With respect to paralegal education, a wide variety of programs exist. There is no standard, prescribed curriculum for paralegals that is analogous to the curriculum requirements for an ABA accredited law school. The ABA does promulgate educational standards for paralegal education programs. The ABA’s Standing Committee on Paralegals is responsible for studying and making recommendations on matters relating to the education, employment, training and effective use of paralegals. Within that mandate, the Standing Committee, through its Approval Commission, sets standards for paralegal education. The Standing Committee also recommends for approval and re-approval by the House of Delegates (the ABA’s policy-making body) those paralegal training programs that meet the standards and guidelines set by the ABA for quality paralegal education. Educational programs vary from two-year associate degrees to undergraduate training, and post-graduate training. Because of the variety of programs, external criteria exist to evaluate paralegal educational programs.
The ABA Standing Committee on Paralegals adopted guidelines for paralegal educational programs that included criteria for curriculum, faculty, library facilities and career placement results. Only those paralegal educational programs meeting these guidelines are ABA-approved. Application for ABA approval is voluntary.
High standards for paralegal education are also encouraged by the American Association for Paralegal Education (“AAfPE”), a national organization of member institutions offering paralegal education. AAfPE was formed to promote high standards for paralegal educational programs. All AAfPE institutional members must be either ABA-approved or be in “substantial compliance” with ABA guidelines. AAfPE does not perform on-campus evaluations for each program but does review each institution’s application for membership.
Additional information about ABA approval or AAfPE membership may be obtained by writing to the ABA and AAfPE at the following addresses:
American Bar Association
Standing Committee on Paralegals
750 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611