Online Paralegal Certification

Receiving an online paralegal certification can open a number of doors for the person seeking to begin a new career within the legal profession. New paralegal positions are being created by the thousands each year, and the demand for this career's service is high. The prefix "Para" means to come alongside, and that defines the purpose of a paralegal, and that is to assist with legal matters that would be otherwise be handled by an attorney. A paralegal or law assistant's work is not to take the place of an attorney, but rather to take on legal work not necessarily needing or requiring an attorney's direct intervention. The trained assistant is never to give legal advice or counsel, and work by a PL should be supervised by a licensed attorney. Their work is also, like an attorney, billed by the hour, but at a lower rate.

As a person considers achieving the title of paralegal, it would be natural to ponder the possibility of using online services to provide the educational tools for becoming a PL, particularly if that person is already working a fulltime job and convenience and/or circumstance dictates an online certification. Websites abound with organizations that offer a paralegal certificate program. One website offers certificationin eight weeks, while another says it will take seven to seventeen months to complete its certification process. Are these the proverbial apples to apples comparisons, or is one certification more prestigious than another, requiring much more work and providing more credence when job hunting? In reality, a paralegal certification earned at a state university could not be compared with an eight week degree offered on line if certification accreditation is the issue. In fact, the largest association representing legal assistants requires that its members be graduates of a paralegal program approved by the American Bar Association. Consequently, when considering online paralegal certification, there are many things to take into account.

Among the most obvious considerations to weigh is whether or not the online service offering the education is well respected in the legal community. Make inquiry with local attorneys and other legal contributors to the community of their assessment of the program being considered. Perhaps one of the most obvious indicators of the quality of a paralegal certificate program is whether the program will offer training regardless of how much schooling the candidate possesses. Since it is a well known fact and sometimes even a joke that legalese can be baffling, mind-numbing and at times quirky, it is important for one desirous of becoming a legal assistant or PL, to have an extensive vocabulary, excellent oral skills, and at least a modicum of sophisticated writing expertise. This can only be gained through a fluid understanding of grammar, verb agreement, sentence and paragraph structure that goes beyond freshman high school English. Any program suggesting an online paralegal certification can be earned without these basic skills already in hand is a fraud and should be given a very wide berth.

Another issue to be considered with getting an education from a website is the amount of time students have with teachers and instructors to ask questions, interact with other students, and the pedigree of the faculty. Investigation into the background, the degrees the staff possesses and where those degrees were earned are important to know. The methods by which classes or instruction are offered is also important. Will the student just be given a spiral notebook and a few books to read, or is there online video instruction from an actual classroom available? Is there a substantial online library that can be accessed at any time to offer resources beyond the material included in the online paralegal certification course and does the online provider offer help with financial aid? Finally, is there an internship program offered so that the student can learn in the real legal arena?

There are a number of subjects that should be included in the legal assistant or PL program. Things such as tort law, legal research, litigation, and writing contracts plus higher reasoning and communication skills that make a point and even a course in logic should be included in the paralegal certificate program. In addition, the basic of real estate law, bankruptcy, wills and trusts should also be incorporated into a well reasoned program. Because a legal assistant is hired to track down witnesses and take statements, attend the execution of wills and depositions, be able to do statistical research, summarize testimonies and draft legal summaries and interrogatories, it is important that the one considering online paralegal certification make sure that real competency is gained through the engagement of a service offering a paralegal certificate program. "Take fast hold of instruction; do not let her go; keep her, for she is thy life." (Proverbs 4:13)

The law profession has drawn its fair share of critics through the centuries, mostly due to men and women who didn't respect the history and the genius of law. The law can certainly be used by well informed practices of jurisprudence to protect the strong and punish the weak, or to increase a rich man's coffers while causing the poor man more misery. But there is also something about the law becoming the champion of the oppressed and the protector of the innocent that can send shivers down the back of any human being that beholds the beauty of justice and order being practiced in a world that seems to only favor the elite. There can be few vocations more rewarding from an ethical and moral viewpoint than the practice of law done for the right reason and motive. The legal assistant has the opportunity to enjoy that reward.

Product Liability Litigation

A court case involving product liability litigation includes the plaintiff(s), those who were supposedly injured, and the defendant(s), those who are allegedly responsible for the injury. Each side may come to court armed with a team of attorneys who are prepared to sway a jury to rule in their favor. During the court hearings, experts for the injured party will testify how the particular item in question caused harm and experts for the other side will provide testimony on why the defendants are not responsible for the injury. Once both sides have presented evidence to support their claims, the jury will deliberate and make a decision. If the jurors believe that the plaintiff was harmed by the item in question, then the defendant is liable for the plaintiff's damages. The jurors may recommend a monetary award for damages and perhaps even a punitive monetary award if they believe the defendant to have been especially negligent or indifferent. Because of the large monetary awards that jurors have sometimes given to plaintiffs, the field of product liability litigation can prove to be quite lucrative to attorneys at both the plaintiff's and the defendant's tables.

Some ambitious trial attorneys have become quite wealthy by pursuing product liability litigation cases on behalf of injured clients. The routine practice is for the legal firm representing the plaintiff to receive a hefty percentage of the monetary award returned by the jury. This gives the legal firm an incentive to pursue cases on behalf of people who have been legitimately injured because of a company's negligence, but who do not have the financial means to pay high legal fees. In some instances, when a large number of people have been affected by a particular defective product or negligent business practice, the attorneys are able to bring a class action lawsuit against a company for wrong-doing. The class action lawsuit is filed, as one single case, on behalf of all those who were supposedly injured by the company. Many people have received notices of class action lawsuits being filed on their behalf when they had no idea that a company had "injured" them. These notices usually give instructions on how to file a separate suit or to remove themselves from the class action suit. When the case is over, the class action defendants may receive some token remuneration of little actual value. While there is a legitimate need for truly injured individuals to receive some kind of compensation through product liability litigation, these class action suits too often trivialize the justice system while only enriching the attorneys. The prophet Isaiah recounts the Lord's words: "When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? . . . Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow" (Isaiah 1:12;17).

On the other side are legal experts who counsel businesses on product liability litigation avoidance and crisis management. These firms work with clients to take a proactive approach to liability prevention. The services may even extend to research conducted during pre-merger or acquisition negotiations to ensure that the other company, the one merging or being acquired, is not at undue risk of future litigation. Manufacturing clients may be advised on documentation policies and procedures that set a company standard for the organizing, retrieval, retention, disposal, and archiving of company correspondence and memos, manuals, and other relevant paperwork. The proactive approach may also include the establishment of high quality standard controls and product safety programs. The quality controls may ensure that a manufacturing malfunction keeps defective products from leaving the factory. The safety programs can be provided as evidence in a lawsuit that the manufacturer was taking reasonable steps to ensure that defective products were not sold to consumers. Additionally, any government regulations concerning the business should be carefully adhered to and the company's compliance to those regulations should be strictly documented. These compliance records may also be used as evidence in a product liability litigation case against the manufacturer in court proceedings.

Product liability experts issue make a distinction between manufacturing defects and design defects. A manufacturing defect occurs when there is some type of malfunction in the manufacturing process that results in a defective product. If this product causes an injury to a consumer, the manufacturer can be held responsible. Additionally, if the manufacturer uses substandard materials in the manufacturing process and the item injures a consumer, the manufacturer could be held liable. For example, if spoiled ingredients are used in the manufacturing of a particular food item, causing the people who eat that food to get violently sick, then these victims may have a product liability litigation case against the food company and against the supplier of the spoiled ingredients. A design defect occurs when there is no malfunction in the manufacturing process, but the item itself still causes injury because of the way it was designed. For example, a vehicle may be build according to design specifications and yet operate improperly because of some defect in the design itself. When car manufacturers learn from consumers about ongoing problems, they often issue recalls to buyers of the affected make and model so that the problem can be repaired at no expense to the buyer. By issuing the voluntary recall, the car company takes a proactive approach and avoids costly litigation. Overall, it may be said that product liability litigation, or the fear of litigation, has improved the safety of products, compensated the injured, and held negligent companies responsible. But frivolous lawsuits, such as large class action suits that don't really benefit anyone, unnecessarily increase the costs of goods and services.

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