ABA Approval of Paralegal Programs: The Good, the Bad, and the Mediocre

When I taught and directed a Paralegal Studies program a few years back, there was some talk from Administration of possibly pursuing ABA approval of the program. I was tasked with finding out about the guidelines and providing Administration with information they could use to begin the process. Thankfully, I knew where to look online because I once worked for a law school that was being re-accredited through the ABA. 

Many people who are considering a paralegal education program may automatically lean toward paralegal studies programs that are ABA approved. People wonder what ABA approval means and how it may affect their studies. If a program isn’t ABA approved, is it worth your time and money? Since there are so many questions and concerns associated with choosing the right paralegal program, it only seems prudent to explain the good, the bad, and the mediocre of ABA approval.

The Good of ABA Approved Paralegal Studies Programs

Probably the best thing about an ABA approved Paralegal Studies program is that you know that there are certain standards that must be adhered to by the school. An ABA approved program must provide certain courses. Additionally, in order for a program to even begin the approval process they must have their program in place for at least two years and have successful graduates. Students in an ABA approved program must receive at least 60 credit hours total for specialty legal and general education.

Because of the rigorous approval process and the re-approval process, you can usually be assured that you’re going to get a fantastic education that is up to date. There are many attorneys that find paralegals who attended ABA approved programs to be highly desirable. Part of this is because they most likely had to attend an ABA approved law school (yes, that’s right – not all states require attorneys to graduate from ABA approved law schools to sit for the bar).

The Bad of the ABA Approved Paralegal Studies Programs

The bad part is actually a bit similar to the good part. Programs must be established by two years and have successful graduates in addition to meeting other qualifications. Since the approval process takes time, there may not be an ABA approved program in your area. Most Paralegal Studies programs with this esteemed credential are more traditional schools. Usually, most of the courses are offered on campus as opposed to taking courses online. There are some ABA approved programs that are considered hybrids (meaning they offer a large array of both ground and online courses).

Since there aren’t as many ABA approved Paralegal Studies programs that may fit your needs, you may not have access to attending one.

The Mediocre of ABA Approved Paralegal Studies Programs

Frankly, nothing about attending an ABA approved program is mediocre. They are very rigorous programs. However, it’s also important for paralegal students to realize that attending one isn’t the catalyst for success in the legal field.

If you don’t have an ABA approved program in your area, you can look for one outside of your area. Even if moving isn’t an option for you, you can take their course list and use it as you look at programs that will better fit your life. That’s a great way for you to ensure that you’re going to get a solid education.

There are many excellent two-year, four-year, and certificate programs that aren’t ABA approved. So, don’t let a program without it stop you from checking it out. I didn’t attend an ABA approved program, and I got a great education. I even had a job offer before I finished school. Ultimately, what you get out of any paralegal program is up to you.

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