The WCBA would like to acknowledge the Kankakee Community College’s Paralegal/Legal Assistant Studies Program as a prospect for those interested in a legal career field. Whether as a full-fledge career or as a first step into a future law degree, KCC offers the education and support to help their students achieve their long-term goals.
What is a paralegal/ legal assistant?
The American Bar Association (ABA) defines a paralegal, or legal assistant, as "a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible."
NOTE: In many states, paralegals and legal assistants can carry out any function that lawyers perform with three notable exceptions: setting legal fees, giving legal advice to clients, and representing clients in court proceedings. Paralegals and legal assistants work directly under an attorney’s supervision, unless otherwise authorized by statute, court rules or agency regulations permitting paralegals to provide assistance directly to the public.
The terms "paralegal" and "legal assistant" can have different meanings to different legal organizations. The KCC's curriculum has opted to call it the "Paralegal/Legal Assistant Studies" program. In essence, paralegals can carry out any function that a lawyer can perform with three notable exceptions:
- setting legal fees
- giving legal advice to clients
- representing clients in court proceedings
A well-trained paralegal can be extremely effective in terms of legal research and writing, drafting basic pleadings and motions, gathering and maintaining case information, and assisting attorneys during trials. Because they have been trained to perform many of the routine tasks for which attorneys have also been trained, they can provide these same services to a client for a lower price than that of an attorney.
Please note; however; that paralegals work directly under attorney supervision. Paralegals who engage in activities without such supervision are engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. This program is designed to train paralegals to assist attorneys with a variety of tasks--but the tasks must always ultimately be supervised by an attorney.
Benefits of the paralegal program: The KCC advantage
- KCC’s Paralegal/Legal Assistant Studies Program is approved by the American Bar Association.
- Students from outside the KCC district may take their general education coursework at their home community college and their paralegal classes at KCC for KCC’s in-district tuition rate.
- Faculty members include sitting Circuit Court judges, practicing attorneys who are subject matter experts in their fields, and paralegals with advanced degrees and work experience in the field.
- Paralegal classes meet once weekly; smaller class sizes mean more personalized attention.
- KCC’s program is noted for its academic excellence. For five of the past six years, a KCC student has been named a national winner of the American Association for Paralegal Education scholarship.
- In 2010, KCC became the first community college in Illinois court history to host the Illinois Appellate Court as it held live oral arguments on it campus, an initiative of Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride’s Judicial Education Program.
- In 2011, KCC’s program was nominated for an American Bar Association Outstanding Law Day Award.
- In 2012, KCC’s Alumni Mentoring Network for students earned an honorable mention for distinctive curricular practices from the National Council of Instructional Administrators.
- Also in 2012, the KCC program was profiled in a chapter of Paralegal Today: The Legal Team at Work, published by Cengage Learning.
- KCC offers a chapter of the Lambda Epsilon Chi National Honor Society in Paralegal/Legal Assistant Studies and six scholarships from the KCC Foundation and the local legal community totaling $3,000 annually.
The Paralegal / Legal Assistant Studies Program
KCC offers both a two-year associate degree program and a post-bachelor’s advanced certificate option.
The two-year Associate in Applied Science degree is for those who plan to immediately enter the workforce or to transfer to a four-year bachelor’s degree program. The 36 credit hour Advanced Certificate option is fort those who hold a bachelor’s degree to complete training in appropriate areas such as writing and relevant computer applications to enhance their college coursework.
Those interested in a legal career are invited to visit the KCC website at www.kcc.edu. For your reference, the paralegal studies curriculum brochure can be found here along with past copies of newsletters: Fall 2010, Spring 2011, and Fall 2011. Those with specific questions may contact Kristine M. Condon, Professor and Program Coordinator, www.kcc.edu/facultysites/kcondon.