Myths and Realities
In the past, not all paralegals went to paralegal school, but today law firms often insist that their paralegals have an American Bar Association (ABA) approved paralegal degree.
Online paralegal degrees are a natural option for aspiring paralegals, especially for career-changers who want to become paralegals but need to work while they earn their degree.
Currently, the ABA does not approve any fully online degree programs. However, it does recognize the value of online education, and has approved some online courses in ABA-approved paralegal degree programs.
Support from the Industry
Many practicing paralegals recommend ABA-approved paralegal programs for people considering going into the legal field. Lawyers also find that high-quality paralegal training ensures their legal staff will have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. In addition to the educational benefits of the ABA stamp of approval, it offers a distinct hiring advantage over paralegals with similar work experience but who didn't go to an ABA-approved school.
Benefits of an ABA-Approved Paralegal Degree
There are many benefits to an ABA-approved paralegal training program:
- You'll have top-notch professors, many who are practicing lawyers or paralegals, with real-life, on-the-job experience.
- ABA-approved paralegal degrees have a well-rounded curriculum that gives you the knowledge and skills you need to be an effective paralegal.
- Course assessment is reviewed by the ABA to ensure that students learn what was taught.
- Employment assistance is provided by ABA-approved schools.
- Paralegal education at an ABA-approved school can increase your chances of getting a job, a raise or a promotion.
The ABA understands that technology is changing the way students go to school, and it does support paralegal education in an alternative format. While the ABA has not certified fully online ABA-approved paralegal degrees, they recognize that a percentage of paralegal courses can be taken online for programs that they do approve.
ABA-Approved Online Paralegal Programs
To receive ABA approval for any online paralegal courses, schools must comply with the following requirements:
- Students must spend as much time in instruction as they would in a traditional class.
- Schools must provide course materials to the ABA for each online course so that the ABA can verify the quality of online coursework.
- Faculty members must respond to students who have questions, and provide them with feedback on assignments and tests.
- Schools must verify the identity of students submitting work or taking a test online.
- There must be technical support to ensure the system works properly and in case of technical difficulty.
Making the Most of Your Program
If you're thinking of getting a paralegal degree, remember that you can find good-quality ABA-approved paralegal programs near you, and you may be able to take some courses online. When selecting your paralegal degree program, ask the schools that interest you which—and how many—courses you can take online during your paralegal studies.