The paralegal profession began in the 1960’s when attorneys hired assistants trained in law to help during President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” Now a paralegal can be found in public agencies, private law firms and corporations. The benefits of employing paralegals are the cost-effectiveness, and efficiency in which they deliver.
Paralegals conduct research on laws, and regulations to write a brief which helps the lawyer with well-versed court case. The job description of a paralegal varies dependent on the entity the paralegal works for. It could be assisting in mortgages and financial document or investigations and organizing evidence for court hearings. Some paralegals specialize in different areas of law such as litigation, corporate law, criminal law, bankruptcy, immigration, personal injury, real estate and family law.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports there are almost 256,000 paralegal and legal assistant jobs in the United States currently. There is a predicted 18 percent growth anticipated annually until the year 2020. The average median salary for a paralegal starting out is $46,680 annually.
There are over 1,000 colleges and universities which offer paralegal training however only 270 of these are approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). ABA programs extend courses to legal research laws and ethics, legal writing, business and family law, personal injury and intellectual property.
We have researched the best online paralegal studies in the nation. These are top ranked schools for getting an edge on the workforce and becoming successful as a paralegal.
University of Great Falls
The University of Great Falls was founded in 1932 and is a private Roman Catholic liberal art university located between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks in Montana. This small school has a limited enrollment of only 1,074 students and offers a 12:1 student-faculty ratio.
The paralegal studies program is a balance between legal theory and real-world application. Students must obtain 40 percent or 15 credits earned in residency at the university. The remaining degree program can be completed online. The program also requires students to internship and gain valuable experience in a law firm, corporation or judge’s office.
There are six credit specialization options which include Commercial Transactions, Domestic and Family Law, Legal Research, Property Law, Estate Law, and Debtor-Creditor Law. Electives allow students to pursue these different avenues of expertise.
Eastern Kentucky University
Eastern Kentucky University offers a blended combination of an online and on-campus curriculum for its paralegal program. Ranked at 55 in U.S. News & World Report as one of the best regional universities, this public institution produces successful graduates with the top legal employers throughout the region.
For the paralegal program, students must complete a minimum of 10 credit hours in the traditional classroom and then they have the option to finish the program online. All of the faculty holds a Juris Doctor (J.D.) or a PhD and may include practicing attorneys, judges and elected officials.
EKU’s current undergraduate enrollment is set at 13,947, with a campus size of 675 acres. In-state tuition costs and fees total $7,536; out-of state tuition and fees total $16,608.
Liberty University Online
Liberty University Online offers an Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies. They pioneered distance education in 1985 and now have 160 fully accredited programs of study. Liberty University Online is one of the world’s largest non-profit, online universities with over 90,000 students from all over the world. Started in 1972 by the late Dr. Jerry Farwell, this school is ranked among the top 10 online universities by Online Education Database.
Paralegals curriculum is diverse and centers on the foundations of law, contemporary worldviews, real estate transactions, title searches and writing depositions. Students use critical thinking to examine ethical dilemmas, problem-solving, and legal solutions. The courses are taught by practicing attorneys.
Tuition is $340 per credit hour, based on full-time enrollment
Liberty University holds accreditation by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) offers extensive continuing education in law degrees for paralegals. They have both a bachelor’s and an associate’s degree in paralegal studies. The college also has a post-baccalaureate paralegal studies certificate program that is designed for students who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field. Woods Online is the flexible distance option available.
Ranked 18 in the U.S. News & World Report’s Regional College Listing, SMWC is a private institution with only an enrollment of 864 last year. The small college has a low 11:1 student-faculty ratio, encouraging class participation and interaction with faculty. The current tuition for SMWC is $27,672.
All the paralegal education programs at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College are ABA approved.
To fulfill the requirements of the associate’s degree in paralegal studies, students must complete 39 credit hours in law studies and complete the general studies courses. Ten of these credit hours need to be in the traditional classroom setting.
The college’s paralegal program explores law within society, by encouraging students to examine political influences, historical patterns, and economic relations. The moral, philosophical, and ethical foundations and implications of law are thoroughly discussed.