Legal careers don’t always require law school degrees and passing the bar exam. Attorneys need help servicing clients, so they turn to assistants like paralegal professionals, trained to perform research, organize legal documents and interview key individuals involved in legal proceedings.
Paralegal salaries can be quite attractive, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for paralegals is $48,918. The best-paid 10 percent in the field made $76,960, while the bottom 10 percent made approximately $29,740. The highest-paid in the profession work in the metropolitan areas of San Francisco; New Bedford, Massachusetts; and the District of Columbia.
Paralegal programs are offered through a variety of learning institutions – granting associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, as well as paralegal certificates. In some cases, college and university paralegal programs require students to hold four-year degrees, before entering paralegal training. But not always.
Community colleges and vocational education institutions often require only high school diplomas to enroll. To ensure that your paralegal education is preparatory for employment within the profession, see that your school’s program is accredited by the American Bar Association.
For paralegals, professional organizations and individual campus programs provide the greatest access to financial assistance. An exceptional academic record and passion for paralegal work are starting points for college cash pursuits, so use whatever outstanding attributes you have to land paralegal scholarships.
What follows are some ways to get free money…as paralegal students; ways to ease that tuition burden.
Professional Organization Scholarships
Most professional organizations support and encourage education. To help educate steady streams of well-trained workers, industry associations and professional groups provide funding for scholarships and grants, designed to increase college access for promising students.
Paralegals are integral parts of the legal system, so the vocation is supported by national and regional organizations. National professional paralegal organizations maintain financial aid funds, and additional resources are put-forth by individual, local chapters and affiliated foundations. These examples illustrate the types of aid commonly available for paralegal schooling:
1.ThomsonReuters Scholarship, sponsored by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations.
Award: up to $5,000
Apply by: Hurry up. Deadline for the current award is July 1, 2015
Besides academic excellence, successful scholarship candidates are also able to craft well-written essays, about assigned topics related to the field. Applicants are required to maintain student memberships in the NFPA to be considered for the organization’s scholarships. Thompson West is also run by this organization.
Download your application at http://www.paralegals.org/
2. Thompson West Scholarships, sponsored by the NFPA.
Apply by: July 1, 2015
The same group as above. Different scholarship. More free money.
3. American Association for Paralegal Education scholarships.
Apply by: Too late. Jan. 1, 2015 was this year’s deadline. Keep an eye on this website for news of next year’s dates.
Scholarships are awarded annually to outstanding student-members. The annual research and writing competition for honors scholars yields winners who each walk away with scholarships valued at $500.
4. Lambda Epsilon Chi Scholarship Program.
Amount: five $500 scholarships
Deadline: Too late this year. Deadline was Feb. 15. Watch for future deadlines by bookmarking the URL below.
As part of the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE), the Lambda Epsilon Chi (LEX) Scholarship Program is hosted each year to provide five $500 awards to students who are currently registered for full-time or part-time study in an approved paralegal training program in the United States.
To qualify, applicants must attend an institution with an active LEX chapter, be in good academic standing, and write a 750-word essay providing a reasoned analysis based on legal precedent for an assigned court case. Winning recipients will have their research essays published within The Paralegal Educator.
5. Legal Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship.
Deadline: Was May 1. Keep an eye on the website for future deadlines.
The Legal Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship is an annual $500 scholarship awarded to a student who is pursuing a career in the paralegal field. The scholarship will be awarded to the candidate who provides the best 200-300 word essay about why they want to become a paralegal.
To be eligible, students must be enrolled in a paralegal degree program at a college or university or be a high school student who has been accepted to a college and plans to study a paralegal related major.
6. Jamie Bowie Memorial Scholarship.
Apply by: April 25, 2016
The Jamie Bowie Memorial Scholarship is an annual $250 scholarship which is awarded to a student enrolled in an ABA-approved paralegal program. In 1989, the scholarship was created and named in memory of Oklahoma Paralegal Association member Dianna Peters’ daughter, Jamie Bowie. The scholarship account is funded with contributions made by Jamie’s friends and family, OPA special projects, and in part by membership dues. Criteria in awarding the scholarship is based on character, grades, and need. Applications are made available during the fall semester and the scholarship is awarded in November of each year. Along with the $250 cash award, made payable jointly to the recipient and the institution being attended, the recipient receives a one year membership in OPA.
Scholarship Eligibility Requirements: Applicant must be currently enrolled in a legal assistant program and have successfully completed at least six (6) credit hours in the legal assistant program. Recipient must be present at the presentation of the scholarship on the date to be announced. The director of the legal assistant program must provide verification that the applicant is a student currently enrolled in the institution.
Regional-Based Scholarships (more free money!)
These scholarships are awarded to students in particular regions or states, as part of the eligibility requirements.
7. Florence E. Jenkins Memorial Online School Scholarships
Amount: At least 10 full tuition scholarships. Amount varies.
Deadline: Was March 31st. Bookmark this URL and check it constantly.
In memory of the energetic and compassionate co-founder of the former New York Paralegal School, the Florence E. Jenkins Memorial Online School Scholarship is awarded annually to provide full tuition to ten students interested in attending its programs.
Eligible candidates must regularly attend church or religious devotional services, be at least 17 years old, have financial need with a combined family income under $45,000, have graduated with a high school diploma or GED, maintain a minimum overall GPA of 2.5, meet New York Paralegal entrance requirements, and demonstrate sufficient personal qualities for being a paralegal.
8. Elizabeth Root Memorial Scholarship
Amount: 2 full tuition scholarships
Deadline: Oct. 25, 2015
Within the Orange County Paralegal Association (OCPA), the Elizabeth Root Memorial Scholarship is granted each year for $500 to two paralegal students or current non-working paralegals who need financial support for pursuing paralegal education, seminars, meetings, memberships, or certification fees.
Eligible applicants must have current OCPA membership, have taken four or more units applicable to a paralegal certificate, and show good writing skills. For consideration, candidates must submit an application form with an essay identifying five characteristics a paralegal should have and demonstrating how they possess these traits.
9. Cornelia A. Bregman Memorial Scholarship
Deadline: April 1, 2016
Through the Capital Region Women’s Network, the Cornelia A. Bregman Memorial Scholarship is available annually for $2,000 to women 25 years of age or older who are returning to school to earn an academic, technical, or vocational degree in education, healthcare, nursing, paralegal studies, or administrative services.
Applicants must be permanent residents of Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Washington, Greene, Schoharie, Saratoga, or Columbia counties in New York State. Recipients will be chosen based on their future career goals, likelihood of achieving those goals, financial circumstances, challenges, and need for professional training.
10. Joan M. Weldon Memorial Scholarship
Deadline: Too late. Deadline was early June. For Philadelphia region students. Watch this website for news of next year’s deadline date.
The Joan M. Weldon Memorial Scholarship is distributed by the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals (PAP) to honor an active member who worked as a paralegal for Blank, Rome, Comisky & McCauley before losing her fight with ovarian cancer on Christmas Day in 1994.
Eligible applicants must be currently enrolled in a paralegal studies program within the Delaware Valley area, show academic excellence with a minimum GPA of 3.0, be actively involved in community service, and participate in PAP activities. Candidates are required to write a maximum three-page essay discussing their future in the legal field.
11. Joy King Memorial Scholarship
Deadlines: Go to the website for information about upcoming deadlines
If you live in or near Cleveland, the Cleveland Association of Paralegals funds the scholarship. Funds are reserved for students pursuing paralegal education at area schools. Winners land $500 each, to be applied to paralegal program tuition. Outstanding academics and impressive essay submissions determine winners.
12. San Diego Paralegal Association Scholarship
Deadline: Too late this year. Scholarship deadlines are in May.
Students – must be a current San Diego County Student enrolled in a paralegal program, or enrolled in classes for an upcoming “semester.”
The San Diego Paralegal Association (SDPA) is a non-profit organization established for the purpose of promoting the paralegal profession through awareness, education and public service. Most notably, SDPA achieves these goals by working with state and national affiliates to address the challenges facing the paralegal profession; offering Continuing Legal Education programs; and advocating involvement in pro bono clinics, community outreach programs, and local government. SDPA aims to inspire the best in individuals and create leadership opportunities for those willing to take their careers to the next level.
13. Nancy McLaughlin Scholarship
Deadline: Check website for next round of application dates.
Created in memory of a legal assistant at the Law Offices of William Schmidt for 12 years who served as the President of CAPA before her death in 2000, the Nancy McLaughlin Scholarship is awarded each year through the Capital Area Paralegal Association to paralegal student members in good standing.
Candidates are asked to submit a two-page essay focused on explaining why they’ve chosen the paralegal profession and their overall career goals in law. Recipients can use the $250 award to attend the Texas Advanced Paralegal Seminar (TAPS), cover the Certified Paralegal testing fee, or reduce tuition costs of a paralegal training program in Texas.
The specific use of the award does not need to be identified at the time of the application. Within nine months of receiving written notification from CAPA of the award, it is the responsibility of the scholarship winner to contact the Scholarship Committee Chair for approval of the use and to make arrangement for the award to be paid directly to the provider. If the use is less than $250, the remainder, in an amount not to exceed $50, will be given to the recipient to cover other related costs.
14. State Bar of Michigan, Paralegal/Legal Assistant scholarships
Amount: $250 to $1000
Deadline: Unfortunately, you’ve missed it for this year, June 1.
Check back for information on when applications are being accepted for 2016.
The Bar sponsors a minimum of two annual scholarships for aspiring paralegal professionals. The Michigan program carries these stipulations:
• Funds are used for tuition and books
• Scholarships are not renewable
• A minimum of two awards are granted annually, with values determined by available funding
• Recent awards provided $250-$1000 for each winner
• Eligible applicants are enrolled in Paralegal/Legal Assistant programs
• Programs grant degrees or certificates leading to employment in the field
• College of attendance is located within the State of Michigan
15. Dallas Area Paralegal Association Scholarship
Deadline: July 1, 2015.
In collaboration with the Community Foundation of Texas, the Dallas Area Paralegal Association offers an annual scholarship for $500 to $1,000 to students actively enrolled in an associate, baccalaureate, or post-baccalaureate paralegal education program at a college approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).
Qualified candidates must maintain a minimum overall GPA of 3.0, attend school within the Dallas/Fort Worth region, exhibit financial need, and have not been convicted of a felony. Students must submit two letters of recommendation attesting to their work ethic, a current transcript, and a 750-word essay explaining how the U.S. Constitution is relevant today.
16. Camille Stell Annual Scholarship
Amount: $500 Deadline: Too late this year. Deadline was February 28th
The Camille S. Stell Scholarship was established in 2005 to recognize Camille’s devotion to teach paralegal students and to the paralegal profession. Camille graduated in 1984 from Meredith College Legal Assistants Program and taught at Meredith College Paralegal Program from 1988 to 2004.
Stell served on the Paralegal Program Advisory Board from 1993 to 2006, including a term as Chair of the Board. She served as President of the Raleigh-Wake Paralegal Association from 1986 to 1987 in addition to serving in leadership positions for state and national paralegal associations. The scholarship is funded by the Raleigh-Wake Paralegal Association
17.Lawassa B. Jones Memorial Scholarship
Deadline: October 15th. You need to be in an established, accredited Tennessee institution to qualify.
Tennessee Paralegal Association has established the Lawassa B. Jones Memorial Scholarship, designed to provide $500 annually in honor of the TPA founding member who lost her battle with cancer in 1993.
There is also a “member” scholarship for $250.
Eligible candidates must be currently matriculated undergraduate students, be pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, have a declared major in paralegal studies or legal assistant studies, attend an accredited institution within Tennessee, and demonstrate academic excellence. Along with the application, students must submit a letter of personal recommendation, a letter of scholastic recommendation, an official transcript, and a short personal statement outlining why they’ve chosen to become paralegals.
18. Vermont Paralegal Organization
Award: $500 and a 1-year VPO student membership.
Deadline: Deadline was March 15. Bookmark this site and check often for news about next year’s scholarship dates.
Each year, the Vermont Paralegal Organization awards a $500 scholarship to a paralegal/legal studies student to promote excellence in the paralegal profession. The scholarship is administered through the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC). In order to be eligible, you must attend an accredited paralegal/legal studies program at least part-time.
Applicants must attend or plan to attend an accredited paralegal or legal assistant program on a full- or part-time basis, and demonstrate academic achievement and financial need. See the Web site for detailed application forms and procedures, and essay requirements.
Notes: The scholarship is awarded through the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation. The VPO scholarship committee will select a winner in July 2009.
Paralegal Scholarships from Campus Programs
Check the business office at your institution. Scholarships are quite likely available.
19. Chippewa Valley Technical College, in Wisconsin, scholarships
The school offers a wide range of professional education programs, including paralegal studies. Scholarships available to qualifying students include:
• Chippewa Falls Rotary Club Scholarships offer up to $300 each, to students in business related programs, including paralegal studies. Qualified students are local residents, and maintain GPA standards of at least 3.0.
• A $100 award is funded by the Joanne Dow Memorial Scholarship. The program is open to aspiring paralegals, with preference given to those with records of community involvement.
20. Elgin Community College’s Judge Ernest Akemann
Amount: 4 $3,000 scholarships are awarded
Deadline: Go to the URLs below for details
Awarded to an outstanding law student or paralegal. Qualified applicants are enrolled full-time, and have at least a 3.0 GPA.
21. Roosevelt University scholarships
Amount: As much as $3,000
Paralegal students enrolled at Roosevelt, in Chicago, may be eligible for as much as $3,000 worth of annual scholarship money. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Awards are given to winning applicants, based on essays they submit. Participants are assigned essay topics related to the paralegal field. To pursue paralegal education at the school, the university’s paralegal program requires students to possess a previously earned Bachelor’s Degree – in any major.
Corporate sponsors, like law firms and other companies working in the legal field, provide scholarship funding for legal professionals. Many are locally based and opened to state residents. There are so many we suggest googling the words…corporate paralegal scholarships. That said, here are some of the more interesting ones.
22. Warner, Norcross and Judd (Grand Rapids, Michigan)’s Minority Scholarship Program
Deadline: Was April 1. Bookmark the URL and apply as instructed for next year’s scholarship awards.
The scholarship provide $2000 to each year’s paralegal studies winner. Preference for winning is given to minority applicants exhibiting high levels of financial need. Must be a Michigan resident.
23. Warner, Norcross and Judd (Grand Rapids, Michigan)’s LSAT Preparation Course Scholarship
Deadline: Too late this year. App date was April 15. Bookmark this page and don’t miss the next deadline.
The Firm also sponsors a LSAT Preparation Course Scholarship program. Each year, Warner Norcross awards scholarships to minority college students in their junior or senior year to attend a Kaplan LSAT preparation course. The scholarships, each valued at up to $1,500, will give minority students interested in attending law school a jump-start on the Law School Admissions Test.
Applicants must be a Michigan resident or must be currently enrolled in a college or university in Michigan and must complete the LSAT preparation course before December, 2015. Applicants must be enrolled in a college or university as a Junior or Senior during the 2014-2015 academic year with a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher in undergraduate studies and must have a demonstrated financial need.
24. Removed by editor.
25. Ehline Law Paralegal Student Scholarship Fund
Deadlines: Oct. 1, every year through 2017
This contest initially requires a completed application and essay. All registrants shall be presently registered in an accredited paralegal school, or be pursuing a grandfathered paralegal program offered under the current laws of their jurisdiction and venue. This offering is not for law students, but instead is for those people who are either working in a law office or attending an accredited, or state recognized paralegal program, or learning institution.
There is no requirement that applicants have a GED or diploma. People in schools shall show, in addition to the above prerequisites, that they presently maintain a minimum 3.0 grade point average (“GPA”), and if not in a school, shall provide proof from their teacher or instructor, in the form of a letter, that the student is an exemplary student. Although the program runs through to 2017, prior winners of the award are ineligible to apply.
The firm is based in Los Angeles.
http://losangeles.ehlinelaw.com/paralegal-sholarship-fund/ (Yes, ‘scholarship’ is missing its c in that url)