Paralegal Studies

Associate of Applied Science Degree

If you have an interest in the law and how it affects individuals and society as a whole, then a career as a paralegal could be an excellent choice for you. Paralegals enjoy the intellectual challenge of assisting attorneys in finding legal solutions for their clients’ problems.

A precise description of the paralegal’s role is found in the New Mexico Supreme Court’s definition in the Rules Governing Paralegal Services (Rule 20-102A), which states that a paralegal is one who:

  1. contracts with or is employed by an attorney, law firm, corporation, governmental agency or other entity;
  2. performs substantive legal work under the supervision of a licensed attorney who assumes professional responsibility for the final work product; and
  3. meets one or more of the education, training or work experience qualifications set forth in Rule 20-115 NMRA of these rules

In these same Rules, the Court’s examples of substantive legal work include, “case planning, development and management; legal research and analysis; interviewing clients; fact gathering and retrieving information; drafting legal documents; collecting, compiling, and utilizing technical information to make an independent decision and recommendation to the supervising attorney; and representing clients before a state or federal administrative agency if that representation is authorized by law” (Rule 20-102B NMRA).

The DACC Paralegal Studies program focuses on developing skills necessary to perform substantive legal work. Examples of courses leading to that end include Litigation, Legal Research and Writing, Legal Terminology, Virtual Law Office, Legal Ethics, and Torts. Through classroom instruction (including practical exercises and assignments), computer lab practice, and an internship, students gain essential skills, as well as a broad background in many different areas of law.

Graduates of the Paralegal Studies program are eligible to apply to take the national certification examination offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). Those who successfully complete this two-day exam are designated Certified Legal Assistants (CLA).

The employment outlook for paralegals is good. Program graduates are employed with private firms, various courts, community legal services, state and federal governmental agencies (e.g., Human Services Departments, public defenders, and district attorneys), as well as a variety of businesses.

PL S 160. Legal System for the Paralegal

3 Credits

Introduction to the court system, administrative agencies, functions of law offices, and professional conduct and legal ethics. Restricted to: Community Colleges only.

Prerequisite(s): ACT standard score in English of 16 or higher or a Compass score 76 or higher; for those scoring 13-15 in English on ACT or 35-75 on Compass, successful complete of CCDE 105N or CCDE 110N; for those scoring 12 or below on the ACT standard score in English or 34 or below on the Compass, successful completion of CCDE 105N & CCDE 110N.

PL S 161. Legal Terminology

3 Credits

Survey of the language of the law that will serve either as an introductory course or as a review course to prepare students for the certification test.

PL S 162. The Virtual Law Office

3 Credits

The Virtual Law Office class is a 'hands-on', project oriented course designated to provide the student with the basic law office skills needed to function successfully in a law office setting. The student will gain a practical, working knowledge of the procedures necessary to work in a law office. The skills learned in the class will directly translate to real life situations. Restricted to: Community Colleges only.

Prerequisite(s): PL S 160.

PL S 180. Constitutional Law for the Paralegal

3 Credits

Case standing of the law of the Constitution and Bill of Rights with regard to day-to-day applications in the law practice. Documents dealing with constitutional problems in both civil and criminal areas of law will be drafted and discussed.

Prerequisite: PL S 160.

PL S 190. Criminal Law for the Paralegal

3 Credits

Introduction to federal and state criminal law; criminal proceedings, prosecution and defense, sentencing and appeal.

Prerequisite: PL S 160.

PL S 200. Legal Ethics for the Paralegal

3 Credits

Introduction to ethical dilemmas faced in the workforce and the rules of ethics developed by the American Bar Association, various national paralegal organizations, and the Supreme Court of New Mexico. Restricted to: Community Colleges only.

Prerequisite(s): PL S 160.

PL S 203. Immigration Law

3 Credits

Survey of the basics of immigration law including the rights and obligations of citizenship and the naturalization process.

Prerequisite: PL S 160.

PL S 221. Internship I

2-4 Credits

Work experience that directly relates to a student's major field of study that provides the student an opportunity to explore career paths and apply knowledge and theory learned in the classroom. Internships can be paid or unpaid. Students are supervised/evaluated by both the employer and the instructor. Restricted to Community Colleges campuses only.

Prerequisite(s): PL S 274.

PL S 222. Internship II

1-3 Credits

Continuation of PL S 221. Each credit requires specified number of hours of on-the-job work experience. Restricted to Community Colleges campuses only.

Prerequisite(s): PL S 221.

PL S 231. The Law of Commerce for the Paralegal

3 Credits

Law of contracts, negotiable instruments, bank transfers, secured transactions, debtor-creditor relations, agency, and business types and their formation. Students will study the relevant statutes as well as draft documents associated with these types of legal practice. Restricted to: Community Colleges only.

Prerequisite(s): PL S 160.

PL S 272. Bankruptcy Law for the Paralegal

3 Credits

Individual and corporate bankruptcy; the basic principles and processes of bankruptcy law as a system of debtor relief and debt collection.

Prerequisite: PL S 160.

PL S 274. Legal Research and Writing for the Paralegal I

3 Credits

Legal memoranda, briefs, and pleadings will be prepared and written based on the student s original research. Research materials and techniques will be identified and studied; introduction of computer usage in legal research.

Prerequisite: PL S 160 and ENGL 111G.

PL S 275. Tort and Insurance for the Paralegal

3 Credits

Primary legal principles of tort and insurance law and means of establishing insurance plans, types of torts and insurance, as well as use of specific forms and procedures relating to these areas.

Prerequisite: PL S 160.

PL S 276. Wills, Trusts, and Probate for the Paralegal

3 Credits

Cases and statutes dealing with wills, trusts, and probate. Emphasis on preparation and drafting of documents and the application of the law and documents to the client s problems.

Prerequisite: PL S 160.

PL S 277. Family Law for the Paralegal

3 Credits

Methods of conducting client interviews and drafting of pleadings and research relative to families. Laws relating to marriage, divorce, custody, support, adoption, name change, guardianship, and paternity.

Prerequisite: PL S 160.

PL S 278. Litigation for the Paralegal

3 Credits

The law of procedure and evidence will be considered through rules and cases. Case situations will be used to identify and solve problems.

Prerequisite: PL S 160.

PL S 279. Legal Research and Writing for the Paralegal II

3 Credits

Continuation of PL S 274. Advanced training in legal research problems with a focus on analysis, writing, and preparation of sophisticated legal memoranda and documents.

Prerequisite: PL S 274.

PL S 280. Interviewing and Investigation for the Paralegal

3 Credits

Techniques of legal interviewing and investigation with emphasis on development of human relations and communication skills.

Prerequisite: PL S 160.

PL S 298. Independent Study

1-3 Credits (1-3)

Individual studies directed by consenting faculty with prior approval by department head. Restricted to Community Colleges campuses only.

Prerequisite(s): PL S 160.

Name: Hank DiMatteo, Interim Department Chair

Office Location: DASR 220M

Phone: (575) 527-7642

Website: https://dacc.nmsu.edu/pls/