ABA Approval – Is It Really Worth Paying Higher Tuition Prices for Paralegal Training?

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Paralegal students are faced with many decisions. Which program should I choose? Is it ABA Approved? How important is that anyway? Will I be “certified”? Will I get a job? So many questions can make the process very confusing. Understanding keys terms clearly and how they affect you will make choices clearer.

ABA Approval is strictly voluntary. Research has found that law firms do not always consider graduation from an ABA approved paralegal program school the most important factor in hiring a paralegal. ABA approved programs are generally 2-year programs.

  • The ABA cannot formally accredit any paralegal program, but will approve a program that meets specific standards for a designated fee.
  • ABA approved paralegal schools generally have much higher tuition fees than non-ABA approved paralegal schools.
  • No ABA approved paralegal school has a completely online or correspondence option.
  • Many non-ABA approved programs are approved by various Paralegal associations such as the NFPA and/or the NALA
  • There are more than 1,000 colleges and universities, law schools, and proprietary schools that offer formal paralegal training programs. However, only approximately 260 paralegal programs are approved by the American Bar Association.
  • Nationwide, there are a large number of paralegal programs that meet the ABA standards but do not pursue approval based on the costs associated with the process. These approval costs are often passed on to students through higher tuition costs and cutbacks in student resources at ABA approved paralegal schools.

Certificate vs. Certified

A “certificate” designates that a student has successfully completed a program. “Certified” means that a student has taken a qualifying exam to prove they have acquired the skills necessary to do a specific job. The most common exam to “certify” a paralegal or legal assistant in the United States is given by the National Association of Legal Assistants, ( NALA). The only state in the US that has specific educational requirements for paralegals is California. ( See California Business & Professions Code 6450 ) The NALA exam is strictly voluntary. Students should check to make sure the program they choose will consist of enough hours to sit for the exam if they want to have the option available to them.

Based on a survey conducted every two years by NALA, paralegals graduating from certificate programs are compensated at a higher rate than those graduating from degree programs. Attorneys know that certificate program students are trained in one thing: Specific legal assistant skills.

For-Credit, Non-Credit vs. Accredited and Financial Aid For-credit means that coursework earns “credit hours” to be applied towards the fulfillment of a degree. Non-Credit courses are offered through college and universities continuing education or professional studies departments specifically for students who already have a degree, or have no intention of seeking one at this time.

Accredited refers to the school itself. It means that the institution has been officially recognized as meeting the essential requirements, as of academic excellence.

The legislature is currently cracking down on for-profit colleges that use predatory enrollment practices. You know the kind, you call once for information, they call you back 60 times to convince you that – “their program is the best program for you, and, by the way don’t worry about the cost – that’s what financial aid is for”. What if you could get top-notch training without ending up in debt?

The Center for Legal Studies has been partnering with accredited colleges and universities for more than 30 years to bring students the highest quality and most affordable paralegal training in the country. Students can gain all the education and training they need to go out and get a job in a little as 6 weeks for only $1189.

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