The principal objective of the American Bar Association's 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 the ABA Guidelines for the Approval of Paralegal Education Programs. Programs that successfully complete the evaluation process are approved for a period of seven years.
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 an initial application for approval through the electronic reporting system.
- The Approval Process Manager and one of the educational consultants review the report. 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 listing of all currently ABA approved programs is available in the ABA Approved Paralegal Education Program Directory.