Paralegal Graduate Certificate Program

Rice paralegals are in demand. The Paralegal Graduate Certificate program is skills-based and offered in both a classroom and online format. The paralegal studies program is taught by practicing attorneys and includes career search support. Individuals who successfully complete the program receive a Rice Certificate of Achievement.

Paralegal Graduate Certificate Program

In 2017, Rice's online Paralegal Graduate Certificate Program ranked No. 2 for Best Online Paralegal Programs by College Choice. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the paralegal profession is projected to grow 17 percent between 2012 and 2022, significantly faster than the average for all occupations. The median annual salary for paralegals was $47,570 in 2013, with the top 10 percent earning an annual salary of $76,960.

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The paralegal profession is the right fit for career changers, professionals looking to gain legal experience, and young professionals looking to enter the legal field.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the paralegal profession is projected to grow 17 percent between 2012 and 2022, significantly faster than the average for all occupations. The median annual salary for paralegals was $47,570 in 2013, with the top 10 percent earning an annual salary of $76,960.

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

Why become a paralegal?

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 such as:

  • Bankruptcy
  • Real estate
  • Oil and gas
  • 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.

The Paralegal Graduate Certificate Program is offered in online and classroom formats.

Classroom Format

Our class sizes are small and feature high-caliber students who hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Students receive personalized attention and direction, ensuring greater success in the paralegal program.

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Online Format

Have a new career in five months.

No matter where you live or plan to practice, the online paralegal certification 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.
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.
Class recordings are made available in video (MP4) format.

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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.

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

For individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree, certificate programs offer the highest quality of paralegal education at an affordable cost. Please note that the Rice program requires that applicants hold a bachelor's degree.

According to a 2013 survey conducted by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), paralegals who have graduated from post baccalaureate certificate programs, such as the Rice program, are among the highest-paid individuals in the field.

Education Average Salary Average Compensation Responses
Undergraduate Certificate $57,026 $62,585 140
Post Baccalaureate Certificate $56,403 $58,631 200
Associate's Degree $53,399 $56,413 428
Bachelor's Degree $50,387 $52,436 117
Master's Degree $62,203 $65,196 7
Other $54,287 $57,048 136
None $54,631 $57,733 265

Source: NALA, 2012 National Utilization and Compensation Survey Report, October 2013 (pdf).

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."

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 https://help.blackboard.com/Collaborate/Ultra/Participant 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.