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American Institute for Paralegal Studies, Downers Grove, IL

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<<The AIPS offers a nationally accredited online Paralegal Certificate Program that helps students earn their national certifications while they pursue specialized paralegal certificates. The one-year program is designed for students with undergraduate degrees or law-related work experience.

With a student to teacher ratio of 1:15, students can expect to receive personal attention and individual help from instructors. Each new class begins with an orientation, and each student is assigned a course facilitator and alumni mentor. "The instructors are very knowledgeable and expend a lot of effort to answer every question and make each student feel at ease," Karen Eastburn, a legal assistant, said on the institute's website.

The AIPS courses are taught using computer-mediated distance learning, which allows students and instructors to communicate from any location. "Having the ability to start a new career because of the online opportunity given to me made all the difference in the world. I could not go back to a school building for many reasons. And now, thanks to technology, I don't have to. I found it very easy to stay in contact with the instructors and never had a problem when I needed extra help. It was a great experience, and I am grateful," Lisa Gentri, a settlement paralegal, said on the institute's website.

In addition to the General Practice Program, students can choose from six specialty concentrations: litigation and alternative dispute resolution, employment law, corporate law, immigration law, elder law, or intellectual property law. These advanced and specialty courses are designed to provide advanced-level continuing legal education to those who want to enhance their training.

According to AIPS, participation in continuing education programs is one of the best ways to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in the paralegal field. As laws and regulations constantly change, it is important to stay educated in your particular area of specialty.

Students are also encouraged to select professional certification tracks, each of which prepares them for one of the two national credentialing examinations: the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) exam or the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE).

The AIPS online review course for the PACE is also available through the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). The review course focuses on five topics, which include administration of client legal matters, development of client legal matters, factual and legal research, factual and legal writing, and office administration. Ethical dilemmas related to each subject are also discussed during the course. The seven-week course includes a pre-course orientation to familiarize students with AIPS software. Students take a practice PACE at the end of the course.

The AIPS has been continuously accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) since 1981. ACCET is a national accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. ACCET requires its accredited schools, including the AIPS, to report their completion and placement statistics each year.

The ACCET accreditation standards require that at least 67 percent of students who enroll must graduate. In addition, 70 percent of eligible graduates must find training-related positions as a result of the program. The institute aims to overshoot the minimum requirements with a graduation rate of 72 percent and a placement rate of 85 percent, and for the last three years, it has accomplished this goal. Last year, the institute had a graduation rate of 83 percent and a placement rate of 95 percent.

The Alumni Association and Alumni Center serves as a professional resource center for graduates throughout the country. In addition to benefiting from numerous networking opportunities, alumni can take the CLA review course for free. Alumni also receive free subscriptions to The Legal Decree, a quarterly online magazine. Other alumni publications include The Verdict and The Verdict Briefs.

The AIPS is located in Downers Grove, IL, which is 19 miles west of Chicago. Downers Grove is close to all major attractions, museums, and shopping centers throughout the Chicago area. The town also offers safe and affordable accommodations within easy access of major highways.

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