Once students are enrolled in a class, they are given instruction on how to access the course on the D2L website.
For many institutions, the decision not to seek ABA approval of their paralegal programs is largely due to the arduous and time-consuming application and evaluation process.
Many schools also choose not to seek approval because of the costs associated with doing so—costs that many institutions feel are excessive: Instead, the vast majority of schools choose to rely on their reputation and the institutional accreditation they hold.
This is seen as a questionable disqualifier since even the most respected institutions now offer partially or fully online programs as a matter of course as a way to make quality education more accessible to non-traditional students.
For some students, attending classes on-campus is simply not practical, or even possible. But ABA approval does come with its share of benefits. These programs have met strict criteria, so you can be assured you are completing a quality program that will be instantly recognized as meeting the requirements for national certification, not to mention that some employers still seek job candidates who have completed an ABA-approved program.
This is because the ABA feels strongly that some general liberal arts courses are foundational to becoming a well-rounded and capable paralegal prepared to thrive in the professional environment of a law office or corporate legal department.
Many ABA-approved programs offer flexible curriculum options, including part-time and evening study. Once they successfully complete the evaluation process, they are approved for a period of seven years. After this period, the school must go through the approval process again. Even before a school can apply to gain ABA-approval for their paralegal program, the program must have been in place for at least two years so there is a record of students having successfully graduated.
Schools must also provide the ABA Approval Committee with a detailed list of their curriculum, including their legal specialty coursework. This means an approved program must not only meet specific curriculum guidelines, but its faculty must meet the high standards of the ABA, as well.
Once the ABA Approval Committee determines that the program has met the minimum criteria for approval, they schedule an on-site evaluation of the paralegal department, as well as the entire institution.
For example, each program must operate under an advisory committee that includes practicing lawyers and paralegals from the public and private sector.
ABA-approved programs must also be structured to allow students to go on to achieve higher levels of education. The ABA even encourages schools to enter into articulation agreements with other schools to help students more seamlessly continue their education.
When it comes to legal specialty courses, ABA-approved programs must also meet specific requirements. Courses like legal research, litigation, and legal writing are all considered legal specialty courses if they emphasize practical paralegal skills.
Other courses encouraged include business classes, computer technology courses, and field experiences in the form of internships.
Internships offered through ABA-approved programs must meet clearly defined requirements and must ensure ongoing communication between the student and the field experience supervisor.
As part of an ABA-approved program, you will also be guaranteed comprehensive student services, including counseling and advisement. Some of the services that must be offered as part of an ABA-approved program include: This is because some employers in larger metropolitan areas require paralegals to possess a degree from an ABA-approved program, while in other parts of the country there is little mention of ABA approval.
You will also find that some state paralegal associations go as far as to recommend that employers give preference to paralegal candidates who hold a degree or certificate from an ABA-approved program. For example, in certain parts of the country, an undergraduate paralegal certificate may be the standard credential for entry-level employment, so it might not make much sense to pursue a longer and possibly more expensive course of education.
Many respected institutions offer quality paralegal programs via interactive, online platforms, allowing working students like you to study on your own time. A number of online programs in paralegal studies are also self-paced, allowing you to complete the course requirements as your schedule permits.
You may also reside in a part of the country where there are no paralegal programs—ABA-approved or otherwise. An online paralegal program may be the only viable option for you, allowing you to pursue the profession regardless of your geographic location.
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