General Approval Process Information

General Approval Process Information

The principal objective of the American Bar Association program of approving paralegal education programs that meet ABA Guidelines is to foster high quality paralegal education and training and the development of educational standards.

The Standing Committee on Paralegals and Approval Commission carry out this objective through an intensive review and on-site evaluation of such programs. The guidance and direction of the ABA through the Standing Committee and its Approval Commission has led to the development of superior paralegal education programs designed to raise the competence of those individuals who assist lawyers in the delivery of legal services.

The approval process is accomplished through extensive investigation of self-evaluation reports prepared by the paralegal programs as well as through on-site evaluations of program operations to verify that they operate in compliance with ABA Guidelines. Programs that successfully complete the evaluation process are approved for a period of seven years.

Overview of the Approval Process

The Standing Committee on Paralegals and its Approval Commission are committed to providing the information and resources needed by programs to understand and comply with the Guidelines and to guide them through the approval process. ABA staff will respond to all approval process questions. They will also refer complex questions to the educational consultants.

  • The process begins when a paralegal education program determines that it will seek ABA approval. The program must assess its readiness to apply for approval.
  • After assessing its readiness to apply for approval, the program submits the self-evaluation report and exhibits to the Standing Committee on Paralegals (321 N. Clark Street, MS 19.1, Chicago, IL 60654-7598).
  • The Approval Process Manager and one of the educational consultants review the reports and exhibits. If additional information is needed, the staff will provide a detailed explanation to the program director.
  • An on-site evaluation of the program and institution is scheduled. The initial on-site visit is conducted over a one-two day period by a team composed of a representative of the Standing Committee or Approval Commission, an experienced paralegal, and the director of an ABA approved paralegal education program.
  • The reports of the site visit teams are submitted to the Approval Commission for review and action. The Approval Commission's recommendations are then submitted to the Standing Committee on Paralegals for further review. If the program is deemed to comply with the Guidelines, the Standing Committee will submit its recommendations to the ABA's policy-making body, the House of Delegates, for final action on approval.

Once a program is approved, it is required to submit interim reports as required by the Guidelines to ensure that it continues to comply with the Guidelines. Annual fees are paid during the term of approval by all ABA approved programs. Before the end of its seven-year approval period, the institution must submit an application for reapproval if it wishes the program to retain its approved status.

Programs are recommended to the House of Delegates for approval and reapproval twice a year, at the annual and midyear meetings. A list of all ABA Approved Paralegal Education Programs is available through the Approved Programs section of the website.


The Guidelines for the Approval of Paralegal Education Programs (Effective 9/1/13)
contain the standards all programs must meet in order to obtain ABA approval.
Download Now (PDF 552K)

If you wish to apply or reapply for ABA approval, you will need to:
During your approval term:
  • ABA Approved Programs are required to complete Interim Reports during their term of approval. If you are preparing an Interim Report, you will also need to complete exhibits.
  • Required Standardized Exhibit Forms for certain exhibits.
  • Additional exhibits are required to be submitted with report. For a complete list of Exhibits, see the Interim Report - Uniform Table of Exhibits .
  • G-104 of the ABA Guidelines for the Approval of Paralegal Education Programs requires programs to notify the Standing Committee in writing of any major change, which includes the initial offering of a legal specialty course in an accelerated, compressed, or totally online instructional format.
You can download some of the materials listed above either in Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF format. We will endeavor to keep these materials current. However, please note that the official versions of these documents are those kept in our administrative offices at ABA Headquarters in Chicago.

If you have any questions regarding the materials, please email us.

Updated: 09/05/2013

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