Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Program overview

Instructor and student looking at a book together in the paralegal library

Photo by Samnang Lim

Our curriculum offers introductory courses that provide an overview of the U.S. legal system, as well as more in-depth electives in areas like family law, employment law, real estate, environmental law, and immigration law. Our program also provides practical legal skills training that will give you a competitive edge in the legal job market. Specialized skills training courses include interviewing and investigating, civil litigation, legal research and writing, and more. View our program outcomes and goals and learn about our American Bar Association (ABA) approval.

What’s the difference between a paralegal and a legal assistant?

Confusion exists in the legal industry about the different roles and responsibilities of paralegals, legal assistants, legal secretaries, legal administrative assistants and other legal support staff. This is not surprising given the lack of regulation within these professions. In Oregon, a person need not meet any particular qualifications to be given the job title “paralegal,” “legal assistant,” “legal secretary,” or any other legal staff job title.

The LAS Certificate and the Paralegal AAS and Certificate have some important differences.

The Paralegal degree and certificate prepare students to perform many of the duties an attorney would take care of personally if they lacked trained legal staff. This includes:

  • Legal research
  • Drafting pleadings and contracts
  • Other substantive legal work
  • Drafting legal correspondence
  • Communicating with clients
  • Reviewing documents

Legal assistants, on the other hand, need to be prepared to:

  • Draft business correspondence
  • Answer phones and record detailed messages
  • Perform word processing
  • Set appointments
  • Calendar court deadlines
  • Arrange for service and filing of pleadings and other documents
  • Process client bills
  • Maintain client trust accounts and files
  • Other duties

The majority of attorneys, from solo attorneys to giant law firms, employ non-attorney staff to complete this work.

Experienced faculty

We believe that real-world legal experience makes a difference. Some of our faculty have more than 30 years of experience practicing in the field. This experience means that students benefit from working closely with seasoned professionals who know the intricacies of the law as well as the everyday realities of the legal profession.

Career services

The Paralegal program offers counseling in career development that helps you to advance in your career. We provide frequent updates about legal employment opportunities. The program works to maintain ties with local law firms, legal nonprofits, government agencies, and corporations to ensure we are up-to-date about job openings, internship opportunities, training needs, and professional developments. We also provide in-depth cover letter and resume assistance in our courses and through PCC Career Services, to help you make a great first impression in the legal field.

Engaged students

Our students show their involvement through dedication and commitment. Options for service to the program, legal volunteer work and civic engagement. Our students have the opportunity to participate in practical-skill building cooperative education through our elective internship course, and in hands-on legal work under the close supervision of faculty attorneys through our elective legal clinic courses.

Department library

We are committed to providing you with the best possible resources. The paralegal learning research center at Cascade Campus provides students the ability to perform legal research on campus and is a valuable resource for other paralegal courses. In addition, paralegal students are welcomed into our dedicated library space to study or take a break from studying.  In addition to this physical space, the  Paralegal program provides electronic legal research tools to students, including Westlaw.

New program developments

The program remains active and current by conducting surveys of potential employers, graduates of the program, current students, and faculty to obtain feedback and evaluate our progress. Through consultation with our Program Advisory Council, we implement program developments to enhance your educational and career-development experience.

Paralegals may not practice law and may not provide legal services directly to the public except as permitted by law.

Paralegal program students must complete 14 quarter credit hours of synchronous instruction. Synchronous instruction means students must attend a scheduled class meeting time each week. This restriction is not applicable to Legal Assistant students.