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Contract Management for Paralegals

Taking a contract management course (or two) can make paralegals more valuable and versatile to their employers.

Learning the skillsets required in managing contracts can set paralegals up for advancement — and maybe a future career change.

Whether working in a corporate office or law firm, paralegals can greatly enhance their value with some additional training in contract management competencies. After all, both roles share much in common: elements of negotiating, risk management, and administering legal documents in a number of ways.

Contract management can be quite lucrative (average annual salary is $127,240, according to Salary.com*), but even if a career change isn’t in the cards, gaining some contract management skillsets can make paralegals far more likely to be promoted, said Virginia Suveiu, a UCI Division of Continuing Education (UCI DCE) instructor who teaches courses in both subjects. She notes that a growing number of new job postings are for crossover positions such as Contracts Administrator/Paralegal or Contracts Manager/Paralegal.

“There is significant overlap as it relates to the skillsets paralegals have in common with contract managers,” Suveiu added. “Gaining these skillsets can make paralegals much more valuable to their organization because they can better anticipate risks and nip them in the bud.”

Here’s a breakdown of the essential skills paralegals can acquire in each of the six courses offered in the Contract Management certificate program, and how they address the three phases of the contract life cycle — Pre-Award, Award, and Post-Award — as defined by the Contract Management Body of Knowledge (CMBOK).

Principles of Business Contracts: This course provides an overview of all three phases of the contract life cycle, from determination of need to closeout, offering a comprehensive view of contract administration, negotiation, and financial analysis. Students learn the basics of what a business contract is and how to manage the specific terms, elements, and legal considerations involved, be it working in-house or for a law firm.

Financial Aspects of Business Contracts: Accounting systems, budgeting, reporting, auditing, and settlements are covered in depth, along with strategies to leverage each life cycle phase to increase a company’s profitability. “Students learn to identify risks and solve problems as they arise,” Suveiu said. “They get a solid foundation as it relates to the relationship between financing of projects/ transactions and contracts.”

Contract Formation: Curriculum covers the Pre-Award and Award phases — namely, negotiation and valid formation of a contract. Students gain proficiency in writing, analyzing, and responding to contract proposals while identifying and managing risks along the way. Stakeholder requirements and a range of local, state, and federal regulations and laws dealing with contract formation are covered in detail.

Contract Performance: Students get a strong foundation in the Award and Post-Award phases with an emphasis on real-world application of process management, making changes and solving problems up to contract closeout. The course includes assignments and discussion boards designed to enhance proficiency in contract management and enable students to immediately apply classroom concepts in their workplace.

Contract Negotiation: Negotiating contract price, terms, and conditions is at the heart of the Pre-Award and Award phases, areas that can be especially valuable for corporate paralegals. This course provides a deep dive into negotiation techniques and guidelines using case studies and proven processes covering all the tools and proficiencies needed for negotiating a contract. Students learn how to deal with obstacles and build strong business relationships.

Ethics in Contracting: A background in ethical business practices is essential for successfully guiding a contract through its life cycle, properly navigating business and legal considerations along the way. “This course provides a solid foundation in codes of ethics and processes for decision-making,” Suveiu said. “Students learn how to advocate for and monitor compliance, while continuously improving procedures and policies.”

*Contracts Manager Salary in the United States, Salary.com, 28 July 2022.