bachelos degree in Paralegal or certificate?

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ani in Brooklyn, New York

51 months ago

Hi I would like someone to answer me. I have bachelors and master's degree in English Language, and I want to take paralegal certificate program, but some people say I would rather go to collage for a bachelors degree in paralegal study, what i should do?

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Jane Do Girl in Pensacola, Florida

51 months ago

If you go the post-graduate paralegal certificate route, MAKE SURE that it is from an ABA approved program or a program that is in substantial compliance with ABA guidelines and an institutional member of AAfPE. See their database of approved programs here: www.aafpe.org/m_search/index.asp. STAY AWAY from any other "store-front" programs. Whether we agree with it or not, regulation of the paralegal profession is on its way. The test programs I've seen have a mixture of education/experience credentials, which are excluding a number of paralegal education programs that do not meet the criteria set forth above. You want to be sure that your credentials will hold up not just in the current job market but in the future as well.

The paralegal regulation issue is already making some paralegal program vendors take notice. We've seen it here in Florida with a proprietary college that a few years ago did not meet the program requirements for its student members to become eligible to join the NALA affiliated paralegal association. Enter the Florida Rule 20 FRP Program and 2 years later we find that that program now meets the requirements.

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Jane Do Girl in Pensacola, Florida

51 months ago

DLP, I do agree with you. Unfortunately, it seems the number of those who are pro-mandatory regulation is increasing and becoming even more vocal and visible.

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Ms. Gucci in Hollywood, Florida

51 months ago

@Jane Do Girl In FL:

What school was that you were talking about? Is it Everest University? I know a few years back alot of people were getting a bachelors in paralegal studies there and when they tried to apply for law school and/or graduate school they got rejected.

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jslinfla in Delray Beach, Florida

48 months ago

Totally unnecessary. All you need is a paralegal certificate, preferably from an ABA approved paralegal school.-DLP

I agree somewhat with DLP. However, ABA vs. non-ABA is still up for debate.

For instance, at Brevard Community College here in Florida, you can get a two year degree in paralegal studies totally online. The ABA is against regaulating any school that has a totally online program. This is dumb because that is the wave of the future for education (not only paralegal studies).

DLP mentioned something about State Univ. of New York (SUNY) paralegal courses. My entire online program was from Excelsior College in upstate New York. Excelsior used to be known as University of the State of New York-External Degree Program.

The name later changed to State University of New York(SUNY)-Regents College.

Eventually, this SUNY branch broke away from the SUNY system, and became a private, not-for-profit college and is now named Excelsior College.

Excelsior College's program is contracted with Gatlin Education Services.
This means you register with Excelsior College, you log-in to Gatlin Education Services website, you study for and take the exams through Gatlin, do the assignments through Gatlin, etc. Upon successful completion of the program, Gatlin Education Services contacts Excelsior College. Excelsior College prints up the certificate of completion and sends it to the student in the mail. So, you might want to check out Excelsior's program.

What really sold me on Excelsior/Gatlin is that when you pay tuition, the textbooks are covered under the tuition plan. Check out Excelsior. It is worth looking into because after all, information is free.

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Kristen C in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

48 months ago

Paralegal in Dallas, Texas said: Lord no, don't get a bachelor's degree in paralegal. Total waste. There are paralegal programs designed for people who already have a bachelor's degree. My program was 5 months long. I would keep your master's degree a secret. It won't help you and may hurt you as you might appear as "too expensive" and you'll never land the first low-paying paralegal job.

Do you mind if I ask which 5-month program you attended?

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

48 months ago

Kristen C in Milwaukee, Wisconsin said: Do you mind if I ask which 5-month program you attended?

It doesn't exist anymore. I don't know where people with bachelors degrees are going these days to get an ABA approved paralegal certificate as far as proprietary schools - which is what the one I attended was - an expensive vocational type school. Now it seems most people are going to the community colleges to get the cert even though they already have a bachelors.

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jslinfla in Delray Beach, Florida

48 months ago

To Paralegal in Dallas, TX:

That private school you mentioned is still around. If you go to the ABA's website and look under its paralegal school section, it is listed there.

This is where people w/ a Bachelor degree can go to earn an ABA approved certificate.

I think that the people who have a Bachelor degree and go to the community college for a paralegal studies degree is because they have completed the general core requirements (English, Math, History, etc.) Thus, they only need to take the paralegal courses and can earn a two year degree in paralegal studies. One of the community colleges in downtown Dallas has an ABA approved paralegal degree program.

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

48 months ago

Ah, okay my old paralegal school is now Kaplan. When I went it was called Southeastern Paralegal Institute and only had paralegal programs. Nothing else.

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jenwin1 in Suwanee, Georgia

48 months ago

I'm hearing it is hard to get a job after graduation. I am starting my Associates in paralegal in January. Can you tell me how long it took you after getting your degree or certification? Did you do an internship as well?

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

48 months ago

I got a job 2 weeks after graduation. I did an internship, but it was in a very stressful environment so I was not interested in a job there. I ended up getting a job at a law firm that hosted two of my classmates for internships. The firm did not like either one of my classmates at all! They were lazy and not smart. But this was over 10 years ago and the legal field has changed since then - and not for the good for paralegals.

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jslinfla in Delray Beach, Florida

47 months ago

the legal field has changed since then - and not for the good for paralegals.-Paralegal in Dallas, TX

In what way has the legal field changed not for the good for paralegals? I would like you answer to see if it matches with my answer.

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

47 months ago

I think there are a lot of reasons for the decline of the paralegal profession:
1) too many paralegal programs at varying quality, paralegal programs being advertised on late night TV, lost prestige
2) clients deciding paralegal duties are administrative in nature and not billable
3) attorneys hoarding work to keep their billables up
4) law firms make more money if the attorney does the work at his/her billing rate, than a paralegal
5) law firms using "slash" positions - secretary/paralegal
6) just the general contraction of the legal field is hurting all legal people
7) technology, electronic discovery making some paralegal duties obsolete or making it easy to offshore
8) tort reform in this state took away entire areas of law

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msmaureen in Bridgeport, Texas

47 months ago

I have a paralegal Bachelors Degree from TX Wesleyan University, I do not have a paralegal certificate. I have 7 years administrative experience in the US Navy/Army. I have no experience as a paralegal but I want to get into family law, maybe attend law school after my son graduates HS. Any advice on how to get my foot in the door? I am 39 years old

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Paralegal in Dallas, Texas

47 months ago

Family law is a hard area to break into. Most family law attorneys want highly experienced paralegals - 10-20 years of family law experience. It's a very emotional area of law. You deal with distraught upset people who call constantly. I have no advice as far as getting into family law - maybe apply to be a receptionist first? I don't know. Around here a lot of family law jobs require Spanish, too.

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jslinfla in Delray Beach, Florida

47 months ago

I'm curious, jslinfla. What is your paralegal experience? How long have you worked as a paralegal?-DLP

Hi DLP,

Sorry I have been away for a while. To answer your question, I earned a paralegal certificate through Excelsior College in 2008. I do not have paralegal experience and I have never worked as a paralegal. But, I have been an Office Assistant for a not-for-profit organization and was promoted to Employment Specialist. The organization had a contract with The Dept. of Vocational Rehab to help people with disabilities find gainful employment.
After the contract was not renewed due to stupid decisions made by upper level management, people at the organization-including myself-were downsized.
Thus, I made the best of it and went back to school online to earn the paralegal certificate.

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jslinfla in Delray Beach, Florida

47 months ago

DLP, maybe in your area they want an ABA approved credential. I have been looking at real world aspects of paralegal hiring in my area. So, please stop with the condescending remarks as they are unnecessary.

Furthermore, just because you are bitter about the legal field and the way you
have been treated by it does not give you the right to tell somebody that he does not know what he is talking about. There was somebody earlier on this message board who challenged what you said about needing an ABA approved certificate. She went through 15 want ads for jobs and not one requested an ABA approved certificate. Perhaps you are the one who needs to learn about real-world aspects of hiring-not necessarily in Colorado, but other parts of the country as well!

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buncle in San Marcos, California

47 months ago

ani in Brooklyn, New York said: Hi I would like someone to answer me. I have bachelors and master's degree in English Language, and I want to take paralegal certificate program, but some people say I would rather go to collage for a bachelors degree in paralegal study, what i should do?

Your background in English is ideally suited for working in a law. Also, having an ABA certificate is not necessary. I know of many paralegals who have graduated from non-ABA programs that work for large firms. I have a paralegal certificate from Duke University and have never had a problem working in the field. Quite the contary, it has opened doors for me.

In any event, look for a good regionally accredited certificate paralegal program and it will serve you well.

Best wishes.

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buncle in Carlsbad, California

47 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: I've seen discussion on these boards where Cal non-ABA certificate holders and other paralegals are flocking to ABA paralegal schools because Cal legal employers will not accept anything other than ABA certificates, e.g.

I live in California and can say that most law firms aren't focused on ABA or non-ABA credentials. What they are looking for are candidates with experience followed by degrees in either paralegal studies or non-legal studies. A paralegal certificate from an accredited school is more than sufficient, if one has a degree.

If, as you conclude, an ABA certificate is far more necessary, then I would not be employed, since I graduated from a non-ABA program. There are many excellent paralegal programs being offered by colleges and universities and my advice to the topic initiator is to base you decision on the merits of the program being offered, instead of on the basis of it being approved by the ABA.

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buncle in Carlsbad, California

47 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: If you mean regional academic accreditation, regional academic accreditation is less important because a paralegal certificate per se is a vocational credential, not an academic credential.

If the college or university is regionally accredited, then the certificates and degrees they issue will carry that accreditation, since regional accreditation applies across the board. What I meant though is any paralegal program being offered by a school that has no formal accreditation.

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buncle in Carlsbad, California

47 months ago

Not sure about Colorado, but in California paralegals are required to have a credential from an accredited school.

Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §6450 (c)(2)

"A certificate of completion of a paralegal program at, or a degree from, a postsecondary institution that requires the successful completion of a minimum of 24 semester, or equivalent, units in law-related courses and that has been accredited by a national or regional accrediting organization or approved by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education."

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buncle in Carlsbad, California

47 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: What I've concluded is based on employer requirements. If certain legal employers require ABA paralegal certificates and one does not possess an ABA certificate, than one can conclude that said employers will not consider one because one does not meet that requirement. Accordingly, a paralegal program might be meritorious but not sufficiently so if such program does not award a credential that qualifies one for any paralegal job.

What I have found is that large law firms often choose candidates on the basis of what schools they attended. In that context an ABA paralegal credential might be exemplary to some firms, but not necessarily to those firms hiring an applicant on the basis of such schools. Consequently, an ABA credential might qualify them for many paralegal jobs, but certainly not all, especially as it applies those firms that prefer graduates from top-tier schools.

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buncle in Carlsbad, California

47 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional in Denver, Colorado said: One more point:

Read the statute again: Careful review of Sec. 6450(c) that academic accreditation is not necessarily required. And, again, California is the only state that has laws that regulate paralegals.

In effect you are making an argument that ABA paralegal programs need not be accredited. Do you have any examples of unaccredited ABA paralegal programs?

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Essp web in Chicago, Illinois

47 months ago

Thanks to share some information about paralegal certificate....

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buncle in Carlsbad, California

47 months ago

Displaced Legal Professional,

You say that:“Not once have I ever seen a paralegal job ad that says, "graduation from top-tier paralegal school required."

Hardly surprising, since it’s an established custom among law firms to choose applicants from top-tier schools. It follows that a paralegal with an undergraduate degree from an Ivy league school - coupled with an accredited paralegal certificate -has a better chance at landing a position with a major firm. This same principle applies to lawyers who graduate from top-tier law schools. It also extends outside of law firms.

You say: “Yes. My ABA approved paralegal school was not accredited. It was a free-standing school, approved by the ABA, that trained students to be paralegals. It awarded certificates but not degrees.”

Irrespective of your school’s ABA approval and not awarding degrees, your certificate is still an “unaccredited” credential. Nor is the approval of a school’s program the equivalent of recognized accreditation. Moreover, an accredited credential is the“gold standard” in the United States. Credentials, on the other hand, issued from unaccredited schools are not.

I would also venture to say that if you enrolled in an ABA approved paralegal program today, that the school would in all likelihood be accredited, since that is the accepted standard.

If you want to hold up a torch for the ABA and the unaccredited paralegal program you completed years ago, then by all means do so. But keep in mind that there are many of us who have graduated from accredited schools and paralegal programs.

The ABA is an acceditor of law schools. It is not an accreditor of schools offering paralegal programs. Most paralegals don't care about ABA approval nor do most of the law firms that hiring paralegals.

As much as I would like to debate the issue endlessly, I work long hours and don’t have the time.

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jslinfla in Delray Beach, Florida

46 months ago

DLP:

Thought I would give you am update if you are interested. There is a law firm I found out about in Hollywood, FL if you are interested in moving.
On the website it states that it hires people with all kinds of experience at all levels. I felt I should give you a "heads up" about it.

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