Paralegal School Information
Paralegal degree programs are available at over 900 colleges and universities across the United States and are designed to train future paralegals to enter the paralegal field to work at law firms, corporations, or the government. These schools vary in the curriculum they offer and the amount of coursework provided. In addition to the traditional on-campus programs, several schools offer online paralegal degree programs for earning a degree at the certificate, associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s level. About 274 paralegal programs in the United States are ABA approved, meaning they have been found to meet specific standards of quality by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Paralegals. This is important because many law firms and employers prefer to hire graduates from an ABA approved programs. This guide to paralegal schools is intended to help you learn about the education options available for earning a paralegal degree.
About This Site
Paralegal 411 is a comprehensive information resource for anyone who would like to learn more about paralegal career paths and paralegal education options. Our directory of paralegal schools includes detailed school information for each state including program reviews by students. Additionally we provide job advice from dozens of current paralegals and career interviews with several leaders in the paralegal community. Our job board provides information on the latest paralegal job openings in each state and is updated daily. Finally, our salary information resource provides detailed statistics on what paralegals earn in each state. Paralegal 411 has been featured extensively on dozens of college and paralegal association websites as a recommended career resource.
Paralegal School Facts
- There are 913 colleges or universities that offer a paralegal or legal assistant degree program in the United States.1
- 274 schools offer an ABA approved program in the United States (American Bar Association).
- 341 schools offer a certificate program for paralegals/legal assistants.1
- 781 schools offer an associate’s degree program for paralegal/legal assistants.1
- 177 schools offer a bachelor’s degree program for paralegal/legal assistants.1
- 38 schools offer an advanced degree program for paralegal/legal assistants.1
Click on your state on the list of states below to learn about paralegal degree programs in your state.
Paralegal School Information by State
The Basics: Paralegal Do’s and Don’ts
What Does a Paralegal Do?
A paralegal is trained in legal matters, and assists lawyers in researching facts for cases, preparing documents, maintaining files, or helping to prepare for trial. Paralegals must operate under the supervision of an attorney, and are prohibited from offering legal services to the general public alone. They are most typically employed by law firms, corporate legal departments, government agencies, or other organizations. Depending on the size and type of the law firm, paralegals’ tasks will vary from being more specialized (in larger firms) to more generalized (in smaller firms). Specific tasks may include:
- Researching and investigating facts or laws related to a case
- Maintaining files and documents for various cases
- Interviewing witnesses to gather and investigate evidence
- Writing reports and compiling legal documents, like memos, briefs, depositions, or procedural motions
- Taking notes for attorneys
- Working with teams of other paralegals, attorneys, and staff on cases
What Don’t Paralegals Do?
Paralegals cannot provide their services or legal advice directly to the public. Instead, they must work under the supervision of an attorney, who is ultimately liable for their work. Paralegals aren’t called “officers of the court,” they aren’t “counsel of record” in court proceedings, nor can they sign court documents. While paralegals can be certified by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), there is no concept of being a “licensed paralegal” in the manner than an attorney can be a “licensed attorney.”
Recent Paralegal Career Interviews
Read our career interviews with current legal professionals who share their career path and advice for students who are preparing to graduate. Click on a profile image below to go to the individual’s interview.
Vicky La Celle
President, Orange County Paralegal Association
CEO of the Paralegal Knowledge Institute
Pioneer and Leader in the Paralegal Field
President, Western New York Paralegal Association
Popular Paralegal Schools
University of Cincinnati: Highly regarded as one of the leaders in terms of paralegal programs and studies, the University of Cincinnati offers major and minor degree programs from their accredited paralegal program. Three types of credentials or degrees may be obtained, including the bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies, an associate’s degree in paralegal studies and a professional certificate. The freshman profile reveals that a majority of the students were among the top of their high school class, with GPAs ranging from a 3.0 to 3.6 and beyond. The paralegal program at the University of Cincinnati prepares students through extensive study within the field and readies its graduates for promotion into law school or immediate employment with high quality firms. The curriculum is extensive and provides above average content in in English composition as well as significant focus area studies.
University of Memphis: Located in Memphis, Tennessee, the University of Memphis offers a four-year Bachelor of Professional Studies (BPS) with a concentration in paralegal studies. The program combines general education requirements, common of a traditional bachelor’s degree program, along with paralegal studies concentration courses. These courses include the professional paralegal core courses and paralegal or law-related electives, with six credit hours required in written communication. Ethics, philosophy and history are among the courses implemented into the program and required by freshman and sophomores, early in the program. University of Memphis prides itself in preparing students within the paralegal concentration studies to embark successfully in the field of legal studies.
Georgetown University: The Georgetown university paralegal program is known for its rigor and cutting edge curriculum. The paralegal studies program was established in 1973 and has been accredited every year since 1977. The Georgetown paralegal program is approved by the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE), the International Paralegal Manager’s Association (IPMA), and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). The paralegal studies program is designed to be completed in just one year over a period of three fifteen week semesters. The program is designed to be flexible for people with existing careers by offering it at night, day and summer. The program focuses on teaching students the essential elements of the law as well as critical thinking and decision-making skills within the context of the duties of a paralegal.
Villanova University: The Villanova university paralegal program is an American Bar Association approved program that confers a certificate in paralegal studies upon completion. The program is part of the professional studies department at the prestigious Villanova University. The program has minimum admission standards including the possession of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college. Students must also write a short essay about how they plan to use the certificate as part of their career path. All students must also participate in an admissions interview and submit two letters of recommendation. There are two iterations of the program; part time and full time. The part time evening program can be completed in just one year while the full time day program can be completed in just 16 weeks.
Louisiana State University: The LSU Paralegal program offers aspiring paralegals with a program that can be completed in as little as 12 months or up to 30 months. The LSU program is the only paralegal program in the state of Louisiana that is certified by the American Bar Association. The class sizes are small and the instructors all have years of practical industry experience in the field. The program is designed for working adults who need night classes. The vast majority of students in the paralegal certificate program have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college, but it is not required. The admissions requirements state that prospective students must have at least 45 college credits (semester) and a 2.3 grade point average.
University of San Diego: The University of San Diego paralegal studies program is one of the best on the entire west coast. The program is approved and accredited by the American Bar Association and gives students access to the knowledge and facilities offered by the world-class university of San Diego. The program is flexible with scheduled classes during the day or evening. The curriculum offers foundational knowledge of the legal system as well as specific areas including legal research, civil and business litigation, and intellectual property. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college or be a USD undergraduate with at least 70 or more semester credits. Students must also complete and submit an application and undergo a personal interview to see if they are a good fit for the program.
Popular Online Paralegal Programs
Kaplan University (online): Kaplan University is one of the largest accredited online universities and educational centers in the world with thousands of students and graduates throughout the world. The online university currently offers several paralegal programs that confer a variety of degrees in paralegal studies. Kaplan currently offers the following degrees and certificates in paralegal studies – Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies, Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies, Master of Science in Legal Studies, and a Legal Secretary Certificate. The hallmark of each of the programs is the focus on practical application of legal knowledge as it applies to the paralegal profession. Students not only get great coursework, but also receive job placement assistance and career counseling as part of their program.
Everest University (online): Everest University offers a completely online Associate’s degree program in Paralegal Studies. Often paralegal students already have full time jobs and need a great amount of flexibility in their education. Everest University provides students with the flexibility needed by offering the program entirely online. Students learn the fundamental skill sets and knowledge needed to be a successful paralegal or legal secretary. The program is career focused and specializes in imparting the required job skills needed to excel as a legal professional from day one. Students get extensive time working in a real legal environment during the externship portion of their program. Students learn about estate planning, contracts and torts, personal injury law, estate taxes, wills, trusts and joint tenancy. All classes are taught by professional faculty members with real world experience.
Keiser University (online): Keiser University in offers an Associate’s degree in paralegal studies at their campus in Fort Lauderdale, Florida or completely online. Students learn the job skills and knowledge needed to be successful in private law, corporate law, governmental agencies, law enforcement, criminal law and family law. Keiser has been operating the program for the last 35 years, but has constantly been revamping and reorganizing the program to keep up with the ever-changing profession and legal environment. Students must apply for admissions to the university by submitting an online application. Financial aid is available to those who qualify. The curriculum in the associate’s degree is career focused and helps students learn the necessary skills needed to be a successful paralegal. The emphasis is on practical application of complex legal terms and laws.
Top 25 Ranked Paralegal Blogs
We ranked the top paralegal blogs on the Web based on popularity metrics like the number of sites that link to it and Twitter followers.
How the rankings are determined:
The rankings are determined based on multiple third-party website popularity metrics including Seomoz Page Authority, Google Page Rank, number of sites linking to the website, and the number of Twitter followers. Each website metric is given a weight in our ranking formula to determine a total point value for each site.
If you would like to suggest a paralegal blog to be added to our list, please contact us at info(at)paralegal411.org
Job Opportunities for Graduates
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the median annual pay for paralegals is $46,480 as of 2010. This is representative of all paralegals throughout the country and the pay varies greatly depending upon location, education and experience. The highest 10% earn $75,000 while the lowest 10% earn $29,000. Entry-level paralegals can expect to earn lower than the median in most instances.
The paralegal profession is expected to grow by 18% during the time period of 2010-2020. This rate of growth is slightly faster than the average occupation. The majority of paralegals work private law firms. Others work for government agencies or the legal departments of large corporations.
As of 2010 there are approximately 256,000 paralegals employed in the United States. That number is expected to reach 303,000 by 2020. Applicants with a solid foundation in legal coursework as well as an area of expertise should fare well when pursuing a job. Those who are willing to relocate should also find success despite keen competition. There are several channels you can use to look for jobs including job boards, LinkedIn, and your local paralegal association. Students can find support and tips concerning paralegal education and the profession through professional organizations such as the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and the National Association of Legal Assistants and Paralegals (NALA). Visit our paralegal jobs board for the latest in openings across the country.
Useful Resources for Students:
Directory of ABA Approved Paralegal Education Programs – American Bar Association
Occupational Outlook Handbook – Paralegals and Legal Assistants – Bureau of Labor Statistics
Paralegal Voice – Legal Talk Network
A podcast that discusses relevant topics for paralegals including legal trends and resources.
Paralegal Gateway – a news and article site focused on the paralegal field.
NALA – a national association for paralegals providing continuing education and professional development opportunities.
National Federation of Paralegal Associations – a national association comprised of 50 member associations across the country.
The Paralegal Mentor – Vicki Voisin writes about career advice for paralegals and provides insightful interviews with current paralegals.
Advice For Getting Hired as a Paralegal – 43 leaders in the paralegal field share their best advice for getting hired as a paralegal.
2015 Paralegal Career Scholarship – Our annual $500 scholarship for students pursuing a paralegal related undergraduate degree.
1. National Center for Education Statistics: http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/