OU Legal Program Undergoes Name Change
NORMAN, Okla. — The American Bar Association in 2020 exchanged the term legal assistant for “paralegal” in its definition of “a person qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.” The University of Oklahoma Law Center – having also received feedback from students, graduates and administrators – has followed suit, changing the name of the Department of Legal Assistant Education to Paralegal Studies.
“Paralegals can work in a variety of settings from the private sector to the public sector,” said Leslee Roybal, paralegal education program coordinator. “Paralegals are doing research, drafting contracts, helping attorneys prepare for trial and a range of other legal duties, all under an attorney’s supervision. This makes it possible for attorneys to provide services more efficiently to clients.”
The University of Oklahoma’s paralegal program stresses understanding and reasoning rather than rote learning of facts. Legal specialty courses are taught by practicing lawyers and paralegals who bring real-world experience to the classroom.
“This change lets employers know that our program’s graduates are educated in substantive areas of law and are prepared to complete substantive legal work under the supervision of a licensed lawyer,” said Katheleen Guzman, Dean of the OU College of Law.
The program’s students are educated to perform tasks that traditionally have been handled by lawyers. The responsibilities of paralegals are professional and distinct from routine clerical duties. The paralegal may interview clients, research legal issues, prepare documents, and assist in litigation, allowing the supervising lawyer to provide quality representation at lower cost to the client. Paralegals cannot give legal advice, accept cases, represent clients in court, or perform any legal service without the supervision of a licensed lawyer.
Those interested in applying to the program can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
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