Course Description

The Duke Online Global Paralegal Program is a 300-hour course of study designed to train students in the aspects of the paralegal profession. The program merges the interactive, user-driven aspects of the Internet with a comprehensive paralegal curriculum. It teaches students form manipulation based on any template and instructs students in foundational skill sets. In addition, the online Writing Lab included in the program contains step-by-step instructions for preparing documents specific to the United States at a state and federal court level. As a result, the skill sets learned are transferable throughout the United States and, as such, students will learn to create valid legal documents for their jurisdiction. Instructors, licensed attorneys, will provide additional state-specific guidance as needed.

Note: The curriculum is based on the United States legal system, therefore focuses on the role of paralegals in the United States.


Essential Skills for Paralegals - 156 hours 

Fundamentals of the Profession

  • Introduction to the Legal Field 
    Students will learn what kind of job opportunities exist and what tasks a paralegal may perform.
  • Legal Terminology
    By presenting an actual legal matter and following it throughout the legal process, students are introduced to the most relevant legal terms. The case presented is tracked through both the civil and criminal court procedures.
  • Resume Preparation
    Students will receive instruction in preparing resumes and cover letters, as well as tips for interviewing.
  • Strategies for Employment
    Multiple strategies for seeking employment will be discussed, including traditional and non-traditional methods.

Evidence and Investigation

  • Stages of Litigation
    The three stages of the litigation process are presented, and the functions a paralegal may perform during each stage are discussed.
  • Evidence
    Students discuss various forms of evidence, including direct, circumstantial, oral, physical, and hearsay. The elements of admissibility are presented, as are the procedures for presentation of evidence to the court.
  • Interview Clients
    Specific techniques will be presented and discussed for conducting client interviews.
  • Law Office Investigation
    Skip tracing, formal and informal witness statements, the obtaining of public documents, and other investigative matters are presented.

Legal Research and Writing (Part 1)

  • Index Research
    Students will learn the "hierarchical structure" of legal indexes and will learn to efficiently utilize these fundamental research tools.
  • Legal Analysis
    Students will develop the skills to analyze both case law and statutory authority, including the modified IRAC method.
  • Legal Memorandum Form
    After learning the analytical process, students will analyze cases and statutes. Students will then be taught how to create a legal memorandum.
  • Blue Book Citation Form
    Students will learn the system of legal citation. Duke Global Paralegal students are also provided with access to the online Citation Labs that help them learn, step by step, how to create valid citations.

Pleadings and Discovery

  • Pleading Preparation
    Students will study pleadings and will prepare a complaint as well as a summons.
  • Discovery Preparation
    Students will be taught to create sets of Interrogatories, Requests for Admissions, and Request for Production and Inspection of Documents.
  • Discovery Coordination
    Students will learn the rules relevant to discovery and will learn how to track both sent and received discovery documents.
  • Preparing for Depositions
    Students will study various considerations for deposition setup.
  • Deposition Digesting
    Students will be provided with a deposition transcript and will be taught to summarize that document.

Legal Research and Writing (Part 2)

  • Utilization of Legal Forms
    Students will learn to manipulate templates and utilize formbooks. To facilitate this process in an online environment, students have access to our very powerful Legal Writing Labs that provide interactive forms and eLectures (corresponding audio guidance). The Writing Labs are like having an instructor looking over your shoulder helping you with your assignments!
  • Authority Identification
    The class will learn to identify primary, secondary, mandatory, persuasive, and non-authority.
  • Legal Research Skills
    By using hands-on, interactive training devices, students will learn proper law library utilization: how to locate primary authority, how to use secondary sources, how to update research sources, how to validate authority using Shepard's, and how to utilize specific legal materials. Students will be trained in The Key Number System and the Total Client Service. In addition, students will be able to utilize the Legal Research Labs, including the Law Library Lab, Westlaw Lab, and Lexis Lab.
  • Duke University Paralegal students are provided with training and access to the law library, Westlaw, and Lexis.

Motion Practice

  • Motions, Notices, and Briefs
    Students will be introduced to various forms of motions and will be required to prepare a motion, notice, and brief.
  • File Maintenance
    Proper file maintenance is discussed. Students will be required to assemble all documents created in the class into a client file or evaluation.

The Legal Environment

The Law Office

  • Law Office Etiquette
    Students will learn how to properly present themselves in a law office environment, including dress considerations, telephone tips, and a discussion of office politics.
  • File Maintenance
    Students will learn how to create and maintain a client file.
  • Tickler and Calendaring Systems
    The class will discuss various forms of reminder systems for important due dates, and both hard-copy and computer-based calendaring methods.
  • Billable Hours
    Student will learn the importance of keeping track of billable hours.

Legal Ethics

  • ABA Rules of Ethics
    Students will become familiar with the ABA Rules that guide the ethical behavior of attorneys and will discuss how these rules affect paralegals in their day-to-day lives.
  • Law Office Ethics
    Students will be taught to maintain a high ethical standard. To facilitate the learning process, students will be presented with ethical scenarios and potential pitfalls to avoid.
  • Legal Advice
    The class will be instructed in rules preventing a paralegal from providing legal advice and will discuss what does and does not constitute such advice.
  • Legal Representation
    Students will discuss the rules restricting paralegal representation, and the class will be presented with exceptions to these rules.

State Courts

  • General State Court Structure
    Local and state trial and appellate courts will be discussed, including how to access filing procedures for specific courts. Since court structure is very similar from state to state, understanding the foundations of state court structure will be beneficial to students from any location.
  • Court Rules
    Students are taught the most frequently used court rules and are also taught the skills necessary for finding any rule for specific procedural questions. Accessing court rules is an almost universal process and students will be able to access court rules in whichever jurisdiction they reside.

Federal Courts

  • Government Structure
    Students will learn the structure of government and the laws that apply to each branch.
  • Federal Court Structure
    Students will be instructed in the basic differences between state and federal jurisdiction, as well as the federal trial and appellate jurisdictions. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure will be introduced.

Legal Technology

  • Electronic Legal Research Skills
    Students will learn how to create computer queries in order to use Westlaw and Lexis. Students will also be presented with individual access to LexisNexis online legal research.
  • Electronic Discovery
    Students will learn the procedures for exchanging discovery documents digitally.


Substantive Legal Studies - 144 hours

Choose two of four possible course offerings:

  • Contract Law 
  • Tort Law
  • Criminal Law 
  • Business Organizations 



  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • Possess word processing and internet skills.
  • Have an email account and regular access to a computer.
  • An Associate's or Bachelor's degree is required.
  • Be fluent in the English language (including reading and writing).
  • Upon notification of admission to the program, be able to pay the tuition fee in full. If a loan has been secured to pay tuition, Duke Continuing Studies must be notified that the loan has been approved.


Paralegal Certificate - Online
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Section Title
Certificate Program in Paralegal Studies - Online
Delivery Options
Course Fees
Section Notes

An application and other supplemental documents must be submitted in order to be considered for the program. Only electronic applications submitted through the Duke Online Paralegal website will be accepted. To read more about the application process and to submit an application, please visit the Online Application web page.

Textbooks: Students should estimate an additional $500 - $625 for the cost of textbooks. Instructions for ordering textbooks will be emailed to students once they are enrolled in the program.

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