Paralegal Studies

College of Extended Learning
Dean: Gail Whitaker

Paralegal Studies Program
SFSU Downtown Center
835 Market Street, 6th Floor
San Francisco, CA  94103
Fax: 415-817-4299
Web Site:
Program Director: Pat Medina

Program Coordinator: Baseemah Rahman


Certificate in Paralegal Studies

Program Scope

The Paralegal Studies curriculum is intended to provide a firm grounding in legal skills and in specific substantive areas of law for the undergraduate student as well as the person who is interested in becoming a paralegal. All course work is taught at the upper division level. The population served is adult, usually employed full-time, with considerable formal education (including a baccalaureate degree, in most cases). They have accumulated more life and work experience than the typical undergraduate.


The Paralegal Studies program is approved by the American Bar Association. This is the only ABA-approved paralegal studies program in San Francisco. The Paralegal Program began in 1975 and has continued a tradition of excellence up to the present.

Recent California legislation defines who may call himself or herself a paralegal and sets forth education criteria for paralegals. One of the criteria is graduation from a program approved by the American Bar Association. Please refer to the section on New California Legislation on Paralegals cited below.

California Legislation on Paralegals

The state of California has adopted legislation that defines the titles “paralegal” and “legal assistant” and sets educational criteria and continuing education requirements for paralegals. The San Francisco State University Paralegal Studies certificate program meets the educational requirements of the law by virtue of being offered by an accredited institution with an ABA-approved program, and consisting of more than 24 semester units of paralegal coursework. We also offer a series of paralegal continuing education courses to meet the continuing education standards established by the Business and Professions Code Section 6450 et. seq.


All courses in this program are taught by attorneys and/or paralegals with practical experience in their respective fields.

Career Outlook

Paralegals are employed in private and public interest law firms, corporations, banks, securities firms, government agencies, and regulatory bodies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks the paralegal occupation as one of the fastest growing in the country.  Recent state legislation requires that persons working as paralegals meet specified educational and continuing education requirements.


Admission to Program

Students are required to have a minimum of 56 units of prior college credit to be admitted to the program. Students who hold a baccalaureate degree or an academic associate degree are automatically eligible for admission to the program. Students who do not have such a degree but have at least 56 semester units of college work are eligible if their college work includes at least 18 semester units of general education with courses from at least three major disciplines. Students with at least three years of legal experience who have at least 45 semester units of college work may petition for conditional admission. Students must apply for admission by the end of the first semester in which they enroll.

Writing Skills

Paralegal courses require strong writing skills. Certificate students who do not have a bachelor's degree must pass the Junior English Proficiency Essay Test (JEPET) before completion of nine units in the program in order to satisfy the general university literacy requirement. Students who do not pass the JEPET must pass ENG 414 Elements of Writing, a writing course regularly offered through Open University.

A certificate is awarded upon successful completion of 30 units. The 30 units required to earn the certificate consist of five required courses and five elective courses.

Each course carries three units credit unless otherwise noted. For complete course descriptions, contact the program coordinator.

Required Courses:
Introduction to Law/Civil Procedure
Legal Research and Writing
Communications Skills and Legal Ethics
Pleadings and Motions
Investigation, Discovery, and Trial Preparation

Elective Courses: Advanced and Specialized Practical Courses
Administrative Law
Advanced Legal Research and Writing
Computer Applications *
Computer Applications II
Contemporary Legal Issues
Corporations Law
Criminal Law
Elder Law
Employment Law
Family Law
Field Experience Internship
Immigration Law
Intellectual Property
Probate Procedures
Real Estate Practice
Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning

* required for students not working in law; elective for other students.

Non-certificate Students

If students wish to explore the legal field and want to take selected individual courses in the program, they may register for those courses, with the consent of the faculty member.

Also, those who already have experience in the legal field and who wish to take selected courses without applying to the program may register for courses with the permission of the individual instructor.

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Last modified July 06, 2012 by