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Paralegal Schools and Where to Find Them

published December 12, 2005

By Anne O'Dell-Rivero
( 48 votes, average: 4.9 out of 5)
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<<On the Champlain website, Heather Moreau notes, "A four-year degree would help a potential paralegal to gain the analytical and writing skills required to work in the paralegal field," She is a 1992 Champlain College graduate and litigation paralegal.

After completing the 120-credit hour bachelor's degree program, as well as a 165-hour internship, Moreau noted, "Having a degree that contains a paralegal curriculum provides familiarity with necessary legal concepts."

In what the U.S. Department of Labor has identified as one of the fastest-growing career fields, job applicants need to be equipped to contend and succeed in a highly competitive market. An entry-level paralegal program graduate can gain valuable experience and drastically improve his/her resume by completing an internship as part of an undergraduate degree.

Victor Schulte, senior trial attorney for the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office, said that UCLA interns have been the brightest and finest of all the paralegals that he has had the opportunity to work with.

According to AnonymousLawyer.com, a paralegal with a bachelor's degree from a top-ranked school and a decent class standing is considered a desirable commodity at any firm. The website also noted that a bachelor's degree in a paralegal program can provide a solid foundation for entry into law school or another graduate program at a later date.

With this in mind, LawCrossing has compiled a list of 10 of the top-ranked paralegal certificate and degree programs in the United States.

BALL STATE UNIVERSITY

Located in Muncie, IN, Ball State University offers a two-year Associate of Arts degree and a four-year Bachelor of Arts degree through its Political Science department. Either degree is ideal for an aspiring paralegal or legal assistant, and all students are strongly encouraged to complete the bachelor's program due to the competitive nature of the paralegal field.

The associate degree is a 67-credit hour program; a major in legal studies, as part of the bachelor's degree program, is 69 credit hours. Both programs are approved by the American Bar Association.

AUBURN UNIVERSITY-MONTGOMERY

For nearly 20 years, the Justice and Public Safety Department at Auburn University in Montgomery, AL, has offered an American Bar Association-approved Paralegal Certificate. Students can choose to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in Justice and Public Safety, with a concentration in Legal Studies, a 120-credit hour program; a Master of Justice and Public Safety, with the Judicial Administration Option, a 30-semester hour program; or a 10-course Paralegal Certificate program.

This certificate is offered through the university's School of Continuing Education and is available to students who have already completed at least 30 credit hours of college work.

CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE

A "practical and hands-on nature" distinguishes the paralegal program at Champlain College in Burlington, VT. As part of the entire college's "upside-down curriculum," students are able to begin taking legal courses in their very first year and need not fulfill most general education requirements until their junior and senior years.

Another aspect of Champlain's hands-on approach is its 165-hour internship completed by all seniors in the program, which is sure to be appreciated by career-minded students who want to establish some work experience before graduation.

The bachelor's degree is a 120-credit hour program.

EAST CENTRAL UNIVERSITY

The Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies at East Central University in Ada, OK, is offered through the Department of History & Political Science. A main feature of the program is its connection to the Legal Professions Association.
The LPA was created to provide networking opportunities to students interested in legal careers. Each year, the LPA sponsors its major event, East Central University Law Day.

Law Day provides a forum where law school admissions officers, practicing attorneys, legal paraprofessionals, and students can come together to exchange information and find out about careers in law.

GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY

Located in the heart of Washington, DC, Georgetown University offers a unique post-graduate certificate program in Paralegal Studies. Established in 1973, the certificate is available through traditional courses, or students can choose to take classes in the evenings or during the summer.

For the one-year part-time Evening Certificate Program, there are 14 required courses. For the 14-week full-time Summer Intensive Certificate Program, there are 10 courses, plus a two-week, non-paid legal internship.

All programs are approved by the American Bar Association, and the program has maintained a noteworthy reputation in the legal community for nearly three decades.

KENT STATE UNIVERSITY

The Department of Justice Studies at Kent State University in Kent, OH, offers an American Bar Association-approved Bachelor of Arts degree in Paralegal Studies. There are 48 required credit hours in this degree program; Kent also offers a minor in Paralegal Studies in conjunction with any other four-year Bachelor of Arts or Sciences degree.

Day, evening, and weekend courses are available; and specialty courses are offered during the summer.

MARYMOUNT UNIVERSITY

No college or university offers more options to the paralegal student than Marymount University in Arlington, VA.

Its Legal Administration department offers a 30-credit hour paralegal certificate and a Bachelor of Arts degree, both of which require a 24-hour pro bono internship.

The university also offers a Master of Arts degree in Paralegal Administration. Program administrators recommend that applicants have at least two years of relevant work experience.

An 18-credit graduate certificate is another viable option for would-be paralegals with bachelor's degrees in other fields.

All four degree and certificate programs are recognized by the American Bar Association.

MINNESOTA STATE UNIVERSITY

In addition to maintaining an active job and internship listings website for students and alumni, Minnesota State University in Moorhead, MN, offers a comprehensive ABA-approved program for students of legal assistance.

Their Bachelor of Science degree candidates must complete a core program of at least 12 courses, as well as an internship. A year-long sequence of legal research and writing is the foundation of the core.

Courses are offered in the following specialized areas of law: probate and tax, civil litigation, criminal litigation, and commercial law.

This school also boasts the greatest number of student groups and extracurricular opportunities for future paralegals, including a campus chapter of Lambda Epsilon Chi, a national honor society for paralegal students.

SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY

The Paralegal Studies certificate program through San Francisco State University's College of Extended Learning allows students to choose among several categories of electives to complete the 30-credit hour ABA-approved program.

The range of elective options allows students to gain exposure to several different areas of law practice or to concentrate their studies in a cluster of courses that prepare them for a particular kind of employment.

Students can choose to study corporate and business practice, advanced litigation, business law, family law, criminal law, estate planning, and real estate law.

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES

UCLA Extension's postgraduate Attorney Assistant Training Program began in 1970 as a way to provide reliable legal professionals to the growing number of firms in Los Angeles.

Today, students can choose to study litigation alone or with corporations. Unlike most graduate certificate programs, the AATP awards 32.4 quarter units of postgraduate professional credit, graded on a passed/not passed basis.

MAINE-AUGUSTA

The Associate of Science degree in Legal Technology from the University of Maine-Augusta campus in Bangor fully prepares students who desire to become paralegals. Coursework includes classes in legal research, real estate law, probate requirements, and legal writing.

Students are also strongly encouraged to seek an internship in their last semester, and many students choose to continue their education in public administration or business.

The associate's degree is a 61-credit hour program.

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