Becoming a paralegal is a good option for individuals wishing to enter the exciting legal field without putting in the tremendous amount of time, money, and effort needed in law school. A paralegal, also sometimes called a legal assistant, is a trained professional who completes a wide range of supportive tasks that help attorneys win their cases. Every step of the way, paralegals stand at lawyers’ sides to finish the administrative tasks in legal proceedings.
Paralegals are truly the hands and feet of their law firms performing indispensable duties for making a huge difference in people’s lives. Most paralegals specialize in a specific areas of law that interests them, such as corporate litigation, estate planning, family law, intellectual property, or real estate law.
Sponsored Paralegal Programs
Due to the fact that law firms are trying to increase their efficiency while lowering experiences, there will be a rising demand for new paralegals to graduate into the legal workforce. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment for paralegals and legal assistants will skyrocket faster than average at 17 percent before 2022, thus creating 46,200 new jobs. Since the profession is becoming very popular and giving an annual average salary of $51,840, there will likely still be competition. New aspiring paralegals can stand out from the crowd by sharpening their computer skills, gaining practical law experience, and creating a specialization within an ABA approved paralegal studies program.
Ranking the Best Paralegal Programs with ABA Approval
While there are thousands of paralegal schools across the United States, we decided to first focus in on the 260 paralegal programs that have been given approval from the American Bar Association for high-quality career preparation. Although graduating from an ABA approved program isn’t required of paralegals, doing so can have a considerable impact on the availability of career opportunities after graduation. ABA approved programs hold the highest level of legitimacy and prestige in the legal profession, which makes them worth their investment. It’s our belief that programs with ABA approval stand as the best of the best in paralegal education.
Of course, choosing a program solely based on its standing with the ABA isn’t wise. From there, we went on to explore rankings and award recognitions gifted to universities holding ABA approved paralegal programs. Schools with national rankings from the U.S. News and World Report were given preference over those not recognized for academic excellence. Other factors used in calculating our final program ranking were track record of job placement, availability of internships, financial aid options, loyalty of successful alumni, student resources, and faculty credentials. Without further ado, the following are our top picks for the best paralegal studies programs meeting ABA guidelines within America.
Standing proudly on a 104-acre urban campus in the heart of the nation’s epicenter in Washington DC, Georgetown University is an elite comprehensive private research institution following the values of the Roman Catholic and Jesuit faiths since 1789. Enrolling more than 17,800 diverse students annually, Georgetown is well-known for educating former President Bill Clinton, Chief Justice Edward Douglass White, and dozens of other government heads and law officials. The U.S. News and World Report ranks Georgetown as the 21st best university, 23rd top value school, and 1st best college for veterans in America. In fact, the Times Higher Education has even recognized Georgetown for being the 173rd top university on the globe.
As part of the 14th best law school, the Paralegal Studies program at Georgetown is the only degree of its kind to be approved by the American Bar Association in the country’s capital. For more than 40 years, the Paralegal Studies program has been providing students with a strong legal foundation to apply their knowledge, abilities, and competencies in today’s evolving law landscape. Featuring a curriculum taught by the district’s top lawyers, the program challenges students to develop the in-depth legal analysis skills necessary for success. Students have access to the Georgetown Law Center library filled with over 2.4 million books and 27,000 print journals related to legal studies.
Students pursuing the Paralegal Studies program at Georgetown can select from two different delivery formats in a generalist or Litigation Technology/Legal Project Management track. Firstly, the Full-Time Intensive format is designed for traditional college students and current legal professionals wishing to receive their degree in an accelerated format. On the other hand, the Part-Time Evening format is available for busy working professionals looking to take their courses conveniently in their schedule. Regardless of the option chosen, all students are required to complete at least 14 courses and pass a four-week summer internship in one of the capital’s powerful law firms. Applicants must already possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college for admissions.
With the highest enrollment of any college in the state at over 43,200 students, the University of California – Los Angeles is a very large comprehensive public land-grant research institution based on a 419-acre urban campus in the Westwood neighborhood of LA. The U.S. News and World Report ranks UCLA as the 23rd best university and 2nd top public school in the United States with the 16th top law school. Along with being named the fifth best master’s-level university by Washington Monthly magazine, UCLA was crowned #1 in Business Insider for having the world’s most driven students. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance also ranked UCLA as the fifth best value public college in America.
At this “Public Ivy,” the UCLA Extension campus hosts a Paralegal Training Program (PTP) that is fully approved for excellence by the American Bar Association. Over the course of just four quarters, students are trained with the latest knowledge to function as ethical, effective legal professionals at law firms, corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. The curriculum encompasses all major legal topics that paralegals must know with an emphasis on their practical applications in the real world. Due the School of Law’s global network of over 15,000 alumni, students also interact with fellow former Bruins excelling in the legal field to nurture professional relationships and discover job opportunities.
Whether taken in Westwood or downtown Los Angeles, the PTP is delivered by highly experienced paralegals and practicing legal professionals who wish to prepare students for performing a wide range of legal work. After an orientation, students can expect to take courses in common law, torts, contracts, criminal law, real estate, personal injury, legal research, legal writing, legal technology, civil procedure, and business law. If desired, students have the option to select a concentration in Litigation to specialize in helping lawyers to resolve civil and/or criminal disputes through our public court system. Admissions candidates must have an accredited bachelor’s degree or a combination of approved experience and education.
Affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, the University of Tulsa is a major comprehensive senior private research institution that has been based on a 230-acre urban campus in Oklahoma’s second-largest city since 1894. With a close-knit community of around 4,300 students, TU ranks ninth nationally in the number of National Merit Scholars per capita. The U.S. News and World Report has named TU as the 88th best university in the United States with the 82nd best law school. In addition, the University of Tulsa was named #20 by recruiters and #1 for providing student financial aid in the country within Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine.
In partnership with the TU College of Law, the School of Continuing Education offers the Paralegal Program, which has been in good standing with the ABA Committee on Paralegals for over 15 years. Boasting a low student-faculty ratio of 11:1 for personalized attention, the program strives to prepare aspiring paralegals for innovating and energizing the legal field. With access to the McFarlin Library and the Mabee Legal Information Center, paralegal majors are given a network of resources for professional development. Under the guidance of active attorneys and judges, students are introduced to the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to work in the evolving law profession today.
Consisting of just 14 courses, the Paralegal Program can be completed in a traditional daytime or flexible evening format on-campus in Tulsa at an affordable tuition price of $5,950. Students will intensively discuss a wide range of topics from real estate and business law to legal ethics and advanced research. Thanks to its integral part in the Greater Tulsa community, the program has achieved a 93 percent job placement rate within eight months of graduation. As a post-baccalaureate program, students wishing to partake in this paralegal training must have an accredited bachelor’s degree, two references, and a 200-word legal writing sample.
Spread across seven distinctive academic divisions, the University of San Diego is a mid-sized comprehensive private non-profit Roman Catholic institution located on a 180-acre urban campus overlooking Mission Bay within just 15 minutes from downtown San Diego near Balboa Park. Although USD educates more than 7,100 students of all faiths every year, the university maintains a low student-faculty ratio of 15:1. According to the U.S. News and World Report, USD is the 95th best university with the 71st best top-tier law school in the country. The prestigious Princeton Review has also recognized USD for having the 2nd “Best Campus Environment” and 39th “Most Beautiful Campus” in America.
As one of just 80 law schools to hold membership with the Order of the Coif, the USD School of Law is proud to deliver a high-quality Paralegal Program approved by the ABA. The post-baccalaureate program has the mission of producing competent paralegals, legal assistants, and lawyer’s assistants who can help deliver legal services in the public or private sector. In its 40th year of education, the program has a long-lasting legacy for bringing expert attorneys and paralegals into the classroom to teach the next generation. In fact, legal educator Brian Leiter has previously named the school 22nd in the United States for its faculty scholarly impact.
Right at the Alcala Park campus, USD offers four separate pathways for students to receive their 332-hour paralegal training. Students wishing to enter the legal field quickly can choose the Full-Time Day format. Traditional students looking for a less intensive, slower pace can select the Extended Day option, which splits the full-time format in half. Busying working adults may be the perfect fit for the Evening Generalist program to cover seven law areas. Those focusing in on legal procedures for organizations can also choose the Evening Business Practices format. All paralegal students must complete a non-paid internship at a local law firm, business, legal clinic, or government agency in San Diego too.
Initially founded in 1870 by the Society of Jesus, Loyola University Chicago is the largest comprehensive private Roman Catholic and Jesuit institution in America with more than 15,900 students in over 180 academic programs. Based on a 52-acre urban campus along the shore of Lake Michigan in our nation’s third most populous city, LUC is also equipped with six satellite centers across Chicago and an abroad location in Rome, Italy. Given an A- on the College Sustainability Report Card, LUC is among the highest rated schools for environmental friendliness nationwide. The U.S. News and World Report has also ranked LUC as the 106th best university with the 78th best law school in the country.
In collaboration with the LUC School of Law, the Institute for Paralegal Studies offers rigorous paralegal training programs that build basic skills in the most popular legal practice areas. The Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Paralegal Studies program is offered for students with an associate’s degree to improve their knowledge for increased career options in the legal community. Featuring full ABA approval, the 120-credit program allows up to 60 credits of transfer so that students have an accelerated pathway towards graduation. Students at the Water Tower Campus can complete an internship in their last semester over eight weeks to develop self-confidence in the legal profession while earning academic credit.
Students who already have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college can also choose from Loyola University Chicago’s four unique certificate options. The Litigation Practice Certificate is designed for paralegals wishing to work in civil litigation at the state or federal level to prepare lawsuits. The Corporate Practice Certificate is focused on preparing paralegals to work in law firms or corporate law departments with corporate business clients. A Litigation and Corporate Practice Certificate blends the two together in just 28 semester credits. Other paralegals may wish to work with an experienced faculty advisor to complete a Customized Certificate that aligns with their future legal goals.
Since becoming the first comprehensive private Catholic research institution in Pennsylvania in 1911, Duquesne University has grown dramatically to enroll more than 10,300 students each year on its beautiful 49-acre urban campus in the Uptown neighborhood of Pittsburgh. As the only Spiritan college in the world, Duquesne has more than 79,000 living alumni members worldwide, including Bishop David Zubik, Pennsylvania Representative Bud Shuster, and CIA General Michael V. Hayden. The U.S. News and World Report currently ranks Duquesne as the 116th best university, 43rd top value school, and 28th best college for veterans in America. Duquesne has also been named an “A+ School of B Students” and been listed among the top 20 most financially efficient high-ranking universities nationwide.
Within the nation’s 118th best law school, the Duquesne Paralegal Institute is highly regarded for providing in-depth educational training that prepares students for new career opportunities as legal assistants in a changing law field. Not only does the program have ABA approval, but it also offers unparalleled access to two law libraries and personalized attention from faculty representing various legal specialties. More than 1,900 paralegals have been trained at Duquesne in the past 30 years to develop an understanding of substantive law and other legal principles. A Legal Research & Writing Program is also available to receive intensive preparation in conducting legal research and reading cases in any context.
In the Paralegal Institute, Duquesne students can choose from five different concentrations for their certificate, including Corporate Law, Civil Litigation, Estates, Litigation Technology, and General Practice. All of these will feature a concentration on top of the paralegal core, which blends courses in professional ethics and legal research methods with case analysis and criminal law. Internships are available for students who can complete 16 hours per week under the supervision of a practicing attorney while carrying a minimum overall GPA of 2.75. Students at Duquesne who maintain a 4.0 GPA could receive the Genevieve A. Mealy Scholarship, which is the highest award granted to aspiring paralegals for tuition help.
Garnering nearly $500 million in research funding annually, the University of Cincinnati is a major comprehensive private space-grant institution serving more than 43,600 students from its main 137-acre urban campus in Ohio’s third largest city. As a premier college choice, UC is currently ranked as the 129th best university and 63rd top public school in the country with the 82nd best law school by the U.S. News and World Report. UC has been identified as an up-and-coming college with a “Focus on Student Success” and noted for its emphasis on experiential learning. In the Times Higher Education rankings, UC was crowned the 190th best university worldwide as well.
Housed within the College of Education, Criminal Justice & Human Services, the Paralegal Studies Program has the goal of delivering ABA approved education that trains ethical, competent paralegals with the skills needed to excel in a diverse profession. Over the course of four years, undergraduate students can earn a Bachelor’s in Paralegal Studies degree with 120 credits. Students benefit from practical internship experience, interaction with practicing attorneys, on-campus law libraries, small class sizes, and student services. In the UC Career Development Center, paralegals can fine-tune their resume writing and interviewing skills in the legal field. Graduates of this program often are highly sought after across the Tri-State area.
At UC, there’s also a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Paralegal Studies for students who have already received their bachelor’s degree in another field and wish to switch career paths. With either day or evening courses along with limited online options, the certificate allows students to build an ethical, technological, and contemporary understanding of law while developing a specialty area. Full-time students can complete the certificate in just 12 months to cover topics in civil litigation, legal research, criminal law, family law, real estate law, corporate law, estate planning, bankruptcy, employment law, federal income taxation, healthcare law, and more. Real-world practicum and seminars are also built directly into the intensive certificate curriculum.
Situated on a main 650-acre campus atop a plateau overlooking the Mississippi River in the state’s capital hub of Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University is an elite comprehensive public land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant research institution enrolling more than 30,400 students. In addition to being the 16th most popular university in America, LSU is regarded as one of Princeton Review’s “Best 371 Colleges.” The U.S. News and World Report ranked LSU as the 129th best university and 63rd top public school in the country. LSU is also acclaimed for being the 85th top academic research center in the entire United States within Forbes magazine.
The School of Continuing Education uses resources from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center, which is ranked as the 94th best law school in America, to deliver the Paralegal Studies Program. Fully approved by the American Bar Association, the program is the only program of its kind in Louisiana to become a legal professional in just one year. Students majoring in Paralegal Studies will receive convenient night classes, instruction from teachers with real-world experience, and available residential housing. The Paralegal Studies Program offers the best of both worlds with the broad resources of the state’s largest college and the personalized attention of a student-centered approach.
Offered in either a full-time or part-time format for up to 30 months, the program includes five required core courses, three paralegal electives, an internship, a one-day legal ethics seminar, and a court day. Coursework will cover a broad array of topics ranging from legal research and civil ligation to environmental law and electronic trial presentation. Within the internship, students obtain 150 clock hours of hands-on practice in a local law firm, corporate office, or government agency with a licensed lawyer. For admissions, students must have at least 45 semester hours of college coursework and carry a minimum overall GPA of 2.3.
Originally founded in 1935 as an extension of New York University, Hofstra University is now an independent non-profit and non-sectarian higher learning institution serving more than 12,400 students on its 240-acre suburban campus in Hempstead on Long Island. Well-known for being one of under 100 colleges nationwide with full accreditation in 19 academic fields, Hofstra is structured into ten main schools within 25 miles from New York City. Featuring an average class size of 21, Hofstra is currently ranked as the 135th best university and 36th top college for military veterans nationwide by the U.S. News and World Report. The Maurice A. Deane School of Law is also acclaimed for offering the 41st best part-time legal programs in America.
In the center of America’s legal system, the Paralegal Studies program at Hofstra has the mission of training highly motivated paralegals who meet the requisite qualifications necessary to work in the public and/or private sector of the legal community. In the ABA approved program, students are mentored by expert faculty in accordance to their own individual needs, objectives, and future aspirations. The 534,000-volume Deane Law Library supports students’ learning with updated resources for use in conducting real legal research. Each student will graduate with the specific substantive and procedural knowledge in New York law that will be marketable for finding advancement in the immediate area.
Requiring the completion of just 10 courses, the Paralegal Studies program leads to a certificate after passing courses in legal research, civil litigation, contracts, real estate, business organizations, bankruptcy, family law, criminal procedures, estate planning, law office management, and legal writing. Students have the utmost flexibility in scheduling their classes in the daytime or evening program formats over about eight months. For a smooth transition into the legal office, students also complete 306 clock hours of practicum in all practical aspects of the law. Applicants must have at least 60 earned college credits from an accredited college and submit a 200-word statement highlighting their professional intent.
Enrolling more than 19,900 students annually, Illinois State University is the state’s oldest comprehensive four-year public teaching institution with a sprawling 490-acre urban campus in the town of Normal within just 130 miles southwest of legal opportunities in Chicago. Following the highest standards of scholarship and public service, ISU is currently ranked as the 142nd best university, 74th top public school, and 41st best college for veterans in the country by the U.S. News and World Report. Named the 247th top master’s-level institution in America by Washington Monthly magazine, ISU offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees as well as certificates in its six separate academic divisions.
Along with accreditation from the North Central Association (NCA), the Legal Studies Program in the Department of Politics and Government has been given the stamp of approval from the American Bar Association (ABA). Since 1975, the program has been preparing students for building successful careers as paralegals in public or private law firms. Students earning their bachelor’s with the Major in Legal Studies can choose a B.A. or B.S. degree path within the 123-credit curriculum. Full-time faculty and experienced practitioners come together to bring students through a journey of coursework from litigation through investigative techniques. Most legal studies students must be entering their junior year of college before starting the major.
Students who have already completed their undergraduate education can turn to ISU for receiving a Post-Baccalaureate Legal Studies Certificate as well. Students will build upon the 15-credit core with nine additional credits of electives in torts, probate law, domestic relations, criminal litigation, employment law, and litigation. An unpaid internship is also required for students wishing to receive the certificate to gather meaningful experience in various facets of the legal profession. Both program options are quite affordable at $4,188 in-state every semester, but financial aid is available. The Outstanding Legal Studies Student Scholarship is offered to majors and certificate students maintaining a minimum GPA of 3.3.
Paralegals may not be given the authority to give legal services directly to clients, but their hard work plays a prominent role in the functioning of our law system. Paralegals are essential to conduct research, draft documents, prepare for trials, investigate evidence, get affidavits, file legal records, and write reports. Becoming marketable in this evolving profession virtually requires a good education from a top-ranking ABA approved paralegal program today. Whether at the associate’s, bachelor’s, or post-graduate certificate level, this training will prove invaluable in advancing a successful career in legal assisting. Consider attending one of these exceptional degree programs with ABA approval to get your paralegal career off the ground running.