Southwestern College offers two American Bar Association (ABA) approved programs, paralegal studies and paralegal studies—bilingual. Both programs are approved to be completed entirely online. As per ABA requirements, students take a minimum of nine semester credits of legal specialty coursework through synchronous instruction (such as courses completed through synchronous videoconferencing format). The department ensures compliance with this through the scheduling process. The Paralegal Studies - Bilingual program provides students with a litigation background and focus on developing an awareness and sensibility to the language, culture, and common legal issues of clients from various ethnic groups within the community. An understanding of international legal issues which impact San Diego due to its geographical location, and other legal and business related activities are also developed.
The paralegal works under the supervision of an attorney. Responsibilities are broad and varied including preparing and interpreting legal documents, interviewing clients, performing legal research, preparing for trial, and organizing and managing documentation. Paralegals often work with attorneys in specialized areas of law such as immigration, family law, personal injury, contracts, wills, trusts, and probate.
Employment in the field tends to vary. Larger, well-established law firms commonly require a bachelor’s degree, and smaller law firms and legal agencies often require a two-year associate degree or its equivalent. Potential employees who have an advanced education level, knowledge of a frequently used foreign language, and/or an emphasis in a legal specialty will have the greatest opportunities in the job market.