Department of Criminal Justice, Legal Studies & Social Work

Legal Studies Home

Welcome to the Missouri Western Legal Studies Home page!

The Legal Studies program is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). We have the only ABA approved program at a public institution in Missouri. The Legal Studies Program offers four degree options: B.S. Criminal Justice – Legal Studies Concentration, A.S. Legal Assistant, Certificate Legal Assistant, Minor in Legal Studies (all of which are ABA Approved).

The Legal Studies Program offers a course of study designed to prepare the individual to work in the paralegal profession, or in some cases to go on to law school. A student in this program will be taught the skills needed to obtain an entry level position as a legal assistant. The skills the student will learn include legal research, interviewing, investigation, legal drafting, preparation of evidence and witnesses for trial, and assisting in the trial of a lawsuit. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook provides more information on paralegal duties and the profession. The Handbook reported in 2014 that the median annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants was $46,990 in May 2012. Employment of paralegals and legal assistants was projected to grow 17 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.

Graduates of the Legal Studies Program are positioned for career opportunities in small law firms, large law firms, legal departments of banks, insurance companies, land title insurance companies, corporations, legal aid offices, public defender offices, the office of the prosecuting attorney, and municipal legal departments.

To graduate from one of the program’s degree options students must fulfill the following program objectives:

  • Satisfactorily complete all courses, exit exams and other requirements of the program;
  • Perform legal research and analysis by using legal research material;
  • Draft and prepare legal documents;
  • Identify and explain the various functions performed by a legal assistant;
  • Explain the role of the legal assistant working in a law office;
  • Identify ethical issues, rules and standards that a legal assistant must follow; and
  • Perform the functions of a legal assistant under the supervision of a practicing attorney

Unauthorized Practice Of Law

The Legal Assistant Program is a charter member of the American Association for Paralegal Education. Paralegals cannot practice law. Only attorneys, who are licensed in the state by the Supreme Court, can practice law.