Career Diploma

Program Outline

Instruction Sets
Your program consists of nine Instruction Sets written to take you step-by-step through the knowledge and skills you'll use in your new career.

Here's how it works
Your first Instruction Set will be accessible immediately after your enrollment has been accepted, and other courses will follow as you complete your exams. Not all courses require textbooks; some use electronic instructional material.

Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need access to high-speed internet to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows® 10 or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running macOS® or later, Microsoft® Office 2019 or Microsoft 365®, and an email account to complete this program.

Note: Graduates of this program also earn 14 college credits toward an A.S. degree in Paralegal Studies and 9 college credits toward a B.S. degree in Criminal Justice at Penn Foster College.

Here is an overview of what you'll learn and the order in which you'll access your lessons:

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal: The Paralegal Diploma program is designed to prepare students for entry-level positions as paralegals or legal assistants, while providing a strong foundation for further training.

Program Outcomes:
Upon completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a general understanding of the duties a paralegal performs, the importance of privileged communications with clients, and how to avoid conflicts of interest
  • Discuss the legal system in the United States, including the origins and history of the law, the development of common law, statutory law, and constitutional law, and the litigation process for both criminal and civil litigation
  • Understand the litigation process for both criminal and civil litigation, including discovery, depositions, interrogatories, laws of evidence, venue, important hearsay exceptions, and rights of the accused
  • Demonstrate computer literacy using office software
  • Demonstrate effective written office communications
  • Recognize and use legal terminology appropriately
  • Recognize ethical violations and understand ethical rules that regulate conduct of lawyers and paralegals
  • Describe different forms of business organization, advantages and disadvantages of various entities, types of torts, defenses to negligence, and the paralegal's role in preparing commonly used documents
  • Write an effective legal memorandum; state and characterize facts and legal arguments to best advance a legal position
  • Research primary and secondary sources to determine relevant case law, find statutes and other information from appropriate sources using and other Internet sources, and correctly cite sources

Instruction Set 1

Starting Your Program
Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program. Understand how to use your Student Portal. Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers. Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.

The Paralegal Professional
An introduction to the paralegal career field; education, qualifications, and certifications; personal characteristics; places of employment; typical paralegal duties.

Instruction Set 2

Legal Terminology, Part 1
The basics of legal terminology; specific terms for litigation and torts.

Legal Terminology, Part 2
Specific terms for criminal law, contract law, real property, family law, and other areas of law.

Developing Critical Thinking Skills
How to analyze the logic of arguments; cheap tactic strategies, including emotional manipulation and agenda promotion; how to determine valid reasoning.

Instruction Set 3

Ethics and Professional Responsibility
Professional ethics; the unauthorized practice of law; working as an independent contractor; confidentiality issues, including attorney-client privilege; conflicts of interest; advertising and solicitation.

Graded Project: Thinking Critically About Ethics
Prepare a report on situations involving breach of ethical rules by paralegals and attorneys.

Instruction Set 4

How the Law Works
Function and sources of law; the legal community in America; ethical considerations for the paralegal; jurisdiction; “briefing” a case; due process.

U.S. Court System, Part 1
The foundations of modern law and the justice system; the English common law system; case law and precedence; the codification of law; different areas of law; the structure of the court system; federal vs. state courts.

U.S. Court System, Part 2
Civil vs. criminal litigation; litigation in federal vs. state courts; state laws, procedures, and rules of court, including local rules of court; federal laws, procedures, and rules of court; the paralegal’s role in litigation.

Instruction Set 5

Business Law
Types of business organizations; sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations; advantages and disadvantages of business types; law of agency; the paralegal’s role.

Graded Project: Business Law
Modify a generic partnership agreement form to meet the needs of two hypothetical clients.

Definition of torts; tort law; categories of torts; negligence defined; typical defenses; intentional torts; liability; state-specific tort laws.

Instruction Set 6

Civil Litigation
Introduction to civil litigation; courts and jurisdiction; investigation, evidence, and case evaluation; discovery; settlements; trials; appeals.

Definition, purpose, and overview; compelling discovery; interrogatories; depositions; requests for physical and mental examinations; expert witnesses.

Alternative Dispute Resolution
History of alternative dispute resolution (ADR); ADR vs.litigation; types of ADR: negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and hybrids.

Criminal Litigation
Introduction to criminal litigation; courts and jurisdiction; investigation, evidence, and case evaluation; pleadings, draftings, and motions; trials; appeals.

Instruction Set 7

First Steps in Using a Personal Computer
Setting up a computer system; navigating in the Windows® environment; accessing the Help feature; using programs in Windows® Accessories; using System Tools for Windows®.

Using Windows®
Customizing your computer display and input devices; changing the size, shape, and position of a window; creating notes, documents, and drawings using Windows® Accessories; saving and closing a data file; adding a screen saver to protect your monitor; locating a file; retrieving a file that has been recently deleted; using the Clipboard to copy information from one window to another; using the taskbar to control two windows; viewing and organizing files and folders on your local disk.

Internet Basics
How to use a browser; downloading; using email and search engines; setting preferences; plug-ins.

Study Unit: Microsoft® Word™
Using Word™; creating and saving documents.

Graded Project: Microsoft® Word™
Develop the literature for a Welcome Package for Healthy Home Care, Inc.

Study Unit: Microsoft® Excel®
Creating spreadsheets with Excel®.

Graded Project: Microsoft® Excel®
Design a spreadsheet that tracks the cost of elementary school supplies distributed to teachers over a two-month period.

Study Unit: Microsoft® PowerPoint®
Using PowerPoint® to create, modify, enhance, and customize presentations; producing visual aids; working with charts and embedded and linked objects in presentations; creating hyperlinks in presentations; using advanced PowerPoint® features.

Graded Project: Computer Applications
Creating a memo with Microsoft® Word™; creating a chart with Microsoft® Excel;® creating a presentation with Microsoft® PowerPoint®.

Instruction Set 8

Introduction to Writing
The basics of business writing; how business writing differs from personal writing; why good writing is important; how to approach each type of writing based on the audience and the purpose of the task; a review of the parts of speech.

Using the Parts of Speech
A description of the parts of a sentence; how to use the parts of speech to write effectively; subject-verb agreement; use of the active voice; effective use of modifiers; producing correct, polished writing for business; common grammatical problems.

Punctuation and Capitalization
Descriptions of punctuation marks and the purpose of each; using punctuation to properly document research sources; rules of capitalization.

Writing Sentences and Paragraphs
Writing complete, correctly structured sentences and unified, coherent paragraphs; sentence length and variety; avoiding run-ons and fragments; constructing organized paragraphs.

Improving Your Writing
Using particular patterns of organization, content, and language to most effectively convey a specific idea to a specific audience; revising, editing, and proofreading.

Types of Business Writing
Composing clear, courteous, and complete messages; formatting and etiquette for letters, email, memos, and forms.

Instruction Set 9

Legal Writing
Law-specific style and usage; the legal memorandum; forms and how to use them; hands-on form practice.

Graded Project: Legal Writing Project 1
Prepare a letter, a deed, and a memorandum using the skills acquired from the course.

Legal Research
Sources of law; the hierarchy of law; looking up cases and statutes; citing cases and statutes; reading and debriefing cases.

Graded Project: Legal Writing Project 2
Prepare a report and memorandums on the parental custody case.

Computer-Assisted Legal Research, Part 1
Hands-on legal research using®

Computer-Assisted Legal Research, Part 2
Hands-on legal research using®

Graded Project: CALR Project
Apply the skills of CALR system to complete legal research assignments.

Supplements (available online):
• Work Experience Option
• Job Hunting for Paralegals

Access to® provided to student in this Instruction Set.


Online Library and Librarian
Students in Penn Foster College have access to an online library for use during their studies. Students can use this library to do the required research in the courses they complete or can use it for general reference and links to valuable resources. The library contains helpful research assistance, articles, databases, books, and Web links. A librarian is available to answer questions on general research-related topics via email and to assist students in research activities during their studies with Penn Foster College International.

We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.

Requirements for employment as a Paralegal may vary from state-to-state. You should contact your State Bar Association for information on the educational requirements for Paralegals in your state.

A High School Diploma or GED is required to enroll in this program.

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