Course Syllabus



I.  Course Description:

            This course provides an overview of the paralegal profession including ethical obligations, regulation, professional trends and issues, and the paralegal’s role in assisting the delivery of legal services. The intended audience includes those who are contemplating careers as legal assistants or attorneys and those who could otherwise benefit, personally or professionally, from basic information regarding legal systems in the United States.


II.  Required/Recommended Texts:

a.   Required Purchase:

(1)       Goodrich, The Basics of Paralegal Studies;

(2)       Schulze, Introduction to the American Legal System (2nd ed. 1992), and

(3)       Texas Courts. 

b.    Recommended:

         (1)  Black’s Law Dictionary        


III.  SCANs Competencies:

The SCANs Competencies that will be developed in this Course are listed on “Attachment A.” 


IV.  Instructional Methodology:

This course will be taught via a combined lecture and Socratic method format.  Students will be expected to have absorbed the assigned material prior to class and to be able to respond to questions on the assigned material.  In addition, students will perform “hands on” assignments and prepare written reports (formal themes) containing specified information.


V.  Course Rationale:

This course is designed to provide the student a grounding in the fundamentals of law and the American legal systems.  It is also designed to begin the process of teaching the student to think critically. 


VI.  Course Outcomes:


The Student Learning Outcomes for this course are listed on “Attachment B.” 







VII.  Course Evaluation System:

a.         There will be two mid- term exams and a non-comprehensive final examination as well as three written reports, which are required.  No final grade will be awarded to any student who fails to take three exams (including a make-up exam, if a scheduled exam is missed) and turn in all three reports.  EXAM I will test over Goodrich 1, 9, 10 & 11 and Schulze 1 through 3; EXAM II will test over Goodrich 6, 7 & 8, Schulze 4 and 6, and Texas Courts; and the FINAL EXAM will test over Goodrich 2 through 5 and Schulze 5.  (Note:  the material subject to examination may be amended by announcement in class prior to the exam.)

The weight accorded to each performance measures follows:

(1)    Mid-term exams – 30 points each

(2)    Final – 30 points

(3)  Reports  – 10 points          


b.         Total course points add to a 100-point system.


c.         The final letter grade in the course will be based upon the percentage of total points received as follows:

A – 90-100

B – 80-89

C – 70-79

D – 60-69

F – 0-59


d.         Only one make-up examination will be allowed.  Make-up exams are given during the first class period after the exam is missed and cover only the material scheduled to be tested.  Make-up exams NOT taken at such time will be COMPREHENSIVE and given on the last day of class immediately after the final exam.



VIII.  Course Policies:

a.                   Preparation for Class

The student will be expected to have read and absorbed all of the material assigned for a particular class session and to have any written work that is due that session ready to hand in at the beginning of class.  Homework will be accepted late by prior arrangement. 


b.                  Attendance.

Class attendance is encouraged.  Absent and tardy students are responsible for obtaining missed notes and revised assignments from their classmates. 


e.         Withdrawal.

            NOTE:  ***The student – not the instructor—is responsible for submitting paperwork to withdraw from a class and receive a grade of “W.”  If a student does not fulfill all course requirements with a passing grade, the student will receive an “F” for the course, unless he or she withdraws using the proper procedure within the time the college permits withdrawal.



f.          Incomplete

An “Incomplete” will not be granted in this course unless the student has a grade of “C” or better on the first two exams and a demonstrable emergency.



g.         Scholastic Dishonesty

Acts prohibited by the college for which discipline may be administered include scholastic dishonesty, including but not limited to cheating on an exam or quiz, plagiarizing, and unauthorized collaboration with another in preparing outside work.  Academic work submitted by students shall be the result of each individual’s thought, research or self-expression.  Academic work is defined as, but not limited to, tests and  quizzes, whether taken electronically  or on paper; projects, either individual or group, classroom presentation, and homework.


h.         Academic Freedom

Each student is expected to participate in class. In any classroom situation that includes discussion and critical thinking, there are bound to be differing viewpoints. Students may not only disagree with each other on occasion, but the students and instructor may also find that they have disparate views. It is expected that these differences will enhance the class and create an atmosphere where students and instructor alike will be encouraged to think and learn. Accordingly, rest assured that no student’s grade will be adversely affected by any beliefs or ideas expressed in class.


i.          Student Discipline

In the event, a student acts in such a way as to significantly interfere with or disrupt the learning atmosphere of the classroom, the instructor may direct the student to leave the class and may take other measures as appropriate.   See the ACC Student Handbook either in hardcopy or on the web:


j.          Office of Students with Disabilities

Each ACC campus offers support services for students with documented physical or psychological disabilities.  Students with disabilities must request reasonable accommodations through the Office for Student with Disabilities on the campus where they expect to take the majority of their classes.  Students are encouraged to do this three weeks before the start of the semester.


k.                  Course Calendar

The Course Calendar is a separate document that you will have received along with this syllabus.  The Course Calendar may be amended from time to time.  Absent or tardy students are responsible for obtaining revised assignments from their classmates.


l.                     Testing Center

General use of the testing center is not available to students in this course; however, should you have occasion to use an ACC testing center, be sure to first review the Testing Center Guidelines available either in the testing center or on the web under “Students” at:


m.                 Student Services Handout

A Student Services Handout is attached for your review.


n.                   Instructional Services Handout

An Instructional Services Handout is attached for your review





SCANS Competencies


Students in this course will be expected to use or achieve the following competencies:



1.1.  Allocates Time:  Allocates time between coursework/work/family/ friends.





2.1.   Participates as a Member of a Team:  Works cooperatively with others where teamwork is appropriate.


2.2.          Teaches Others:  Explains concepts in class.


2.3.  Negotiates:  Works toward an agreement on the validity of exam on the exam questions.


2.4. Works with Cultural Diversity:  Works well with men and women and with a variety of ethnic, social, or educational backgrounds in the context of the class.





3.1. Acquires and Evaluates Information:  Extracts crucial legal issues from legal hypotheticals and court cases.


3.2. Organizes and Maintains Information:  Takes notes on assigned material for use in class.


3.3. Interprets and Communicates Information:  Evaluates assigned material and explains it to the class.


3.4. Uses Computers to Process Information:  Employs computers to process course notes and to obtain, analyze, and brief court cases.






5.2. Applies Technology to Tasks:  Understands the overall intent and the proper procedures for setting up and using computers and their programs.



Basic Skills


6.1.      Reading:  Locates, understands, and interprets written  information in the text and assigned projects.


6.2.  Writing:  Communicates thoughts, ideas, information, and messages effectively in writing.


6.3.   Listening:  Receives, attends to, interprets, and responds to verbal messages during class lectures and discussions.


6.4.   Speaking:  Organizes ideas and effectively communicates thoughts when being questioned in class and during class discussions.


Thinking Skills

7.1.   Creative Thinking:  Uses imagination freely, combines ideas in new ways when discussing hypothetical problems.


7.2.  Decision Making:  Chooses the best alternative in multiple-choice questions.


7.3.   Problem Solving:  Recognizes problems in hypothetical situations and identifies possible solutions.


7.4  Knowing How to Learn:  Finds the important information in class discussions and texts and consolidates that information into a useable format.


7.5.   Reasoning:  Identifies the crucial issue in hypotheticals and recognizes the potential application of the rule in the case to other cases with similar facts and circumstances.










Personal Qualities

8.1.  Responsibility:  Exerts a high level of effort and perseverance in effectively preparing for class and class discussions.


8.2.  Self-Management:  Motivates self through goal achievement; exhibits self-control and responds to feedback unemotionally and non-defensively; is a "self-starter."


8.3.  Integrity/Honesty:  Can be trusted to accomplish her/his own work without excessive involvement of other students.









Upon completion of each segment of the Course, the student should be able to achieve the following learning outcomes:




1.      Define  paralegal and discuss legal restrictions on paralegals and their use.

2.      Explain the difference between licensing and certification of paralegals.

3.      Know the major paralegal organizations and associations, including the State Bar’s Legal Assistant Division, as well as the local organization.

4.      Learn which skills are necessary to performing paralegal work and what tasks are required of paralegals; the obstacles confronting paraglegals; and various opportunities available in paralegal employment.

5.      Know the basic rules of grammar and writing, including but not limited to how to construct a complete sentence (as opposed to a run-on sentence and sentence fragment) and how to recognize and avoid passive voice.

6.      Know where to look for a job as a legal assistant and the basics of entering the legal job market.





1. Identify and understand the sources and bodies of law.

2. Identify symbols generally used in the law.

3. Define pro bono and the reasonable man standard.

4. Define and compare jurisdiction and venue; civil and criminal; mandatory precedent                                                                                                         and persuasive authority; equity and law; legal brief and case brief; punitive (exemplary) damages versus actual (compensatory) damages, as well as other relevant terms, including but not limited to the style of a case.





1.      Define a crime and understand its major causes as discussed in class.

2.      Know the Miranda warning and its purpose.

3.      Know basic constitutional provisions, e.g., separation of powers, and rights and remedies guaranteed by Constitutional Amendment; understand the purpose of the various protections and that certain rights can be waived.

4.      Know the sequence of events between the commission and the disposition of a crime.

5.      Know the four objectives of the criminal justice system.

6.      Know the standard of proof in criminal (and civil) cases and the rights/limitations on appeal.

7.      Know the sources of defense counsel for various jurisdictions and limitations on the right to court-appointed counsel.

8.      Understand basic terminology, including but not limited to the various kinds of pleadings, as well as terms such as order, indictment, suspect (as well as accused, and criminal), probable cause, assault and battery, burglary, bifurcated, waiver, personal recognizance, misdemeanor, felony, the Bill of Rights, and grand jury.




Substantive Civil Law (Torts, Real Estate, Decedents’ Estates, Domestic Relations, and Contracts)


1.      Differentiate between injunctions and monetary awards and know related terminology.

2.      Differentiate between negligence, intentional torts, and strict-liability torts.

3.      Understand the term master-servant doctrine.

4.      Understand the elements of a contract, when an offer ends, the differences between a bilateral and unilateral contract, the value of a written contract, and the function of the Statute of Frauds, including the types of contracts it applies to.

5.      Distinguish between real and personal property, tangible and intangible personal property, grantee and grantor, and fixtures and appurtenances.

6.      Know the period of the statute of limitations with respect to a tort and to a contract.

7.      Understand various ownership interests in land and associated terminology.

8.      Differentiate between testate and intestate; and understand probate and administration, and related terms.

9.      Know and describe the types of wills and the essential elements of a will.




1.      Know different names of pleadings in state and federal courts.

2.      Understand basic pleadings.

3.      Know the name, purpose, and scope of each different form of discovery, including the advantages and disadvantages of each.

4.      Know that discovery has deadlines and notice requirements.

5.      Understand the concept of discovery sanctions.

6.      Be aware of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure and know its author.

7.      Understand terms related to civil procedure, e.g., due process, service of process, affirmative defenses, compulsory and permissive counterclaim, cross-claim, pre-trial

conference, default judgment, voir dire, peremptory challenge, challenge for cause, burden of proof, prima facie case, and charge.





1.      Know the sources and application of legal and ethical guidelines for legal professionals and understand the doctrine of respondeat superior with regard to a paralegal’s torts.

2.      Understand basic ethical rules and disciplines governing attorney and paralegal conduct, including confidentiality, conflict of interest, independent professional judgment, use of a paralegal, commingling of funds, and sharing fees.

3.      Define unauthorized practice of law, know to avoid it, and understand the “meaningful alternative” exception.

4.      Define judgment proof and deep pocket.






and TEXAS COURTS, Texas Courts


1.      Define original, appellate, exclusive, concurrent, and pendent jurisdictions.

2.      Understand diversity and federal question jurisdiction.

3.      Understand such terms as judicial restraint, justiciable controversy, standing and mootness.

4.      Understand and compare the levels of operation of the state and federal court systems, including the various courts, composition of the juries, select duties and qualifications of officers and employees of the courts, and the jurisdiction of the various criminal and civil courts.

5.      Understand basic court history, the most recent changes in jurisdiction of the Texas state courts of appeals, and when a winning party might choose to appeal, and why easy cases are not litigated.

6.      Understand the rules of appeal discussed in class.

7.      Define terms such as record, clerk’s record, reporter’s record, transcript, writ of certiorari, bona fide, en banc, motion, ordinance, cost bond, supercedeas bond, in rem, in personam, summary judgment, issuance, service, concurring, dissenting, and master.





1.      Know the basic components of a reported case and related terminology, as well as the relationship between the headnotes and the various digests.

2.      Know other basic terminology, including annotation, slip law, advance sheets, parallel cite, and official and unofficial reporters.

3.      Know how to read a case and how precedence works with respect to case law.

4.      Understand how to frame issues in terms of fact and analyze a case.

5.      Define and compare pertinent evidentiary concepts, e.g., relevant and material, direct and circumstantial, competent and credible, opinion and hearsay, and admission of party opponent  and declaration against interest.

6.      Define other terms, e.g., best evidence, authentication, parol evidence, amicus curiae, series, edition and “widget.”




1.      Understand the basic history and terminology related to statutory enactments and the relationship between common and statutory law.

2.      Understand how to read a statute and the importance of judicial construction.

3.      Understand the difference between strict and liberal construction and between codes, revised statutes, and annotated codes and statutes.

4.      Name the ten types of primary authorities

5.      Name the federal reporters and statutes, as well as the Texas reporters and statutes (generally), and give their abbreviations for use in citations.

6.      Know the main categories and functions of secondary authorities.

7.      Understand the concept of non-authority, the purpose of annotations, and the function of a table of contents and an index.

8.      Understand how primary and secondary authorities and legal non-authorities are updated.

9.      Understand the function of and relevant concepts pertaining to the state and federal reporters, statutes, and digests.

10.  Understand how to use Shepard’s and its purposes and value.

11.  Know the basic functions of other research tools, e.g., Corpus Juris Secundum, Texas Jurisprudence, Subsequent History Table, The Uniform System of Citation, Texas Rules of Form, formbooks, the Bluebook, Martindale-Hubble and Black’s Law Dictionary.

12.  Understand the components of proper legal citations for case law and how to arrive at a proper cite form.

13.  Understand the basics of research strategy using case law, statutory law, and electronic resources, including preferable resources.

14.  Understand West Publishing Company’s approach to compiling cases and research tools.

15.  Understand the organizational format in writing essays generally.

16.  Understand the rules of proper grammar, spelling, and style, and the importance of avoiding legalese.

17.  Define terms such as on all fours, white-horse case, opinion letter, and external office memorandum.