How Do I Know if a Paralegal Degree is American Bar Association (ABA) Approved?

American Bar Association (ABA) approved paralegal degrees provide a high-quality education that will give their graduates an edge over the competition. However, why is this certification important? What does ABA approval do for a paralegal training program and its students?


Why is ABA Approval So Important?

Paralegals work as highly-trained legal assistants to attorneys and lawyers. They investigate cases, write reports for attorneys to use at trial, initiate and maintain contact between attorneys and clients, file briefs and exhibits, conduct research of laws and more. The jobs that paralegals perform are essential for legal firms of any size. Because of the nature of the work that they do, paralegals require extensive training.

Paralegal training programs are offered at colleges, universities and technical schools across the country. Since the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for paralegals is expected to grow faster than average between 2012 and 2002, it stands to reason that many certification courses and degree programs will start to pop up throughout the United States. Unfortunately, this has some disadvantages. Because there is no mandatory certification for individual paralegals in the United States, prospective students need to be careful about which programs they choose. Here are some guidelines that can help them search for a degree program that is ABA approved.

Check the Website Carefully

A school that is ABA approved will clearly mention that its curriculum is up to the standards set by the Standing Committee on Paralegals and is actively approved by that organization. This has become a significantly important factor in the paralegal hiring process. The courses must be taught by licensed attorneys who remain in good standing with their state’s Bar Association. Students should be able to search for and find their prospective teachers on the Bar Association website for their state.

In addition, ABA approved paralegal degree programs require their students to complete externships under the supervision of a licensed attorney or judge in order to graduate. If a program does not mention externships, work experience or internships that must be completed in order to graduate, then it probably does not have ABA approval. Students should steer clear of any program that markets itself as being able to grant individual students ABA approval status. This is not possible. Individual certifications from state and local associations are available to students who pass their qualifying exams, but the ABA does not certify paralegals themselves. Paralegals can join the ABA as associate members, but this does not carry any qualifying value or testament to their skills and abilities.

When in doubt, students can always check the directory of approved paralegal degrees that is found on the ABA’s official website.

ABA Approved Paralegal Degrees: the Key to a Successful Future

The job market for paralegals can be quite competitive, and those graduates who want to find themselves in prestigious positions will need all the help that they can get. Graduating from an ABA approved program proves to employers that the newly graduated paralegal is highly trained and can work to a nationally recognized set of standards. By choosing to apply for ABA approved paralegal degrees, students can assure themselves of a great education that will enhance and enrich their career in the field of law.