Tom McClure is the Director of Legal Studies in the Department of Politics and Government and Associate Professor at Illinois State University. Prior to entering academia, he served as a judicial law clerk for the Illinois Appellate Court and was engaged in private practice for 26 years. Tom is a co-author of Fundamentals of Criminal Practice for Paralegals, a paralegal education textbook. He also has written book chapters concerning the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, and judicial election funding. He has published articles in peer-reviewed journals concerning the effectiveness of court-connected domestic battery diversion, the association between judicial selection and impartiality, and the relationship between judicial impartiality and campaign finance. Tom has served on the ABA Standing Committee on Paralegals Approval Commission since August 2016. He has been Chair of the Commission since 2018.
I expressed interest in becoming a member of the ABA Approval Commission so I could better understand the Guidelines for the Approval of Paralegal Education Programs. I figured that if I learned more about the Guidelines, the odds of my institution’s program being re-approved by the ABA were greater. Although I wanted to present the best program for my students, my motive in becoming involved was somewhat self-serving.
When I became a Commissioner, I quickly accomplished my original objective. I learned more about the Guidelines than I had ever expected and put this knowledge into use in my school’s program. But I also found that being on the Commission offered me more than simply reaching my narrow goal. The aspects I liked best about serving on the Commission were the people I encountered and their dedication to the field. Based on my site visit, I know that legal professionals become program directors to help students. Likewise, they seek ABA approval because of their commitment to assisting their students reach their professional goals. The most effective programs apply the Guidelines in a manner to improve their students' educational experience.
What started for me as an opportunity to achieve a pragmatic objective morphed into my overall appreciation for the dedicated program directors who have found their calling. I’m grateful that I have had this opportunity to serve.
I urge my fellow program directors to consider volunteering for site visits. Not only will you help your students by observing the excellent things that quality programs are doing, you will also develop a deep appreciation of your peers’ dedication.