Course Content and Outcome Guide for PL 104

Course Number:
PL 104
Course Title:
Investigation Techniques for Paralegals
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Explores fundamental techniques of legal investigation from the incident scene to the courtroom. Includes ethics, research techniques, investigative strategies, recordkeeping, information sources, witness location, report writing, subpoenas, physical and demonstrative evidence. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

Introduction to Law (LA 101) is a required prerequisite for this class. Students are STRONGLY encouraged to have completed LA 101 or have equivalent experience", and to have successfully completed a college level composition course before taking this course. This course is required in the Paralegal Associate Degree program leading to a Paralegal Certificate.

Intended Outcomes for the course

This course has been designed to give the students the background information, instruction in use of tools and materials, and hands-on experience required to perform legal investigations. Course objectives include:
  • Mastering basic concepts of legal ethics and developing the critical thinking skills and oral and written communication competency to discuss and write about ethics issues
  • Improving critical thinking and written communication skills required for locating information and keeping records
  • Developing human relations skills used to locate and interview witnesses
  • Improving computational, written communication and critical thinking skills needed to evaluate psychological studies and articles about forensic science
  • Mastering the oral and written communications and critical thinking skills needed to perform basic statutory construction.  Students will practice locating people and information on line, analyze statutes pertaining to investigation techniques, discuss trends in the investigation industry, learn and practice a team-oriented approach to litigation.

Course Activities and Design

Course proceeds through lecture by three lawyer/investigators, supplemented as appropriate with guest lecturers, video and computer-based materials, class assignments and simulations, and off-site assignments.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

The class grade is based on two exams weighted: mid-term 1/4, Final 3/4, calculated by the twolettergrades, not the score on the exams. Note that the grade on the Final has the larger impact on the class grade. Makeup examinations will only be offered by prearrangement with one of the instructors PRIOR to the date and time of the scheduled examination. Written assignments will be assessed with written comments, but will not be considered in grade unless the student's score falls directly between two grades.  In that event, if the student has all assignments completed on time the student will receive the higher grade.  Special Needs: Any student who may need an accommodation for any sort of disability please make an appointment to see an instructor outside of class. PCC students requesting accommodations must provide documentations of disability and work with the Office of Students with Disabilities (OSD) by calling 503 977-4341.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

1.0  Ethics
Instructional Goal: to understand and discuss personal and legal ethical questions with emphasis on analyzing legal ethics issues.
2.0 Identification and Memory
Instructional Goal: to acquaint the student with research bearing on identification procedures and accuracy of memory both for practice in assimilating scientific research and for guidance in developing interviewing techniques.
3.0 Record and file keeping practices
Instructional Goal: to provide a simple model system for keeping an investigation file and assorted supporting files.
4.0 Locating witnesses
Instructional Goal: to provide a simple model system for keeping an investigation file and assorted supporting files.
5.0 Interviewing and report writing
Instructional Goal: to discuss interviewing techniques and introduce the major kinds of reports and memoranda legal investigators produce.
6.0 Evidence
Instructional Goal: to familiarize the student with the kinds of evidence and the important considerations involved in presenting each kind.
7.0 Use of Expert Witnesses
Instructional Goal: to acquaint students with the range and kinds of expert witnesses commonly used in court presentations, and to provide resources for locating and evaluating experts.
8.0 The Art of Negotiation
Instructional Goal: to familiarize the student with the role of negotiation in litigation practice, and the role of investigation in preparing for successful negotiation.