposition is the oral questioning of a witness under oath, usually outside a courtroom. Participants will learn the considerations for deposition setup.

Deposition digesting Students will be provided with a deposition transcript and will learn to summarize that document, an important paralegal skill.

Arbitration process Arbitration is the pre-trial process that encourages parties to avoid trial. Participants will learn how the arbitration system works.

Application of hearsay rule and rule elementization The hearsay rule will be discussed, and participants will utilize the developed skill of rule elementization to properly analyze and apply rules to facts.

Index research The foundation of all legal research is the ability to use indexes. Participants will learn to efficiently utilize fundamental research tools.

Interviewing clients Specific techniques to be considered when interviewing a client will be discussed.

Law-office investigation Participants will learn techniques of in-office and out-of-office investigations, including interviewing witnesses.

Legal research skills By using hands-on, interactive training devices, participants will learn proper law library utilization, how to locate primary authority, how to use secondary sources, how to update research sources, and how to utilize specific legal materials, including American Law Reports, American Jurisprudence, 2d, Corpus Juris Secundum, West Digests, Words & Phrases, Am. Jur. Proof of Facts, formbooks, treatise research, legal periodicals, Shepard's, and state and federal statutory research. Participants will also be trained in the use of the two most important legal research systems, the Key Number System and the Total Client Service Library.

Online legal research skills Due to a special relationship between the Rice Paralegal Graduate Certificate Program and LexisNexis, enrolled participants will be trained in and have access to LexisNexis Online Legal Research for approximately one year.

Bluebook citation form A citation is an address to a legal document. Bluebook is the most widely accepted form of citation. Participants will be thoroughly trained in citation form.

Informal advocacy Advocacy is the process of acting on behalf of another’s interests. Being able to obtain information through informal techniques is an invaluable skill for a paralegal.

Authority identification Authority is anything a court can use to reach its decision. Participants will learn to identify the various types of authority, including primary, secondary, mandatory, persuasive and non-authority.

Strategies for employment Multiple strategies for seeking employment will be discussed, including traditional and non-traditional methods.

About the Program Designers

Daniel R. Barber and Alyssa Navallo are paralegals and nationally recognized educators that have designed and developed courses and consulted for paralegal programs for Duke University, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, Davis, and the University of Miami, among others. Mr. Barber will be the supervising instructor of the core skills course throughout this paralegal program. Ms. Navallo will serve as the student Web site facilitator providing online instruction and support. Mr. Barber and Ms. Navallo are the co-authors of four paralegal texts and have been praised for their innovative use of Internet and support materials and for the hands-on experience they create including:

  • Recognition from multiple universities for program design
  • Recognition on the floor of the U.S. Senate for their efforts in designing professional training programs

VIDEO - watch a brief video featuring our 2017 paralegal graduates.

"All of the instructors were amazing -- they were extremely thorough in their presentation of information and in the execution of their lessons, which, as a former teacher, I truly appreciated. They made themselves available for personalized instruction, and always provided valuable feedback throughout the learning process. Though the program is only five months, it is demanding, and I found it to be a solid foundation for me to begin my new career as a paralegal. In fact, ten days after graduating from the program and receiving my paralegal certificate from Rice University, I was hired by a local law firm where I specialized in pharmaceutical litigation."

"I believe that the course provided a thorough foundation for a career in paralegal services … the teachers were all enthusiastic and seemed to care about the students. Toward the end of the course, there were several very interesting guest lecturers which really helped me connect to what I might see and do as a paralegal."

"I learned a tremendous amount about the skills needed to be a paralegal as well as what it takes to pursue law school."

"Excellent instructors, and it was good to always have online instruction available."

"The class accomplished what I had hoped and expected. I have gained invaluable contacts and made a connection with all of the (instructors). Program did a great job of catering to each student’s needs."

"I feel that I am able to go into the career with this knowledge and be a great paralegal. I enjoyed the classroom dynamics."

"The instructors were definitely qualified. I feel that I received a very good paralegal education. The class hours were perfect for a working professional."

"The classes were well organized and constructive."

"The materials and resources available were extremely helpful, and the instructors were top notch."

"The Paralegal Program is excellent. The attorneys chosen were definitely the best for the courses they taught. It was not only a wonderful experience, but one that positively impacted my future. Thank you!"

"The writing assignments were challenging and really helped me to see what being a paralegal would be like."

"Students were seriously there to learn a new skill or be exposed to a new profession. Good mixture of ages and backgrounds. Some wanting this as a career, some wanting certification in a current career, and some getting their feet wet before possibly pursuing law school."

"I learned a great deal and got a great job."

"I got a job! I chalk up my success to the efforts of the excellent teaching staff and the program organization. I am so glad that I chose Rice, and I am so grateful for all you and the staff has done to make this career change happen."

Financial Assistance

Financial assistance information can be found on Rice Financial Aid's Visiting and Continuing Education Students page.

Comprehensive curriculum covered in five months

In our online paralegal certification program, you will attend regularly scheduled classes with live instruction and access to online study tools that include practice exercise questions, lecture notes, quizzes and mock exams. Students will have access to LexisNexis® and Westlaw® accounts.

Required Equipment for Online Course

Students in most professional development programs must have access to a computer and the Internet to complete the coursework required to earn the Certificate of Achievement.

Minimum System Requirements for Online Courses

The online courses are delivered through Blackboard Collaborate. Before you get started in a Blackboard Collaborate session, you should ensure that your computer is able to support the needs of the collaboration environment. As a first-time user, to test whether your computer is ready to access Blackboard Collaborate, visit and click on “How do I get started”.

Connecting to Blackboard Ultra

Students in online format courses must have the following:

  • Headset or earbuds with a microphone attached to your computer
  • High-speed Internet connection (Ethernet preferable)
  • Google Chrome or FireFox (versions 49+) installed on your computer*

Blackboard Ultra can be accessed on a mobile device. The Blackboard app is available on iOS, Android, and Windows mobile devices. Join the webinar directly from your session link in Canvas — the app will open automatically. Please be sure to use your earbuds or headphones, as your built-in speakers may cause echoes during the recorded session.



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