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MISSION VIEJO : Bar Assn. Approves Paralegal Program

Saddleback College’s Legal Assisting Program got a big boost this fall when it became one of 152 programs nationwide to be formally approved by the American Bar Assn.

The program, which was initiated at the college in 1981, trains students to become legal assistants, better known as paralegals.

A legal assistant is a non-attorney employee in a law office who assumes a wide variety of responsibilities, such as interviewing clients, performing research and drafting legal correspondence.

“They do almost everything a lawyer does except go to court and give legal advice,” said Patrizia Boen, director of the college’s legal assisting program.

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Boen said approval by the bar gives Saddleback’s program much more credibility and prestige and will help students when they look for jobs in the legal profession.

“The approval gives Saddleback students an edge because lawyers have high standards as to what an educational program must contain,” Boen said. “There is no licensing procedure for paralegals in the United States. . . . Since there is no licensing, the closest thing an employer has to go by when hiring a legal assistant is the quality of the school they went to.”

There are 350 students enrolled in the program this year. Most take more than two years to complete the program as part of their associate in arts degree, said Boen, an attorney and former legal assistant.

Program participants have access to the college’s law library, which Boen said is one of the most extensive in Orange County.

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Boen said the program is growing in popularity and points to a recent survey conducted by the Chancellor’s Office of California’s Community College that lists paralegal as the fastest-growing occupation.

The survey states that based on projections to the year 2000, the demand for paralegals will grow by more than 100%.


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