Choosing between ABA-approved and non-ABA approved certification program...

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Lynn Gale in Manhattan Beach, California

98 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Lynn Gale in Manhattan Beach, California: "I think for me it comes down to the crash courses in the masters program not so appealing. I hear what you say about how the certificate is all that I need at this point. My problem, however, is how to make up for lack of experience, since as an older adult I will not have the years of experience to catch up."

Everyone is new at one time in any industry. I think that for you age discrimination will be your biggest worry. However, FWIW, I was 42 when I changed careers a second time and attended paralegal school. I was hired into my first job four months after I graduated.

I consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have been hired so quickly. I recall people in my school who had graduated six months before I did and who appeared to be my age. They were still looking for jobs when I was hired. It's been a while, but I recall that some of them may have had prior legal experience.

Which ABA college program are you considering? Our fora has a poster, dh in NorCal, a former legal secretary, who earned an ABA certificate in the UCLA program. It sounds like a good program and, according to dh, awards post-grad credit to boot. Her comments appear on this thread:

www.indeed.com/forum/job/litigation-paralegal/05390c183c137e19777a4206/05390c183c137e1b777e4b0617#c166926

Good luck with however you proceed.

I am 58, (look and feel younger) and would do the ABA certificate program at UC Irvine if I do not do the Master's, because it is not accelerated as UCLA Westwood's ABA program is very accelerated.

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Lynn Gale in Manhattan Beach, California

98 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Once again, all you need is an ABA certificate.

Good luck with your choice of schools and beware of the age discrimination devil.

Gotcha. : )

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Juliane Cruz in Redmond, Washington

98 months ago

Hi Heidi,
I already sent my application form for the Certificate Program in Paralegal Studies at UW, but I am not sure if I will enroll there or at Edmond College which is ABA-approved. I have a bachelor’s degree from Law School in Brazil.Did you finished the program? How did you like it?

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Barbara Kovar in Whitehouse, Ohio

98 months ago

Heidi in Bellingham, Washington said: I am graduating next month and will then have a BA in Sociology. I am currently looking into two different certification programs (in Seattle, WA) for Paralegal work that begin in September.

Does anyone have advice on the importance of being certified through an ABA-approved program?

My first choice is the University of Washington Extension Certification program. Although it is NOT directly ABA-approved, it is approved by the University of Washington School of Law - which IS ABA-approved.

My second choice is through a community college, which offers an Advanced Paralegal Certificate (advanced because it requires BA for admission). This IS ABA-approved, just not as prestigous as my first choice.

Therefore, is ABA-approval or prestige of greater importance? Does it matter more for a recent graduate of the program or more in the long run with years of
experience?

Thank you!

Hi,

I used to work for the ABA in the department that approved paralegal programs. They highly recommend the ABA approved programs over the others, because they require certain qualifications from the program, like help with career placement. However, there is always an exception, and so the final decision should be made by you after you examine both programs. Look at their record of career placement, and their graduation record, along with how the students faired with their grades.

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Juliane Cruz in Redmond, Washington

98 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Are you an attorney? Why don't you ask the bar association or supreme court in your state about taking the bar exam?

Otherwise, sign up with the ABA-approved program if you want the widest array of paralegal jobs available to you.

I am a licensed attorney in Brazil. I think that obtaining a degree in Paralegal Studies is the first step to reestablish my career as an attorney...I intend to work as a paralegal to gain experience in the U.S Legal System and maybe in the future I will take the BAR exam. I just came to the US 2 years ago with a baby. The last 2 years I was taking care of my son...Now it is time to rethink my career, and the very first step I decided to take is to start attending Paralegal classes.

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Juliane Cruz in Redmond, Washington

98 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Are you an attorney? Why don't you ask the bar association or supreme court in your state about taking the bar exam?

Otherwise, sign up with the ABA-approved program if you want the widest array of paralegal jobs available to you.

Thank you for your comment!

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Paralegal in Washington, District of Columbia

98 months ago

That's a great plan, Juliane.

Many people who are attorneys in other countries attend paralegal programs in the US so they can have challenging and rewarding careers in a relatively short time.

I don't know much about the legal market in Washington State, but I would guess they have a pretty solid Intellectual Property bar. If any of the schools you are considering has courses in that, you might take that into account while making your decision.

Good luck.

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Paralegal in Washington, District of Columbia

98 months ago

A law degree from Brazil is quite different from a law degree from the US and a person with a law degree from Brazil can't just go and take an American bar exam.

You will be neither over- nor under-qualified, Juliane. Your situation is quite typical and most employers are very happy to hire new paralegals with good educational credentials.

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Juliane Cruz in Redmond, Washington

98 months ago

That is the reason I will attend Paralegal classes...to gain experience in the U.S Legal System. I know I have to reevaluate my career goals since it is not possible for me to stay in the same professional area without having to start over my undergraduate studies...

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Juliane Cruz in Redmond, Washington

98 months ago

Thank you!

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Juliane Cruz in Redmond, Washington

98 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Juliane Cruz, I hope you're still around.

FYI this ad in my Sunday paper, and on Indeed, of course, has your name written all over it:

hotjobs.yahoo.com/jobseeker/jobsearch/job_detail.html;_ylc=X3oDMTEwdjRiNTVqBF9TAzM5NjUxMDMzNQRjYXQDTEVHBHBjb2RlAzUwNTg0?job_id=JTZNL5M2UMI

Thank you so much for this information! But, I can only work in Seattle area...

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Darah in Raleigh, North Carolina

98 months ago

I am considering the Duke program which is not ABA approved. However, I cannot attend the ABA approved program at Meredith College due to the hours of classes. I don't want to waste $6,000 on an education if I can't use it. Keep in mind I have a BS. The program coordinator for Duke stated that they're reputation is strong enough that they didn't want to change the program to become ABA approved. What do people reccommend? Should I do the Duke program because I want the paralegal education even though it is not ABA?

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Paralegal in Washington, District of Columbia

98 months ago

No doubt Displaced Legal Professional in Colorado will differ, but no employer in North Carolina will fail to hire a Duke graduate simply because the Duke program is not ABA approved.

I work with legal employers every day, and not a single one has ever balked at hiring a good graduate of a good program simply because the program wasn't ABA approved.

Once, I received a job notice from an employer that specified the applicant should be a graduate of an ABA approved program. When I pointed out to the employer that the local program was not ABA approved, she said, "Oh, just delete that line, then." This was for a high-paying job at a major internation law firmm

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Darah in Raleigh, North Carolina

98 months ago

Thank you for your comments.
Like I said though, there is an established ABA approved program here, it is just not going to work with my life situation. I obviously plan on becoming NC State Bar certified and all the others, but I just don't want to get screwed at the end. Regardless, I think it's always wise to apply to postings whether you are ABA or not.

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Darah in Raleigh, North Carolina

98 months ago

Thank you. I value your insight. I am not willing to travel to another state or attend even the other local program due to financial restrictions. I think for people that are in a position such as mine, it is better to get the training than to not.

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Michelle in Vancouver, Washington

98 months ago

Hi all, I've been at home with my kids for the last four years and am now considering re-entering the workforce. Becoming a paralegal is attractive to me but there isn't an ABA approved program within three hours of where I live. Relocating isn't an option because of my husband's job.

So is it worth it to get a local community college certificate? Or a program like BU or Duke online?

Background: I have a BS in Business from a top liberal arts college, worked in marketing for five years before my kids, I'm 32 and ideally I'd like to work for the federal government as a paralegal.

Thanks all, any and all advice is appreciated.

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Jane Do Girl in Pensacola, Florida

98 months ago

Michelle in Vancouver:

If you're really intent on pursuing Federal Government employment as a Paralegal, then a Master's degree might actually better serve you. With an MPS, the work experience requirement will be less and you'll most likely get hired in at a higher grade and pay.

For example, I was looking at some DOJ jobs earlier this year. With my BA in legal studies and years of experience, I could have been hired in at GS9 at approx $48K/yr. An MPS would have qualified me for GS11 at $75K/yr.

Federal jobs are hard to come by; although, with the Baby Boomer's retiring over the next 10-15 years, a lot of federal positions will open up. Of course, that all depends on the state of the economy and funding for those positions.

Otherwise, if you're just looking to break into the field in the private sector, a Paralegal Certificate, or degree is what you want. Employers will NOT pay more for an entry-level paralegal with a Master's over one with a BA. Btw, considering you already have one Bachelor's, you may want to go ahead and pursue your second BA in Legal Studies. For the same amount of time you'll put in getting a certificate or associates degree, you'll have a second Bachelor's, which does look impressive on a resume. That's what I did.

Also, depending on your area, an ABA approved program may not necessarily matter so much. That seems to be a regional/big-city thing.

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Online student in Mentor, Ohio

98 months ago

Check out oninegwu.com.
They have a great online program. Good luck on your new career -- sounds exciting!

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Online student in Mentor, Ohio

98 months ago

Sorry -- typo! It is onlinegwu.com

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Michelle in Vancouver, Washington

98 months ago

Thanks all! Any thoughts on the Duke online program?

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paralegal in Gaithersburg, Maryland

98 months ago

As Duke likes to say, "Duke is Duke." It's a great school and I am sure their paralegal program is good. Speak to them all, look at all of their web sites, and see which feels like the best fit for you.

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Probably seriously under-qualified in Millwood, New York

98 months ago

Can someone please shed some light on the importance of a CLA (Certified Legal Assistant) certification in addition to, or as opposed to a post bac. or other certification? The requirements for sitting for the CLA exam range from no degree requirement with 7 years legal assistant experience to a bachelors plus a post bac. certificate and everywhere in between. The reason I am asking is because there is an online program (www.blackstone.edu) I am looking into that only costs $750 and requires a HS degree to attend but provides the necessary 900+ program hours to sit for the CLA exam. I have looked into it and I know it sounds hard to believe but this program is accredited by several educational institutions and does allow one to sit for the CLA exam upon completion. I have gone through 4 years of college and am currently 10 credits shy (110 credits completed) of a BA in psychology, but do not possess even an associates degree. I know I should just complete my BA but that is not an option right now due to financial reasons. My main question is do I have a realistic chance of getting a job as a paralegal with a CLA certification and 110 college credits but only a HS diploma? I live in the Westchester NY area. Sorry if this post is a bit convoluted but I appreciate any help.

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Director in Washington, District of Columbia

98 months ago

Dear Millwood NY,

A bachelor's degree with no post-bacc certificate is better than 110 college credits, a certificate, and a CLA exam put together.

Employers scan resumes looking for credentials. Once they see you don't have a bachelor's degree, they won't bother to read the rest.

If you can afford to pay for the Blackstone course and the CLA exam, there must be a way you can afford to get those 10 credits. If you are having financial problems, you must qualify for financial aid.

Do not forego the bachelor's degree.

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Aloha in Aiea, Hawaii

97 months ago

I'm planning on taking an online paralegal course. I've noticed that none of these schools are ABA approved and they are very expensive. ($ 10,000 plus) Do you think it's really worth it? My husband is in military and we have to relocate in several months so attending a local community college is not an option for me. I already have a BA in business administration.
Thanks!

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Toni in Gaithersburg, Maryland

97 months ago

Hi all,

Yesterday's post was my first post, but I am delighted to hear there has been lots of pro-GW chatter. Not surprising -- it's a great program.

Please keep it coming!

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Mo in Denver, Colorado

96 months ago

I agree that there are more males becoming paralegals. I think also that no offense to women paralegals but I think that women that are paralegals even these day's I think the women paralegals get more of the secretary work handed to them even though they are paralegals but I think that is just how the unfortunate world still thinks. On the flip side men I think have decided that it's perfectly great to be a paralegal I myself am a paralegal and really enjoy it and I dont' from a guys standpoint see or hear a lot of since being a male paralegal that since you a male paralegal that you are eventually supposed to go to law school. I'm still out on the verdict if law school is the way to go 1. law school is expensive and 2. you see and hear a lot of law school graduates that have an extreamly tough time getting a job and even after law school it seems like most law graduates become paralegals to gain experience and eventually down the road get to work in as an attorney. Also people have this big perception that an attorney's makes a lot of money I have seen, read and know a lot of attorneys that do not make a ton of money and most attorneys don't just graduate and get in with the "big named law firms". Those big law firms one can get in with right after law school if 1. they go to an Ivy School and 2. they or there parents knows and has good connections but even then in this economy knowing someone might not be enough.

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Tech Teacher in Tower Hill, Illinois

95 months ago

Hi, I have found a wealth of information in this post. I am a secondary school teacher wishing to transist into the legal field. I have found an ABA-approved program at my local community college BUT I was cautioned that I better get a Master's degree. If I ever need to fall back on teaching at the secondary or college level then a Master's degree is necessary. Plus, the Master's may allow me to teach college-level courses in the future.

My problem is I can not find a local Master's in Paralegalism program and an online education would be my only choice. Ack! that puts me into the non-ABA & non-AAFPE Master's verses an approved post-baccalaureate certificate situation. California University of Pennsylvania offers a Master of Science in Legal Studies-Law and Public program. I now know GW offers an online Master's program, as well.

I wonder if the CUP program would allow me to become an "accepted" paralegal. If I earned the MSL degree do you think I could get an ABA-approved certification in a specialty area at a later time?

I hate to beat a dead horse but I'm ready to make a confident leap. I'd appreciate any opinions.

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Director in Gaithersburg, Maryland

95 months ago

A graduate certificate should be enough for you to get started in the legal field. Most entry level paralegal positions only require the certificate.

The master's degree is better for those who are already working in the legal field and want to advance in their current positions, or who are working for the federal government, where having a master's degree makes them eligible for a higher GS levels and thus, higher salaries. Some institutions offer their employees raises, promotions, or bonuses upon attainment of the master's degree.

If you later decide you would like to get a master's degree, you can always go back for it later.

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Tech Teacher in Tower Hill, Illinois

95 months ago

Thank you for replying.

I think I will apply to the OCC post-baccalaureate program. I guess I could slowly chip away at my Master's in something, simultaneously. I just need to get my affairs in order, figure out a payment plan and file the necessary paperwork.

Thank you, again.

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Dan in Cape Coral, Florida

95 months ago

I am 39 and have a bachelors degree in Telecommunications
9 years management background and three years sales/finance background. If I were to get an ABA paralegal certificate is anyone going to hire a middleaged guy with no legal background?

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Director in Gaithersburg, Maryland

95 months ago

Dan,

Thirty-nine is hardly middle-aged!

Your background -- sales, finance, management, teleceommunications -- is leading you to a career in telecomm law, IP law, or corporate law. Elder law, estates and trusts, and healthcare law are big in Florida. IP is the highest paying field. If you are technologically inclined, litigation support is in huge demand (litigation support means managing all the technology that accompanies a big piece of complex litigation).

Attend a good paralegal program with a good career placement office. While you are still a student, join one or more prominent local paralegal organizations in your city. Join the committees within these organizations that pertain to your interests. Attend all of the social events, seminars, conferences, luncheons, and other gatherings, that you can and keep networking.

Good luck!

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Robert in OC in Rancho Cucamonga, California

95 months ago

paralegal in Gaithersburg, Maryland said: The ABA will not approve any online programs. There are plenty of excellent programs. George Washington University has a great online master's program -- you can see it at onlinegwu.com

Duke University has one of the best online programs for about $7K, but it's only a certifcate, not a degree and not ABA-approved. However, it exceeds the ABA guidelines!

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Dan Retheford in Cape Coral, Florida

95 months ago

That Duke program looks awesome. I know its not ABA approved. I understand it is extremely difficult to get hired as a paralegal without exp.. WILL THE DUKE NAME GET ME IN THE DOOR?

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Robert in OC in Whittier, California

95 months ago

...atleast it will get you to the door. Depending of the specialty you looking at, I would also recommend an internship or volunteer work at one of your local gorvernment agencies, that shows initiative on your résumé. Good luck!

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Robert in OC in Whittier, California

95 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: Granted, some programs are better than others and some ABA-approved programs are better than other ABA-approved programs. But ABA approval is ABA approval, and everything ABA approval implies. I.e., set standards and industry recognition.

...Yes and if you read about Duke University's program, it was offered ABA approval since its curriculum far exceeded ABA's guidelines. Duke turned down the offer because it wanted to allow students the luxury of a weighted certificate without the high cost of an ABA credential; few schools fall into this catagory, but they are out there.

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Robert in OC in Chino Hills, California

95 months ago

I agree totally.

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J in Cleveland, Ohio

94 months ago

I believe attending an ABA approved program is the better option in some instances and in some instances not. I am in exactly the same position as the original poster. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminology but I could not find work in my field. I am now enrolled in an online paralegal program. I do believe that an ABA approved program is better but unfortanately those programs can be more costly than non ABA approved programs. At the end of the day I feel my paralegal program is preparing me to perform at the same level as those programs. I have assignemts that allow me to utilize Westlaw, I am learing how to draft pleadings, demand letters, memorandum letters and so forth. In any situation school can prepare you but so far there will always be situations where you will have to learn new skills through hands on experience. If the whole point in being a paralegal is to provide assistance to the attorney that has to meet with his or her approval anyway I dont think it should matter whether or not your training was through an ABA approved program. It boils down to personal choice. If you can afford an ABA program then do so if not go somewhere else there is more than one way to accomplish any goal.

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Robert in Riverside, California

94 months ago

Thanks for the information and completely agree. After doing some additional research, I found that in California more than half the employers seeking a paralegal require the ABA certification. However, smaller companies and law offices offices tend to hire without it, and ofcourse in most cases the ABA will often pay more.

Thanks again J in Ohio!!!

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Lindsay in Saint Louis, Missouri

94 months ago

MH in Union City, California said: This is in response to the above poster who said "Moreover, ABA-approved paralegal programs generally require a Bachelor's degree for entrance." I don't think that's true, at least maybe not where I'm from. There are three community colleges that offer paralegal studies programs near where I live, and two are ABA-approved. I think ABA-approved just means the school meet certain requirements the American Bar Association set forth, and the approval can be costly for the school to maintain. There shouldn't be any more requirements for enrollment in an ABA-approved school than in a non ABA-approved school.

I would like to know what Community Colleges (near where you live) offer a Paralegal Progam that is ABA Approved and you DON'T need a Bachelor's Degree to be admitted to the program. I have NEVER heard of this. Please let me know. Thank you.

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Lindsay in Saint Louis, Missouri

94 months ago

legal eagle in Washington, District of Columbia said: GW is a highly selective, credit bearing master's degree, one of the only paralegal master's degrees in the country, and it is associated with the GW law school, one of the top law shcools in the country. It is not ABA approved.

I have spoken to many, many employers and legal recruiters about ABA approval, and they all say employers do not care one bit whether a program is ABA-approved.

If the school is unknown, you might want it to be ABA-approved to ensure that it is legitimate. But everybody knows GW is a great school, and you don't need the ABA to tell you that.

Men are doing quite well in the paralegal profession.

How expensive is the Paralegal/Masters Degree progarm at GW??????
Thanks.

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Director in Pikesville, Maryland

94 months ago

I am the director of the GW paralegal studies program. Tuition for the online master's degree is $22,400.

Applicants must have bachelor's degrees with GPAs of 3.0 or higher to apply. GW accepts about 50% of all applicants. We have 100% matriculation.

Our graduates are 100% employed in the legal field. They all have excellent positions with large, national and international law firms and major federal government agencies. We have a graduate in the House of Representatives and several in the World Bank.

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Director in Pikesville, Maryland

94 months ago

Yes, the program is also offered on campus.

We have about 150 students currently in the program. About 20 have graduated since we first launched the program in 2007.

The employed graduates are all doing substantive legal work in various fields -- legislative support, litigation, tax, IP, international finance, government contracts, corporate, and work associated with federal agencies. Some were employed when they came to us; many were not.

People choose GW over other available programs because:

** We are associated with the GW Law School, a top-tier law school ranked #20 in the country;

** Our students have the opportunity to study with finest lawyers and professors in Washington DC;

** Our curriculum is topical and rigorous;

** Because of our high selectivity students who are accepted into the program know that they will be studying alongside the best students;

** We offer specialties in Intellectual Property, International Law, and Government Law -- three of the most in-demand and highest paying areas for paralegals;

** We are one of the few universities to offer a Master's in Paralegal Studies;

** GW is one of the finest universities in the country;

** Our student body is accomplished and cosmopolitan -- a good number have master's degrees in other subjects and speak multiple languages;

It's a great program!

Thanks for asking.

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Director in Pikesville, Maryland

94 months ago

DLP, a thousand angels could sing the praises of GW and you would say they are singing off-key.

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egal in Raleigh, North Carolina

94 months ago

Kristina Ward in Leland, North Carolina said: I need to do an online program due to my lifestyle. Is there any bachelors program that is both online and ABA approved? I have only found Pierce that is out of PA but it is a little expensive. Can anyone help?

Duke University I believe has a online program. Also check out NC State University. I think they have an online program, not sure about the aba status.

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Director in Washington, District of Columbia

94 months ago

Duke's great, but it is a post-baccalaureate program.

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egal in Raleigh, North Carolina

94 months ago

Heidi in Bellingham, Washington said: I am graduating next month and will then have a BA in Sociology. I am currently looking into two different certification programs (in Seattle, WA) for Paralegal work that begin in September.

Does anyone have advice on the importance of being certified through an ABA-approved program?

My first choice is the University of Washington Extension Certification program. Although it is NOT directly ABA-approved, it is approved by the University of Washington School of Law - which IS ABA-approved.

My second choice is through a community college, which offers an Advanced Paralegal Certificate (advanced because it requires BA for admission). This IS ABA-approved, just not as prestigous as my first choice.

Therefore, is ABA-approval or prestige of greater importance? Does it matter more for a recent graduate of the program or more in the long run with years of
experience?

Thank you!

If you want to know how important an ABA approval is for a paralegal program, find out if it is required for you to be CLA from nala.org and your state's official paralegal association (usually a division of their Bar Association)

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J in Cleveland, Ohio

93 months ago

I think also that if you become a certified paralegal through either NALA or take the advanced paralegal certificate such as PACE that it will not matter of your legal experience was ABA approved.

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Carolina in Vienna, Virginia

90 months ago

Hello Paralegals!

I have a concern and I wonder if anyone can give me a good advise. I need to decide wether to enroll at Marymount University or George Washington University to obtain the Paralegal Certificate. I already know that MU is ABA-approved while GW is very prestigious but non ABA-approved. I have a bachelor's degree in a non-legal field but I want to be hired, as everyone I suppose, in a well recognized law firm in the future. I appreciate your comments.

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Mary inTampa in Tampa, Florida

90 months ago

Denver will probably give you good advice. You should read past posts. With ABA you KNOW what you're getting. I also have a Bachelor's Degree (Business Administration). I had two choices for my paralegal degree. HOW TO DECIDE: Go to the website for each program, print out the required coures for each one. (1) Do they have a good choice of courses? (2) How many instructors are teaching. (3) What are the credentials of the instructors?

When I did that, and compared the two, my choice was easy - even though I had to drive, four days a week, to another town.

When you're done with the paralegal degree, you should take either the CLA test or the PACE.

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Jane Do Girl in Cantonment, Florida

90 months ago

I would certainly recommend going with the ABA approved Certificate program. Another thing to consider, you will pay out the nose for the GWU name on your resume, but it won't carry the weight of the ABA approval.

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