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Top American Bar Association (ABA) Approved Paralegal Programs for 2024

Find the best ABA approved paralegal programs to help you prepare for a rewarding career in the legal field. Learn about all these programs have to offer, what you’ll learn throughout your studies, and why approval from the American Bar Association makes a big educational difference.

Author: Kenya McCullum
Editor: STEPS Staff

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A bronze statue of Lady Justice stands on a table, holding a sword in her right hand and a set of scales in her left. The background is softly lit by morning sunlight, creating a warm, serene atmosphere. The setting appears to be an office or study.

Are you interested in learning about the legal profession but don’t necessarily want to become an attorney? Do you want to play an integral role in the legal system? Then a paralegal career may be a great choice for you.

Of course, to reach this goal you’ll need the right training. Although it’s not required to get a job, earning a paralegal degree from a program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) can go a long way toward making you competitive in the marketplace. ABA approved paralegal programs go through a rigorous process that ensures students get a high-quality education delivered by knowledgeable legal experts. As a result, graduating from one of these programs can be an additional selling point that makes you stand out from other applicants when looking for a job.

Continue reading to learn about what the best ABA paralegal programs have to offer, how schools earn this distinction, and the coursework you may encounter when you enroll.

Spotlight on ABA Approved Online Paralegal Programs

Finding a program that has been approved by the ABA helps aspiring paralegals get the quality education they need to launch successful careers. However, because you have personal obligations and commitments to balance with your education, chances are ABA approval will be just one of the criteria you’ll be looking for when choosing a program. To give you an idea of what ABA approved online paralegal programs have to offer, we’re showcasing the following schools that have earned the highest marks.

Eastern Kentucky University offers a four-year bachelor’s degree in paralegal science that’s delivered entirely online. Not only is the program approved by the ABA, but it’s also a charter member of the American Association for Paralegal Education. That means it has gone through another level of scrutiny to ensure students learn the skills and knowledge needed to enter the workforce, whether they aspire to work at a law firm, bank, government agency, or nonprofit organization.

In addition to being offered online, students can take advantage of the program’s flexible eight-week terms, as well as the six start dates offered every year. No matter when students begin the program, they take classes taught by top legal experts who hold PhD or JD degrees and have extensive experience teaching online. Some of the specific coursework students take in this ABA approved online paralegal program covers the litigation process, legal administration, law office computing, and family law practice. Tuition is $434 per credit hour.

Clayton State University has a bachelor’s degree in legal studies that provides courses taught entirely online, as well as hybrid classes that meet online and in person on Saturdays. This allows students to enroll in classes based on what works best for their schedules and learning styles. This four-year program, which costs $226.33 per credit, is designed for those who want to gain an in-depth knowledge about law and regulations they can use as a paralegal and for students who aspire to earn a law degree in the future. To lay these foundations, students take coursework covering law and ethics, administrative law, the judicial process, and legal research and writing. Also, students complete a capstone course in which they take a deep dive into major legal concepts so they become experts in how these theories are applied in paralegal work contexts.

Outside of the classroom, Clayton State University is dedicated to helping students succeed by offering career services that give them a head start on their job search. Through its Office of Career Services, students learn about legal employers that are hiring and receive assistance with resume writing and interviewing skills.

When students complete the legal studies bachelor’s degree at Pennsylvania Western University, they have the knowledge and skills to effectively conduct legal research, prepare legal documents, and understand the issues that come up during the practice of different types of law. As a result, students go on to become paralegals at law firms, insurance companies, government agencies, and corporate legal departments. To prepare students for these roles, Pennsylvania Western University requires that they take coursework covering legal writing and research methods and the ethical standards that are expected of paralegals on the job. In addition, the curriculum teaches students about specific legal practice areas, including environmental, administrative, family, and real estate law.

Online students pay $322 per credit for this ABA paralegal program. To help them succeed, Pennsylvania Western University offers an array of services, including access to success coaches who help virtual learners balance their education with their personal lives so they’re positioned to get the most out of their degree programs. Also, students have access to online writing, tutoring, wellness, and library services.

What Does ABA Approval Mean for a Paralegal Program?

Just as earning an accreditation indicates a school has been validated for its quality, paralegal programs that have been approved by the ABA have gone through a process that ensures they meet the organization’s high standards for academic excellence. When you graduate from a paralegal program that is ABA approved, it signals to employers that you’ve received a well-rounded education that’s prepared you for the demands of working in any fast-paced legal environment.

Additionally, ABA approval means that paralegal programs provide the high-quality curriculum, expert faculty members, and relevant instructional materials students need to be successful.

For a paralegal program to be approved by the ABA, it must be evaluated based on a demanding set of standards, which include:

Curriculum Quality

Paralegal programs must have a curriculum that reflects the current needs of the legal community and addresses the latest evidence-based information paralegals are required to understand on the job. As the ABA assesses a curriculum, it looks at the program’s goals and objectives and the extent to which those goals and objectives align with what employers need.

Faculty Expertise

ABA approved programs should have faculty members and program directors who are knowledgeable about the paralegal profession and demonstrate expertise on the latest developments in paralegal education. Also, paralegal program professors and directors must show that they’ve participated in professional development activities to keep abreast of paralegal education trends.

Library Services

Paralegal programs must have a library with print or electronic resources that are relevant to the coursework in the curriculum. Library services should be available during hours convenient for students. Also, ABA approved paralegal programs should provide students access to resources that allow them to conduct legal research in the library.

Career Services

Programs are required to provide career services to students, which include assistance with resume writing, interviewing, and overall job search skills. Also, schools should provide information on relevant opportunities to help students with their job search.

What You’ll Learn in an ABA Approved Online Paralegal Program

The law is a fascinating field, so when you enroll in an ABA approved paralegal program, you have the chance to learn about the intricacies of the law and the role paralegals play behind the scenes in keeping the legal field running. Let’s look at some of the topics you may study in ABA approved online paralegal programs.

Common Courses in Paralegal Studies Programs

1. Legal Research:

This course covers the techniques that paralegals use when researching legal topics and the computer programs, such as Westlaw and LexisNexis, they must master to do this part of their job. Students learn how to research legal topics on the state, local, and federal levels.

2. Legal Writing:

Paralegals are required to draft a variety of documents, including demand letters, trial and appellate briefs, and information requests. This course teaches students how to write different types of documents effectively. Also, students learn legal grammar and how to create proper citations in documents.

3. Law and Ethics:

Students are required to understand the role that paralegals play in the system and the legal and ethical standards they’re expected to follow. Prospective paralegals gain an understanding of the services they’re allowed to provide and the work that must be done under the supervision of an attorney.

4. Litigation:

This course introduces students to the legal principles involved in civil cases so they understand litigation procedures throughout the life cycle of a case. Specific topics covered may include the discovery and disclosure process, pleadings, trial preparation, and settlements.

5. Bankruptcy Law:

Students in this course learn how to fill out the forms used in different types of bankruptcies, such as Chapter 7, Chapter 9, and Chapter 11 cases. Also, students become familiar with liens, secured transactions, and the rights of creditors.

FAQs About an ABA Approved Paralegal Program

Do you still have questions about ABA approved paralegal programs? If so, we have more answers for you. So, you can make an informed decision, the following are some of the most common questions prospective students have about ABA paralegal programs.

Are ABA approved paralegal programs better than non-approved programs?

Yes. Although paralegals may not need to graduate from an ABA approved program to find a job, it does make them more marketable. Since ABA approval is based on how well a degree adheres to the standards of the field, students who graduate from these paralegal programs have the qualities and skills employers typically look for, which makes them attractive job candidates.

How does a school obtain ABA approval?

To gain ABA approval, a school must be evaluated for its overall quality. This includes a review of the curriculum to ensure that coursework addresses the current needs of employers. Also, the ABA looks at the amenities offered, such as career and library services, which are designed to position students to succeed in the program and beyond. Additionally, schools are evaluated based on the experience of professors, along with their commitment to keeping their legal knowledge current.

What are the benefits of attending an ABA-approved paralegal program?

Since ABA paralegal programs go through such rigorous evaluation, students can enroll with confidence that they’re getting the highest quality education based on the curriculum and expertise of instructors. Also, students who graduate from these programs are more attractive to potential employers because they’ve completed studies designed to prepare them specifically for the demands of the workforce.

Can I complete an ABA-approved paralegal program fully online?

Yes, depending on the program. In some cases, you may be able to enroll in an ABA approved paralegal program that is delivered entirely online. However, if you’re interested in a program that combines both online and on-campus coursework, look for a hybrid program. Be sure to check the types of delivery the programs you’re researching offer so you can make the best choice based on your needs.

Can credits from an ABA-approved paralegal program be transferred to other programs?

It depends. In some cases, schools allow a limited number of credits to be transferred from an ABA approved paralegal program to another program. However, be sure to check the transfer policies of the programs you’re interested in to find out exactly what is and isn’t allowed.

Do I need to be certified to work as a paralegal after completing an ABA-approved program?

Although you can get a job without earning a certification, having one boosts your chances. Keep in mind that completing an ABA approved paralegal program doesn’t automatically mean you have a certification, so graduates may still need to earn a certification after graduation. Certifications for paralegals are granted by NALA – The Paralegal Association and the National Association for Legal Support Professionals.