The job outlook for paralegals in the United States is rosy and while there are 913 universities and colleges across the U.S. that offer paralegal degree programs, those interested in the program would do well to check out some of the top paralegal schools in the country.
What is a paralegal?
A paralegal is someone who had been trained in matters of the law but is not a lawyer. Basically a paralegal works as an assistant to a lawyer to do research for cases, help a lawyer in trial preparation and prepare and maintain files. A paralegal cannot give legal services to the public on his or her own and must always work under an attorney's supervision.
Generally, a paralegal is involved in research and investigation of laws and facts pertaining to a case and must maintain documents and files for different cases. He or she could also interview witnesses in order to gather and scrutinize evidence, write reports and collect legal documents such as procedural motions, depositions, briefs, affidavits, and memos. In some cases, the paralegal acts like a secretary and take notes for the lawyer he is assisting and likewise draft correspondence.
You can be a general paralegal or choose to specialize in a specific area. Your options include real estate, family law, immigration, bankruptcy, intellectual property, employee benefits, criminal law, corporate law, personal injury, and litigation.
Paralegal degree program
The curriculum for a paralegal program varies by school. On-campus programs offer a degree on different levels – certificate, associate, bachelor and master. Many employers and law firms prefer to hire graduates who have finished an American Bar Association (ABA) approved program and there are 274 schools in the U.S. offering ABA-approved paralegal programs.
University of Cincinnati
It is considered as a leader when it comes to paralegal studies and programs and offers accredited minor and major degree programs. You can obtain either a professional certificate, an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies. The school's freshman profile shows that a large number of students are among the top graduates in high school. The curriculum at the University of Cincinnati prepares students to move on to law school or find employment with high-ranking firms.
University of Memphis
The university's paralegal degree program is Bachelor of Professional Studies, focused on paralegal studies, which is a four-year course. It combines general education subjects with core subjects in paralegal studies and electives that are law-related, including written communication for six credit hours. History, philosophy and ethics are included for the first two years of the course.
Georgetown University is well known for its cutting edge and rigorous curriculum for its paralegal program that is approved by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), the International Paralegal Manager's Association (IPMA) and the American Association for Paralegal Association (AAfPE). It is a flexible program for students who are already working, and available for summer, day and night classes. This is an extensive course that could be finished in one year – a trimester program consisting of 15 weeks per semester. Georgetown's paralegal program is focused on the essential law elements, decision-making and critical thinking in the context of paralegal duties.
Villanova University is located in Radnor, Philadelphia and its paralegal program is approved by the American Bar Association. Acceptance to the paralegal program requires the student to have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university and the student must likewise write a short essay explaining how the certificate in paralegal studies will be used in their career. Moreover, the student must pass two letters of recommendation and undergo an admissions interview. The program could be completed in one year, if the student takes it part time (evening classes) or within 16 weeks by taking full time classes during the day.
Louisiana State University
The paralegal program at Louisiana State University is the only one in the state of Louisiana that is American Bar Association-certified. It can be completed in 30 months or 12 months. The night classes are small and the program is planned for working adults who already have a bachelor's degree from an accredited university or college, but this is not a strict requirement. However, to be admitted to the program, the student must have a grade point average of 2.3 and 45 college credits.
University of San Diego
The paralegal program offered by the University of San Diego is considered the best studies program in the West Coast and is approved by the ABA. The flexible schedule allows students to attend day or night classes. Applicants to the paralegal studies program must be an undergraduate of the University of San Diego with a minimum of 70 semester credits, or have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Submission of an application form and a personal interview are requirements as well. The curriculum includes foundational instruction on the legal system as well as specific subjects such as intellectual property, business and civil litigation and legal research.
The American Bar Association has a list of schools that offer ABA-approved paralegal programs, both on-campus and online.