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Paralegal Studies

I've always been interested in law but couldn't afford a law degree. I think the best way would be to become a paralegal but I've been unsuccessfull in finding an online paralegal degree program. I live in a very rural city the nearest city is over an hour away any recommendations for an online program? #paralegal

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John’s Answer

Jane the American Bar Association (ABA) approves educational programs for paralegals. Any programs that offer a DEGREE ENTIRELY ONLINE ARE NOT ABA-APPROVED, because the ABA requires that at least ten semester hours of courses related to the law be taken in a traditional classroom.

A paralegal is a lawyer's assistant who helps a lawyer prepare for a meeting or a trial. This preparation may include researching facts or laws and writing reports used during the case. An associate's or bachelor's degree is required, depending on the employer. Students in associate's and bachelor's degree programs take a basic core of general education courses in English, math, science, and social studies as well as the required courses for paralegal work. Some employers may also require on-the-job training or professional certification. Most certificate programs are for people who have an associate's or bachelor's degree in another area. A few require applicants to have a specified number of college credit hours plus experience in the area of law. Certificate programs only include courses pertinent to paralegal work and do not include general education courses.

Jane, Below you'll find two colleges and a university in Tennessee offer a broad array of paralegal programs for students interested in earning a certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. Hopefully this will provide some key information so that you can make an informed choice.

ROANE STATE COMMUNITY COLLEGE – Offers a two-year, American Bar Association (ABA)-approved Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree program in Paralegal Studies.

WALTERS STATE COMMUNITY COLLEGE – The Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Business-Paralegal Studies at Walters State Community College includes a curriculum that has been approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) as a qualified paralegal training program. The program is designed to teach students to perform paralegal tasks such as legal research, client interviews, document preparation, and case management.

UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS – The University of Memphis offers a Bachelor of Professional Studies (BPS) degree with a concentration in Legal Studies. The plan of study includes 54 credit hours of coordinated study (major) courses in legal studies, law-related electives, and interdisciplinary electives.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for the paralegal profession is pretty promising. It's projected to grow by 12% between 2018 to 2028, which is faster than the average projected growth of 5% for all occupations. The average salary for a Paralegal in the United States is between $50,850 and $100,000 as of July 27, 2020. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on your actual Paralegal position. If you’re interested in a career that is growing faster than average, or if you possess the necessary skills and are interested in the legal profession, a career as a paralegal may be for you.

Hope this was Helpful Jane

Thank you John! Jane N.

Hi John after doing some digging on the ABA website I found this. "The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Paralegals recently announced a significant change in its criteria. As of January 1, 2020, the requirement that four (4) courses in an ABA-approved program previously required to be conducted physically at the institution or in an affiliated organization may now be conducted via videoconferencing or other synchronous interactive video systems. This now makes it possible for students to complete the entire ABA-approved paralegal program via distance education!" I also found a college that's actually offering the 4 classes via videoconference! Jane N.

Perfect, Thanks Jane. John Frick

That is awesome Jane! Best of luck to you! There will be challenges - don't let them stop you! Kim Igleheart

Thanks for the motivation! Jane N.

Thank You Brianne. “Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain loving one another.” – Erma Bombeck John Frick

Jane, just one word of caution. You want to look at "entry-level" salaries for Paralegals. They tend to be pretty low, which is disappointing. Be prepared for 1-3 years of struggling before you start drawing a more professional level salary. It's still worth it, I just want you to be aware. . . ! Kim Igleheart

Thank You Kim. Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much. – Helen Keller John Frick

Thank You Joanna. “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank John Frick

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Kim’s Answer


You are wised to be concerned about finances! However, sometimes we have to make that investment in order to get to where we want to go. (I can't believe I just said that!)

Please proceed very cautiously! Not all Paralegal programs are created equally. There are certificate programs and Associate Degree programs as the two most common options. Some are more marketable than others, and, the "ABA-approved" Paralegal Programs tend to get you into the real world more successfully. https://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/paralegal-resource-directory/

It's been a few years since I looked into this, but, at that time, the ABA required physical attendance for certain core courses. You can look at this Texas ABA approved program for an example - they require 4 classes be taken in-person. https://www.lonestar.edu/departments/paralegalstudies/2019-2020%20Paralegal%20Pamphlet.pdf

You want your education to be as rigorous as possible, because the legal field is extremely demanding! Also do whatever you can to stay on top of your technological skills. Join the available paralegal associations when presented with that opportunity (usually while in school), and get out in the community by participating in workshops, legal aid clinics, etc. Don't wait until you graduate to start getting your feet wet!

I hope this helps -best of luck!

Thank you so much! I'll definitely dig deeper into the difference programs. Jane N.

You're welcome! The law is very intriguing. I was fortunate to have a freelance gig for 5 years, and enjoyed every bit of it! Kim Igleheart

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Brianne’s Answer

Jane, whether you pursue Paralegal studies or make the decision to attend law school both are an investment in your future. If law school is really what you want, then start working with a counselor at school to help you with navigating the application process not only to be accepted but also to assist with applying for scholarships, loans, or grants. Whether you choose to become a Paralegal or Lawyer the legal field is very demanding; long hours, lots of pressure. The point here is, pursue the one that will bring you the most fulfillment. Both are going to require hard work and an investment.

I think I've made a decision. Thanks Brianne Jane N.

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Shion’s Answer

Hi Jane! Is there a particular paralegal field you hope to be in?

My legal career has been focused within the tech field as corporate paralegal, contracts admin/manager (reviewing contracts), and currently in Legal Operations (implementing systems for the Commercial Legal team). Depending on the company these "titles" could fall under the "Paralegal". All 3 have been great opportunities and are important roles to support a legal team at a company.

It is possible to become a paralegal by working directly for a lawyer. This is the route I took. https://www.online-paralegal-programs.com/is-it-difficult-to-get-paralegal-certification/ . A Commercial Transaction attorney took me under their wing and I was able to learn on the job, which has some great benefits.

Shion recommends the following next steps:

If online or schooling is out of reach at the moment, perhaps a mentorship at a company or an entry level position could open new doors. Best of luck! :)

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Juliana’s Answer

For many roles you will not need a specific paralegal degree. It really depends on what the employer is looking for. I'd recommend finding a company or law firm and starting out as a legal assistant or similar role. You might also target a smaller to mid-sized firm or company, which will often provide more hands on training. We have a couple paralegals on the team I work with and two of them did not have formal training when they started their careers. One worked for a solo practitioner and that provided one-on-one, broad training that was very valuable and provide many growth and learning opportunities. One great thing about this field is that you really don't need a specific degree or background to start working - just a great attitude and desire to learn!

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adam’s Answer

I too was considering law school but I opted for paralegal instead and I am very happy with my decision (6 years into my career).

I studied at Amarillo College (AC) in Texas (pre-2020 thus in-class was a requirement) but AC has since begun offering a fully online program.
There are two options: earn an applied arts and sciences associates degree in paralegal studies or a post-degree certificate (requires an associates or bachelors).

I earned my associates degree in general studies then the post-degree certificate in paralegal studies. Upon graduation, I was hired within 3 months as a contract writer with a health insurance company in Amarillo. After that three month fellowship, I landed at my current firm.

As other posters mentioned, there was the obligatory bottom-of-the-rung position first, but after one quick year, I moved to my current position as Operations Trainer.

I'm not working in the law department as my career development plan was originally written.
At the company I work for (Fortune 50 ranked), paralegal jobs are so competitive that it's not unusual for the applicants to have their law degree and some have an MBA. But there are positions open right now that require the skills and knowledge taught in the paralegal program.

I agree with other posters that you should not consider the school unless they are an ABA approved program (AC is ABA approved).

The takeaway is a paralegal degree or post-degree certificate comes with strong recommendation from me.

adam recommends the following next steps:

Check out www.aig.com/careers and peruse some entry level job postings. They offer tuition reimbursement so you can work through school.

Thank you Adam for the job website I will definitely take advantage of it and I did enrolled in an ABA program that I started last weekend. Wish me luck! Jane N.