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Legal Studies

Legal Studies2020-08-20T11:56:19-05:00

Promote civic engagement. Advocate for justice. Uphold the Constitution.

The Legal Studies Program offers four degree options: B.S. Criminal Justice – Legal Studies Concentration, A.S. Legal Assistant, Legal Assistant Certificate, Minor in Legal Studies.

The Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Legal Studies prepares students to work as a paralegal, a legal professional or to go onto law school. The program offers students the opportunity to explore the various roles, functions, and responsibilities of the numerous positions in the American legal system. You’ll come away an understanding of the history, principles, and purpose of legal institutions and their operation.

All students complete an applied learning requirement. In most cases students choose an internship and a senior capstone course. Students who have earned a Bachelor’s degree in this or any discipline may also choose to apply for admission to law school, which is a very competitive process based primarily on grades and scores on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

Upon completion of the program, graduates will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate effective legal knowledge and practical skills necessary to perform substantive legal work under the direction of an attorney.
  2. Demonstrate appropriate paralegal skill development and professionalism through practical experiences.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of their ethical responsibilities in the legal profession.
  4. Articulate the paralegal’s role in the delivery of legal services to the public.
  5. Write clearly and think analytically.
  6. Read, analyze, and synthesize complex information in an organized and logical manner.
  7. Utilize technology necessary to meet employer needs.
  8. Manage multiple projects and tasks.

The A.S. offers courses that are designed to prepare students to work as a paralegal, or to go on to law school. 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 Certificate in Legal Assistant (paralegal) offers courses that are designed to prepare students to work as a paralegal or to go on to law school. 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. Students who qualify may earn a Legal Assistant Certificate while also earning an A.S. or B.S.

Graduates from either degree option will 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

Students who are pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in another discipline should consider a minor in Legal Studies. A minor in Legal Studies prepares students who are interested in attending law school and allows for more job opportunities.

Our graduates hold positions in 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, municipal legal departments and more.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook, the median annual wage for paralegals and legal assistants was $50,940 in May 2018.  Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 12% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average. Formally trained paralegals with strong computer and database management skills should have the best job prospects.  Employment of legal occupations is projected to grow 7% from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations, which will result in about 93,300 new jobs. As law firms try to increase the efficiency of legal services and reduce their costs, there is expected to be strong demand to hire many more paralegals and legal assistants. Additionally, the demand for lawyers is expected to continue as individuals, businesses, and governments require legal services in many areas.

The median annual wage for all legal occupations was $80,810 in May 2018, which was higher than the median annual wage for all occupations of $38,640.

All Missouri Western Legal Studies programs are approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). We have the only ABA approved program at a public institution in Missouri. Our Legal Assistant program is also a charter member of the American Association for Paralegal Education.

The time it takes to complete the paralegal degree depends upon which paralegal degree you decide to complete. There are four paralegal degree options: a minor in Legal Studies, a Certificate in Legal Assistant, an Associate Degree in Legal Studies, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Legal Studies.  The Bachelor’s degree requires 120 hours of credits. The Associate’s degree is completed in 62 credit hours. The certificate requires a minimum of 30 credit hours. Classes are typically three (3) credit hours each and can be completed according to schedule permitted and preference of each student.
The cost of completing the paralegal program is determined by which degree you decide to complete. Please refer to the Missouri Western admissions website to determine the cost per credit hour:  https://www.missouriwestern.edu/admissions/

No, the paralegal degree may not be completed online only.   As a paralegal program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA), all paralegal students are required to complete a minimum of nine (9) credit hours in a synchronous or traditional classroom environment.

Yes, the Legal Studies (paralegal) program has been approved by the American Bar Association since 1986.
Legal assistant doing research

Legal Assistant (Associate of Science, A.S.)

The Associate of Science degree with a major in Legal Assistant is designed to provide those individuals who have little or no background or training in law with the skills necessary to work in a law office as an assistant to an attorney.

General Studies
15
Major Requirements
LAT 101Introduction to Law3
LAT 115Paralegal Studies3
LAT 220Legal Research3
LAT 225Litigation3
LAT 250Legal Computer Applications3
LAT 310Legal Drafting3
LAT 400Advanced Legal Research3
LAW 365Practicum I3
or LAW 465 Internship
ENG 108College Writing and Research3
MAT 110Contemporary Problem Solving3
or MAT 112 Finite Mathematics
or MAT 116 College Algebra
PSC 101American National Government3
Restricted Legal Studies Electives
Select twelve credit hours from the following:12
Real Property
Tort Law
Interpersonal Conflict Resolution
Study Away in Criminal Justice & Legal Studies
Probate Law
Domestic Relations
Civil Rights Law
Conflict Management
Selected Legal Topics
Criminal Evidence
Internship
Business Law I
Business Law II
Family and Child Welfare
Substance Use and Disorders
Death And Dying

NOTE: Students must complete a Contact Information form prior to graduation. Per ABA program approval guidelines, students must also complete an exit interview with selected department faculty. 

University Graduation Requirements

  1. Earn a minimum of 62 credit hours (100 level and above, maximum of 6 CED credit hours applicable).
  2. Earn 20 of the last 30 credit hours at MWSU in institutional course work (exclusive of credit by examination).
  3. Participate in required departmental and campus wide assessments. 
  4. Fulfill the Missouri Constitution requirement.
  5. Successfully pass the Missouri Higher Education Civics Achievement exam.

Criminal Justice (Bachelor of Science, B.S.)

General Studies
42-47
Core Requirements
LAT 101Introduction to Law3
LAT 335Interpersonal Conflict Resolution3
LAW 100Introduction to Criminal Justice3
LAW 110Introduction to Juvenile Justice3
LAW 190Criminal Investigation3
LAW 260Criminal Law3
LAW 305Introduction to Theories of Crime3
LAW 325Understanding Research in Criminal Justice3
LAW 410Criminal Procedure3
Select one of the following Applied Learning tracks:6
Track 1:
Practicum I
Internship
Senior Seminar
Track 2:
Research Methods
Quantitative Analysis in Criminal Justice
Concentration
Select one of the following concentrations:28-31
Corrections
Juvenile Justice
Law Enforcement
Legal Studies

Concentrations:
Corrections
Juvenile Justice
Law Enforcement
Legal Studies

Corrections Concentration

*Effective Fall 2020, this program is being phased out and has a 3-year teach out plan. More information can be found here.

Concentration Requirements
LAW 200Introduction to Corrections3
LAW 270Probation and Parole3
LAW 300Criminal Justice Communications3
LAW 345Victimology3
LAW 375Sentencing Practices and Issues3
SWK 345Substance Use and Disorders3
Choice of a second major, minor, approved certificate or twelve credit hours of restricted electives from the following:12
Select any LAW course numbered 500-599
Psychology of Communication
Abnormal Psychology
Criminology
Mental Health and Social Work
Family and Child Welfare
Substance Use and Disorders
Death And Dying
Total Credit Hours30

 Juvenile Justice Concentration

*Effective Fall 2020, this program is being phased out and has a 3-year teach out plan. More information can be found here.

Concentration Requirements
LAT 370Domestic Relations3
LAT 420Civil Rights Law3
LAW 345Victimology3
LAW 375Sentencing Practices and Issues3
LAW 440Juvenile Law and Procedures3
SWK 325Family and Child Welfare3
Choice of a second major, minor, approved certificate or twelve credit hours of restricted electives from the following:12
Select any LAW course numbered 500-599
Psychology of Communication
Abnormal Psychology
Criminology
Mental Health and Social Work
Family and Child Welfare
Substance Use and Disorders
Death And Dying
Total Credit Hours30

 Law Enforcement Concentration

Concentration Requirements
LAW 130Introduction to Policing3
LAW 140Traffic Control and Accident Investigation3
LAW 275Police Photography3
LAW 280Criminalistics4
LAW 300Criminal Justice Communications3
LAW 460Administration and Planning3
Choice of a second major, minor, approved certificate or twelve credit hours of restricted electives from the following:12
Select any LAW course numbered 500-599
Psychology of Communication
Abnormal Psychology
Criminology
Mental Health and Social Work
Family and Child Welfare
Substance Use and Disorders
Death And Dying
Total Credit Hours31

Legal Studies Concentration 

Concentration Requirements
LAT 115Paralegal Studies3
LAT 220Legal Research3
LAT 225Litigation3
LAT 250Legal Computer Applications3
LAT 310Legal Drafting3
LAT 400Advanced Legal Research3
Choice of a second major, minor, approved certificate or twelve credit hours of restricted electives from the following:
Select any LAW course numbered 500-599
Business Law I
Business Law II
Psychology of Communication
Abnormal Psychology
Criminology
Mental Health and Social Work
Family and Child Welfare
Substance Use and Disorders
Death And Dying
Total Credit Hours18

NOTE: Students must complete a Pre-Post test and Contact Information form prior to graduation. Per ABA program approval guidelines, students with a concentration in legal studies must also complete an exit interview with selected department faculty.

Program Graduation Requirements

  1. No more than 2 courses with a grade of D permitted in major and concentration coursework. 
  2. Earn an overall GPA of at least 2.0 and a major GPA of at least 2.0.

University Graduation Requirements 

  1. Earn a minimum of 120 credit hours (100 level and higher, maximum of 6 CED credit hours applicable).
  2. Earn a minimum of 30 credit hours in upper-division courses.  Lower-division transfer courses accepted as meeting upper-division departmental course requirements cannot be used to fulfill this requirement.
  3. Earn 30 of the last 45 credit hours at MWSU in institutional coursework (exclusive of credit by examination).
  4. Participate in required departmental and campus wide assessments. 
  5. Fulfill the Missouri Constitution requirement.
  6. Successfully pass the Missouri Higher Education Civics Achievement exam. 

Legal Assistant Certificate

Core Requirements
LAT 101Introduction to Law3
LAT 115Paralegal Studies3
LAT 220Legal Research3
LAT 225Litigation3
LAT 250Legal Computer Applications3
LAT 310Legal Drafting3
LAT 400Advanced Legal Research3
LAW 365Practicum I3
or LAW 465 Internship
Restricted Electives
Select nine credit hours from the following:9
Real Property
Tort Law
Interpersonal Conflict Resolution
Study Away in Criminal Justice & Legal Studies
Probate Law
Domestic Relations
Civil Rights Law
Conflict Management
Selected Legal Topics
Criminal Evidence
Business Law I
Business Law II
Family and Child Welfare
Substance Use and Disorders
Death And Dying

 NOTE: Students must complete a Contact Information form prior to graduation. Per ABA program approval guidelines, students must also complete an exit interview with selected department faculty.

Graduation Requirements 

  1. Earn a minimum of 30 credit hours (100 level and higher, maximum of 6 CED credit hours applicable).
  2. Earn 9 of the last 15 credit hours at MWSU in institutional coursework (exclusive of credit by examination).
  3. Participate in required departmental and campus wide assessments. 
  4. No more than 2 courses with a grade of D permitted in major coursework.
  5. Earn an overall GPA of at least 2.5.

Legal Studies Minor

Minor Requirements
LAT 101Introduction to Law3
Select six courses from the following:18
Paralegal Studies
Legal Research
Litigation
Legal Computer Applications
Legal Drafting
Interpersonal Conflict Resolution
Domestic Relations
Advanced Legal Research
Total Credit Hours21

 NOTE: Students must complete a Contact Information form prior to graduation. Per ABA program approval guidelines, students must also complete an exit interview with selected department faculty.

University Graduation Requirements

  1. Have a valid and declared major on file (minors cannot be awarded in the same areas as the major, emphasis or concentration).
  2. Earn a minimum of 3 credit hours beyond the major, emphasis, concentration and/or general studies requirements.
  3. Earn a minor GPA of at least 2.0.

Are you ready to declare this major? Download, sign and submit the form to the Criminal Justice, Legal Studies and Social Work Department.

Mapping your degree plan is important. Consult with your academic advisor to create a plan and monitor it regularly.

Program Name: Legal Assistant Certificate

This program is designed to be completed in 1 Year (33 Credit Hours).

This program will cost $9,903.16 if completed within normal time for in-state students and $17,537.05 for out-of-state students. There may be additional costs for living expenses. These costs were accurate at the time of posting, but may have changed. 

Of the students who completed this program within normal time, the typical graduate leaves with NA of debt.  Fewer than 10 students completed this program within normal time. Average debt has been withheld to preserve the confidentiality of these students.

The following States do not have licensure requirements for this profession: Missouri, Kansas, Iowa

For more information about graduation rates, loan repayment rates, and post-enrollment earnings about this institution and other postsecondary institutions please click here: https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/

Last Updated June 20, 2019

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.