Deciding to embark on the path toward a law career is a decision that requires serious commitment. A law degree can take years of studying, learning, and passing exams. After passing the bar exam, most entry-level careers in law require field-relevant job experience. Luckily, there are other ways to pursue a career in law without going to law school. Becoming a paralegal is an easy way to introduce yourself to the field of law while also earning experience and money.
What is a paralegal?
A paralegal is the “right-hand person” of an attorney. These professionals assist attorneys by doing legal research, writing briefs and memoranda, interviewing clients and witnesses, summarizing depositions, drafting pleadings, and doing investigative work. Paralegals work in law firms, corporations, and government agencies.
What are the benefits of becoming a paralegal?
With a paralegal certificate, graduates can gain relevant experience working in the legal field. Graduates will have the chance to get a deeper understanding of legal systems in a hands-on format. A paralegal program may also allow students to expand their network of professional references. Paralegals can use the experience gained from actively working in law to help them earn a law degree.
How much do paralegals earn?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the average income for paralegals and legal assistants is around $52,920 per year.
How do I obtain a paralegal certificate?
Most ABA-approved paralegal programs require students to have a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree. The LSU Online & Continuing Education Paralegal Studies Certificate Program requires applicants to have completed at least 45 semester hours of college credit from an accredited college or university. They must also have at least a 2.3 grade point average. Learn more about this program and its admission requirements.
What is an ABA-approved paralegal program?
A paralegal education program that is “ABA-approved” has met the specific guidelines and educational standards set by the American Bar Association’s (ABA’s) Standing Committee on Paralegals and Approval Commission. Paralegal programs that have gone through the ABA approval process are often more highly respected than similar programs without ABA approval.
ABA-approved paralegal education programs ensure that students receive an excellent learning experience. Such courses need to meet demanding standards. They also need to be regularly reapproved to maintain the ABA’s endorsement.
How do programs gain ABA approval?
Gaining approval is an elaborate process. The ABA Paralegal Approval Committee supervises this procedure.
Paralegal programs should be around one or two academic years to be approved by the ABA. The program itself must be at least two years old.
ABA-approved educational programs must also:
- Have a team of advisors that includes practicing lawyers and paralegals, faculty and school administrators, and members of the public
- Abide by all discrimination law
- Have enough financial resources to maintain a quality paralegal education program
- Create a program that qualifies graduates to be employed as paralegals
- Include at least 60 hours of general education and legal concentration courses
- Have instructors with the appropriate education and experience
- Have a full-time director of the program
A school also needs to undergo self-evaluation to verify that its paralegal program curriculum satisfies ABA guidelines.
Schools are required to send their program’s complete curriculum, including any legal-specialty electives, to the ABA Approval Committee. The committee also requires information about the legal faculty and program advisors. Lastly, the committee completes an evaluation on-campus to determine if the program meets all other requirements.
After this process, a school is approved for seven years. The curriculum evaluation must happen every seven years to maintain ABA approval.
Does it matter if my paralegal certificate is ABA-approved?
Graduating from an ABA-accredited program is a great way to show employers that you are well-prepared for the job. However, this is not the only track to becoming a paralegal.
According to the American Bar Association, paralegals can become eligible for employment through education, training, or work experience. Since there are less than 300 ABA-approved paralegal programs in the U.S., many people may be unable to access one. Fortunately, LSU’s ABA-approved paralegal program is online, so students all across Louisiana can apply to this program.
While an ABA-approved program can be extremely beneficial for a long-term career, it is not mandatory. Still, it can be difficult to earn the skills necessary for success without completing a certified program.
Do employers care if my certificate program is approved by the ABA?
Many times, U.S. employers look for paralegals who have studied in an ABA-approved program. Although earning an ABA-approved education isn’t required to enter the profession, it may provide an advantage to job seekers.
Certain paralegal associations also require completion of an ABA-approved program to qualify candidates for certification. In turn, a professional credential can provide paralegals with more opportunities for career advancement or increased pay.
What’s special about the Paralegal Studies Certificate from LSU?
The Paralegal Studies Certificate Program from LSU provides the best of both worlds: the resources of the state’s largest university combined with the personal support of a small, student-friendly program. We offer the only non-credit ABA-approved paralegal program in Louisiana. Our courses are taught by field professionals, including lawyers and certified paralegals.
The LSU Online & Continuing Education Paralegal Studies Certificate Program is a virtual live-online professional development program. Most courses take place in the evening throughout the semester. This affordable paralegal studies program is designed so that students can continue to work full time while earning their certificates.
How long will it take to become a paralegal?
LSU offers two program-length options: full-time and part-time. If you take classes full-time, you can complete the certificate in just one year. Finishing the part-time program can take up to 2 and a half years.
You must complete eight academic courses, a 150-hour internship, and an online legal ethics seminar. Most classes are in the evening on weekdays.
Start building your career with LSU’s online ABA-approved Paralegal Certificate Program
This program requires an application process, so students must be admitted to the program before beginning classes. Additionally, this program is term-based. This means that accepted students must wait until the next upcoming term (Fall or Spring) to begin classes.
Applying to the LSU Paralegal Studies Program is a simple process, but you might have questions. Review the Admission requirements on our website, and if you have any concerns, contact the program coordinator, Alanna Clanton, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 225-578-6760.