Paralegal education programs that are approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) have gone that extra mile toward providing a consistent high standard of learning in the paralegal field. Not only do they need to meet defined, demanding standards for ABA approval; they need to be reapproved by the ABA on a regular basis to maintain their ABA-approved status.
The ABA Approval Process
The ABA has a Standing Committee on Paralegals, and within that committee is an Approval Commission which sets standards for paralegal education. A schools that wishes to have its paralegal education program approved by the ABA must complete a specific approval process. This process includes self-evaluation reports from the school itself, along with an on-site evaluation of the program to verify compliance with ABA guidelines.
In addition, no program is approved until it has been in place for at least two years and has successful graduates. A record of this is reflected in the exhibits that must be submitted to the ABA Standing Committee as part of the approval process. These exhibits include data such as:
- Student enrollment by year and degree
- Number of graduates by year and degree
- Advisory committee members by category, name, primary employment, type of business, etc.
- Paralegal program faculty composition by year, gender and racial-ethnic background
- Curriculum for each program option
- Legal specialty courses
This is only a sampling of the information that a school must provide to demonstrate that its program meets ABA Guidelines. The ABA then reviews these materials and contacts the program director if more information is needed.
After the ABA determines from the exhibits that a particular program appears to meet its guidelines, an on-site evaluation of both the program and the institution is scheduled. This on-site review is conducted by two-person team; members of this team can include representatives of the Standing Committee or Approval Commission, experienced paralegals, paralegal managers and directors of ABA-approved programs. This review can take one to two days.