Duquesne University School of Law

Paralegal Institute Course Descriptions

Earning Your Certificate

The general certificate comprises a total of 33 Continuing Education Unit (CEUs). The CEU is a nationally recognized, standard unit of measurement that has been adopted for post-secondary programs and educational courses not carrying credit. Ten (10) hours of in-class participation equals one CEU.

The Paralegal Institute's core courses are offered each term. Students are advised to complete Introduction to the Legal System and Paralegalism and Legal Research before taking any other coursework. Elective courses are offered at least once per year.


Core Courses

501 Introduction to the Legal System and Paralegalism

This introductory course will provide students with an understanding of the language of the law, important legal concepts, the workings of the American legal system and most significantly, the role of the paralegal in this system. Students will be introduced to the major substantive areas of the law as well as the procedural aspects of the practice of law and professional ethics. Although students will receive a national perspective on the law, there will be coverage of Pennsylvania practice.

505 Professional Responsibility and Paralegal Practice

The aim of this course is to introduce students to the ethical dimensions of paralegal practice: the rules by which lawyers practice law and the standards of conduct for non-lawyer personnel working in the legal profession. The course will also examine law office management principles so that students will understand the context in which their skills will be applied. This course provides a forum in which paralegal skills will be combined with the organizational, administrative and professional skills essential to paralegal success.

550 Legal Research Methods

This course will provide an introduction to legal research methods utilizing print, online databases (i.e., WestlawNext and LexisNexis), and fee and free Internet sites. The course will cover primary sources (constitutions, statutes, regulations and case law) and secondary sources (encyclopedias, periodicals, ALR, treatises, etc.).

551 Legal Writing and Case Analysis I

Using real-world fact scenarios, this course teaches students the skills needed to understand legal fact patterns, analyze the law as it applies to those fact patterns, and write the various legal documents that often are generated when law firms are presented with similar situations. The course will emphasize the process model of writing where the students will work closely with their peers and instructor on creating numerous drafts of a document before producing an end product. Students will learn to think and write using the conventions of the legal profession. (Prerequisite: 550)

552 Legal Writing and Case Analysis II

Students will be asked to build upon the skills learned in 551 Legal Writing and Case Analysis I and taught to research, draft, and edit complex legal documents. Emphasis will be placed on the writer’s audience and critical legal analysis of court opinions, statutes, and secondary legal resources. Students will use their legal analysis skills to translate pertinent ideas into cogent and successful legal documents using, where appropriate, classical rhetorical devices to dispute, explain, and convince an audience of the legal merits of their argument. (Prerequisite: 551)



510 Civil Litigation I

Students will learn the basic aspects of civil litigation, which include jurisdiction, venue, identification of local courts, initiation of civil proceedings, motions practice, e-discovery and discovery procedures, trial procedures, and basic evidentiary problems. The course emphasizes those areas in which a paralegal may assist counsel in preparation for litigation, such as identification of factual and legal issues, drafting pleadings, interviewing witnesses, preparation of witnesses for trial, obtaining evidence through discovery, organizing documentary evidence, and the use of demonstrative evidence. References will be made to administrative law and appellate procedures.

511 Commercial Contract Law

Students will study commercial law with particular reference to the common law of contracts, the Uniform Commercial Code, debtor-creditor rights and consumer law. This course deals with the rights and remedies of buyers and sellers of goods, the creation of security interests, and other general principles of contract law. Students will be trained to assist lawyers with these matters.

512 Estates, Wills and Trusts

Students will be introduced to the various forms of ownership of property. Students will also learn about the distinction between probate and non-probate assets, the difference between the probate estate and taxable estate, Pennsylvania law of intestate succession and formal requirements for drafting Wills and Trusts. Students will learn how to complete all forms required by the Register of Wills. The importance of establishing tickler dates for various date-driven tasks will be emphasized. Students will also take part in the preparation of Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax and Federal Estate Tax Returns. Practicing paralegals may provide presentations.

513 Domestic Law

Students will be introduced to family law, its court system and procedures. The areas discussed will range from requirements for a valid marriage to dissolution of marriage, via annulment and divorce. In addition, spousal and child support, alimony, alimony pendence lite, paternity, custody, adoption and the very volatile area of domestic violence will be explored.

515 Real Estate Law

This course will be a survey of the language, concepts and transactions used in that area of the law called “real estate” or “real property.” The objective of this course - is to provide the paralegal with the skills necessary to comprehend the documents, follow the procedure, and understand the theory necessary when a law office is retained to represent buyers, sellers, mortgage lenders, builders, developers, landlords, tenants, or any other interested parties to a real estate matter.

516 Criminal I Law

Students will be introduced to criminal law, definitions, penalties, realities of criminal practice, and federal, state and local rules of procedure. The student will learn about search and seizure, bail hearings, pretrial discovery, indictment, arraignment, pleas, and trial procedures. Motions and other related documents may be prepared.

517 Civil Litigation II (e-discovery)

This advanced-level course regarding civil litigation in federal and state courts focuses on e-discovery, which has become a substantial component of most civil suits filed in the United States. Students will learn how the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and analogous state rules address the discovery of electronically stored information (ESI), and will examine a number of key court decisions related to e-discovery. Students will also study analyses prepared by the Sedona Conference, the leading organization studying the escalating effects of e-discovery on civil litigation. The course will provide practical instruction about the administrative and mechanical aspects of obtaining and providing e-discovery in litigation, as well as common issues related to using ESI as evidence at trial. (Prerequisite: 510)

518 Torts/Personal Injury Law

Students will be introduced to the substantive law of torts. Students will learn the basic elements of negligence/medical malpractice claims, intentional torts, claims of strict and products liability, defamation and related privacy torts as well as automobile insurance claims. Students will learn all viable defenses to each tort. The course will also examine issues surrounding the legal concepts of causation, damages, remedies and vicarious liability. Students will learn how to analyze facts and recognize a potential tort/personal injury cause of action, as well as how to assist in the preparation and adjudication of a tort/ personal injury trial.

519 Internship

Students may be placed in a paralegal position with a private law firm, government agency, court office, corporation, insurance company, bank, real estate company, community service agency, health care facility or other appropriate office. The term of the internship is 16 hours per week for 10 weeks. There will be an additional classroom component of 8 hours held in 4 two-hour sessions during the evenings. The student will learn the practical daily operation of the assigned office. Supervised by a licensed, practicing attorney and usually by a practicing paralegal, the student will be both an observer and a participant in the operation of the assigned office. Normally the student receives no salary or compensation for his/her service. An internship at a student’s place of employment will be allowed only under restricted circumstances. (Prerequisites: 501, 550, 551, 552, 505)

524 Corporate and Business Law I

Students will be introduced to corporate and business law concepts. There will be a general discussion of various types of business organizations such as sole proprietorships, general partnerships and limited partnerships. The emphasis of this course, however, will be centered on various types of corporations such as nonprofit, professional, close and business corporations. Regulation of public companies will also be reviewed. Students will learn how to prepare minutes and resolutions of shareholder’s and director’s meetings and other related documents.

527 Corporate and Business Law II

Students will learn about agreements and documents and how they are prepared and utilized in a business corporation. These will include shareholders and employment agreements, merger, asset, and stock purchase documents, closing documents and other related agreements. Students will be aware of the ethical and the specific functions of a corporate paralegal. (Prerequisite: 524)

528 Federal and State Securities Law

Students will study the various concepts involved in connection with various stock offerings. Emphasis will be placed on compliance with federal and blue sky offerings, securities and regulations. (Prerequisite: 524)

529 Corporate Financing

Students will study corporate structures of financing and will be introduced to many of the loan agreements, security agreements, guarantees, notes, mortgages, financing statements, leases, subleases, trusts, escrow agreements, indentures and loan transactions. Students will learn how to prepare and draft related documents. (Prerequisite: 524)

530 Immigration Law and Procedure

The Immigration Nationality Act of 1952, as amended, is examined and emphasis will be placed on the most commonly used non-immigrant working visas, permanent residency (both family and employment related) and alien labor certifications. This is a hands-on course in which students learn how to prepare various applications and petitions particular to this field.

532 Bankruptcy

The purpose of this course is to introduce and explain the Federal Bankruptcy Code and state collection procedure to paralegals. The course will be geared to preparing future paralegals to perform tasks routinely encountered in a bankruptcy practice. We will review the general theory underlying the Bankruptcy Code. We will examine the rights and duties of debtors under the Bankruptcy Code. Various classifications of creditors and different creditor remedies will also be explored. The student will conduct a client interview and prepare the necessary documents to complete a bankruptcy petition, along with having an understanding of the principles underlying the documents.

533 Administrative Law

This course explains the role of administrative agencies, our “4th Branch of Government,” as well as the methods by which they conduct their business. Students will also explore the statutory common law and political limits on administrative agency power. Practicing paralegals may speak on the skills used in this practice area. Students may complete a project as part of the course.

534 Environmental Law

Students are introduced to the major federal, state and local environmental laws through readings and exercises designed to highlight the role of the paralegal, with particular emphasis on environmental issues pertinent to Western Pennsylvania. 

536 Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative Dispute Resolution processes are exploding in popularity. The application of ADR is becoming increasingly widespread in all areas of the legal system. This course examines the processes that compliment the traditional litigation process. Students will have hands-on opportunities to experience negotiation, arbitration and mediation as they explore the advantages and problems associated with each of these alternatives.

537 Elder Law

This special topics course focuses on the legal issues affecting our aging population with an emphasis on such practice areas as: medicare, medicaid, end-of-life decision making, long term care issues, nursing homes and alternatives, elder abuse, estate planning and asset protection, disability planning and probate matters such as conservatorships. (Prerequisite 512)

540 Intellectual Property Laws and Procedures

Intellectual properly (patents, trademarks and copyrights) is a rapidly increasing area of law wherein paralegals are an integral part. This course will focus on the law of the procurement and protection of intellectual property rights. Emphasis will be placed on the application of intellectual property law principles and preparation of the commonly used forms and submissions in practice. Students will gain a basic understanding of intellectual property law and a strong understanding of the application of the law. In-class projects, assignments and computer research will provide hands-on experience with finding the answers often posed to intellectual property paralegals.

541 Preparation of PA Inheritance and Federal Estate Tax Returns

Students will gain a fundamental understanding necessary for the preparation of simple Pennsylvania and federal death tax returns. Specific matters include an introduction to the concept of transfer taxes; identification and valuation of assets subject to death taxes; preparation of the PA form REV-I500; an introduction to the U.S. estate tax return (form 706); calculation of PA inheritance tax and federal estate tax liabilities; introduction to the tax considerations related to martial bequests and charitable bequests; introduction to the basics of the taxation of lifetime transfers and the federal gift tax return, and an introduction to the technological resources available for computer assisted preparation of death tax returns and related research. (Prerequisite 512)

542 Technology in the Law Office

This course is an introduction to computer technology and its applications. Knowledge of Microsoft Office is assumed. The primary objective is to provide students with practical computer skills as applied to the law office and other legal entities based on evidentiary, ethical and substantive considerations. Technology and legal principles are explained as students gain hands on instruction in several software programs. Upon completion, students will be able to utilize various applications commonly used in the legal environment, such as calendaring and communication systems, time and document management software, and litigation support systems and trial presentation software.

543 Advanced Civil Litigation

This is a hands-on practical skills course that builds on critical analysis, theoretical and practical skills provided in the civil litigation and technology tracks. The course will focus on completion of projects and assignments typically encountered in litigation firms or departments and will provide instruction and use of selected litigation support software programs. Students will become familiar with key terms used throughout the litigation practice and support industry. Students will cite check a brief, learn proper citation format, learn to electronic file in state, and federal courts, and other procedures. This is a participation and projects oriented course. (Prerequisite: 510)

544 Litigation Technology I

This is the first of two litigation technology courses and will focus on several software programs. Basic knowledge of Microsoft is assumed. This course will focus on intermediate and some advanced applications in the law office. This course will incorporate best practices, ethical, substantive and evidentiary considerations.

545 Litigation Technology II

The student will continue to hone the skills learned in Litigation Technology I, with the use of more advanced features of Microsoft Office Suite integration. In addition, the student will gain hands-on experience with various litigation applications used commonly in the legal environment to prepare for trial. Applying court rules of procedure, substantive and ethical best practices, students will gain a basic understanding of using computer technology to manage cases, create databases, work with forms, manage discovery, cite check briefs, and use graphics to create demonstrative trial exhibits. (Prerequisite: 510)

547 Labor and Employment Law

This course introduces students to the law of the workplace beginning with the hiring process and concluding with the termination of the employment relationship. In between, the course will address such issues as: rights of privacy, working conditions, discrimination, sexual harassment, workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation, and labor/ management relations including collective bargaining and grievance processing.

548 Advanced Legal Research

This course will serve to refresh the basic skills students learned in Legal Research Methods, while at the same time expand their usage of print, online databases, and fee and free Internet sites applied to specialized topics of the law including commercial law, bankruptcy, environmental law, tax, labor and employment, administrative law, and legislative history. (Prerequisite: 550)

549 Healthcare Law

This special topics course will introduce students to the legal issues impacting the health care industry, one of the most highly-regulated industries in the United States. The objective of the course is to provide students with the skills necessary to assist lawyers in the health care field, whether in the law firm or corporate setting. Areas of emphasis will include health care delivery and administration, compliance, fraud and abuse, data privacy and security, the physician/patient relationship, and ethical decision making. Specific emphasis will be placed on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, which significantly reformed the American health care industry.

553 Pennsylvania Law in Oil and Gas

This course introduces the paralegal student to Pennsylvania law as it applies to oil and gas. The course emphasizes property and contract concepts that are unique to this area of law and that govern the dealings among landowners and oil companies. Students are introduced to essential legal terminology, the legal concepts involved in the ownership of oil and gas rights, and the varied joint interests that may be created within an oil and gas estate. Furthermore, the course will provide the paralegal student with practical knowledge concerning title examinations, conveyance, administrative regulations, and the oil and gas lease. (Co-requisite/Prerequisite 515)

554 Public Policy, Governance and Law

This special topics course will provide students with both substantive background in public governance and practical skills to interface with the public sector, which would be beneficial for students whether employed in the public sector or interacting with the public sector on behalf of a private entity.  It is anticipated that students, among other issues, will comprehend the public policy process, appreciate public management tools that impact modern governance, and develop research skills to efficiently navigate the public governance landscape.