hundreds of articles by subject
The Listserv is a free, e-mail discussion group. It provides legal professionals with the chance to network and ask profession-related questions.
This long-running column examines ethics in the paralegal profession. Do you have an ethical dilemma or question? E-mail us today.
Results are mixed regarding career impact of program approval.
The career benefits of attending an American Bar Association-approved paralegal program have received mixed reviews in LAT’s most recent My Opinion survey results. Some paralegals feel that it’s the only way to go while others feel that it largely goes unnoticed by attorneys.
More than half of those who participated in the
survey felt that a paralegal’s career opportunities are influenced
by attending an ABA-approved paralegal program. Nearly 45 percent of
respondents felt otherwise. “It’s been my experience that most
attorneys make their hiring and promotional decisions based on what
you can actually do (and your attitude), rather than on the ‘name’
on your certificate or the fact that the
Of the 55.6 percent of respondents who felt that
However, not all respondents are sold on the benefits of an ABA-approved paralegal education. “Application of the knowledge, skill level and the instinct to do the 200 percent commitment required of paralegals is what makes them valuable,” said one respondent with 20 years of experience who did not attend an ABA-approved program. “Someone can attend Yale but if they have no applicable experience, how much benefit do we get in being their first position and having to train them?”
Of those who agreed that ABA approval has no
influence, 29.2 percent felt that experience and knowledge are as
valuable as education in the paralegal profession; 27.3 percent felt
that strong candidates will have employment and career opportunities
regardless of the program attended; 19.8 percent felt that employers
will recognize any good paralegal program, regardless of ABA
approval; and 17 percent felt that in some locations, paralegals
don’t have access to an ABA-approved program but they still have
plenty of career opportunities. One attorney who responded to the
survey expressed her view on the issue. “I hire paralegals based on
demonstrable intelligence and ability to learn on the job,” she
said. “A paralegal certificate or degree is nice but not critical.
Over half of the survey respondents (53.9
percent) attended an ABA-approved paralegal program, with 36.7
percent of those saying they did so because it was the best program
in their area. Other respondents said they chose an ABA-approved
program because they thought it would help their career more than a
non-ABA-approved program (25.3 percent), and employers in their area
require a certificate from an ABA-approved program (24.1 percent).
Only 8.9 percent chose the ABA-approved program because it was the
only program in their area. “As an attorney and paralegal educator,
The number one reason given by those who chose an ABA-approved program also was the number one reason given by those who chose another program: because it was the best in their area. As for other reasons respondents chose another paralegal program, 15.5 percent said ABA-approved certificates are not required for employment in their area; 12.1 percent said they wanted to attend an ABA-approved program, but there was not one available in their area; and 5.2 percent said their program was approved by the American Association for Paralegal Education, which is what they were looking for in a program.
The impact of
Does attending an ABA-approved program influence career opportunities?
If yes, how does it influence career opportunities?
Increased employment opportunities: 34.1%
More recognition as a professional: 27.8%
Better advancement: 22.2%
Increased leadership roles: 10.3%
If no, why not?
Experience and knowledge are just as valuable: 29.2%
Strong candidates will have opportunities regardless of the program: 27.3%
Most employers recognize any good program: 19.8%
In some areas, no ABA program is available: 17.0%
What type of program did you attend?
ABA approved: 53.9%
Another paralegal program: 34.8%
I did not attend a paralegal program: 11.2%
If you attended an ABA-approved program, why?
Best in my area: 36.7%
Thought it would help my career more: 25.3%
Employers require certificate from ABA program: 24.1%
Only program in my area: 8.9%
Total survey responses: 90
© Legal Assistant Today Magazine