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Navigating Paralegal Programs: The Lowdown on ABA Approval

Paralegal Programs

With over 1,200 paralegal programs available today, less than a surprising 300 have the ABA’s approval. In 2005, Duke University, a top-tier institution, publicly declined to seek ABA’s approval for its paralegal program. Was that a reckless or a calculated move? Let’s unravel the great ABA debate for paralegal studies in this insightful discussion.

Understanding ABA Qualifications:

ABA programs boast a plethora of qualifications, which, like a chameleon, vary by institution. The ABA’s lips are sealed regarding the fees but whispers in academia hint at their substantial nature. Institutions like Duke opt to channel funds towards nurturing student life and academics rather than acquiring the coveted ABA badge.

When dissecting ABA requirements, it’s evident that of the mandatory 60 semester hours, a mere 18 are dedicated to legal specialty courses. The remaining hours, allocated to general education subjects, might leave you scratching your head rather than acing the Certified Paralegal exam.

Accessibility Matters:

Accessibility to ABA-approved programs is like finding a needle in a haystack. For instance, Wisconsin offers six ABA-approved programs to its five million residents, while Nevada provides a single program for its four million inhabitants. Limited accessibility implies that having an ABA stamp isn’t a necessity when stepping into the paralegal field.

ABA Approval: Yea or Nay?

Here’s the million-dollar question: Are ABA-approved programs worth it? In my seasoned opinion, not necessarily, and here’s why:

  • Eighteen semester credit hours of legal specialty courses barely scratch the surface in preparing you for the Certified Paralegal exam.

  • The theoretical knowledge acquired seldom translates into real-world job responsibilities.

  • Earning potential isn’t significantly impacted by attending an ABA-approved program.

Choosing Your Paralegal Certificate Program Wisely:

With a smorgasbord of paralegal programs at your fingertips, the trick lies in selecting one that aligns with your personal circumstances and goals. When reviewing programs, ponder the following:

  • Does the program adequately prepare me for the Certified Paralegal exam?

  • Is the program accessible based on my location?

  • Are externships offered for hands-on experience? Is there a dedicated career center to facilitate job placement post-graduation?

  • Can I comfortably adhere to the program’s schedule and deadlines?

  • Is the program cost-effective, and is financial aid available if needed?

The Practical Paralegal Path:

If your goal is to swiftly acquire a certificate, become exam-ready, gain hands-on experience through externships, and kickstart your career without delay, programs like’s* Paralegal Certificate Program might be your perfect match. These programs are designed for individuals who aren’t chasing after associate or bachelor’s degrees but are focused on diving into their paralegal careers headfirst.

In Conclusion:

Embarking on a paralegal career is an exciting yet intricate journey that requires thoughtful planning and informed decision-making. Every path to success is paved with continuous learning, networking, and a deep understanding of the industry’s ever-evolving landscape. While traditional educational avenues have their unique benefits, alternative paths, such as the programs offered by, provide practical, accessible, and affordable solutions tailored for the modern paralegal student.

To dive even deeper into this riveting debate and gain a clearer perspective, don’t hesitate to watch my comprehensive video “The Great ABA Debate for Paralegals”. This video unpacks additional insights and practical advice to guide you through the maze of ABA-approved paralegal programs, helping you make decisions that best align with your career aspirations and personal circumstances.

And the journey doesn't stop here! For more invaluable insights, practical tips, and expert advice on becoming a true Paralegal Boss, subscribe to my blog, Misty's Method. Each post is crafted with care, providing you with the knowledge and tools you need to navigate and thrive in the legal field confidently. For a wealth of video content that enlightens, empowers, and inspires, make sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel. With a community of like-minded professionals and aspiring paralegals, you're not just a subscriber; you're part of a community dedicated to excellence and success in the paralegal profession. Join us, and let’s build a brighter, stronger future for paralegals together! Remember, the legal industry is on the lookout for stellar paralegals like you.

*I have an affiliate relationship with and thus, by enrolling in their Paralegal Program, you are supporting me and my business. Thank you for your support.

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