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ABA-Approved Online Paralegal Schools: How to Choose

Paralegal education programs are designed for students who wish to perform legal work, usually under the direction of a lawyer. Because of ABA requirements, students who wish to complete a paralegal program must choose a program that is hybrid or fully traditional. Additionally, most paralegal programs are not designed for flexible scheduling or continuing education.

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How to Decide On an Online Paralegal School

Depending on their current education level, students can enroll in an associate degree program or a postgraduate certificate program. A few schools offer online courses as part of the curriculum.

Considerations

  • ABA approval requirements
  • Award level
  • Class format and flexibility

ABA Approval Requirements

It is not possible for a fully online paralegal program to meet American Bar Association standards because the ABA has required that in order to gain approval, schools must require students to complete at least ten semester hours of legal specialty courses in a traditional classroom environment. This means that all ABA-approved paralegal programs must be hybrid or on-campus programs.

Award Level

For students who already hold bachelor's degrees, certificate programs provide the quickest route to a paralegal career. Associate degree programs, which include a general-education component, are more appropriate for high-school graduates or GED holders. Graduates of associate programs have the option of transferring their credits to a bachelor's program for further study.

Class Format and Flexibility

In choosing an online paralegal program, students should also be aware that unlike most online or hybrid programs in other disciplines, many paralegal programs are not designed for flexibility in hours or assignment deadlines. Most paralegal programs require students to turn in assignments on a regular basis and often to attend lectures and discussions at scheduled times via webcam, using a headset and microphone for voice communication. Some programs allow for more flexibility than others, and students should choose a program that fits their specific needs.

Online Paralegal Program Options

Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies

These programs are designed for students with a high school education who wish to enter into a career as a paralegal professional. Associate degrees in paralegal studies can usually be completed in two years, but more accelerated programs are also available. Classes focus on areas such as:

  • Criminal justice
  • Law and contracts
  • Trials and litigation
  • Probation
  • Legal research

Postgraduate Paralegal Certificate

A postgraduate paralegal certificate is for students who already have a bachelor's degree, or in some cases, an associate degree. A postgraduate certificate is usually designed to take at least 18 months, but completion times vary depending on the institution and how accelerated students wish to make their education programs. An internship may be required. Courses are similar to those in the associate's degree, and include:

  • Civil litigation
  • Administrative law
  • Legal research
  • Business organization and practice
  • Law office management
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