Due to the varied means by which one can pursue training to become a paralegal, the American Bar Association has set upon a course of approving institutions and programs which provide training to perspective paralegals.
The American Bar Association, or ABA, is a voluntary legal organization who membership numbers into the hundreds of thousand, whose main purpose is to set a voluntary code of ethics to be practiced by all members.
Though they are not a government affiliated organization, they are adherence to and requirements to a certain level of ethical behavior means that membership by a legal professional in the ABA is seen as significant measure of quality and status.
The ABA has also historically involved themselves in the accreditation of law schools, which has become vitally important, as many state bar exams will restrict a potential lawyer from taking the bar exam if they did not graduate from an ABA accredited institution. The oversight and approval of paralegal training and education programs are overseen by the ABA’s Standing Committee on Paralegals.
The ABA approval process is long and comprehensive, and features a detailed overview of a program’s curriculum, teaching personnel, tuition policies, and even makes on-site evaluations of the program.
When an organization meets with initial approval, it still must go through a seven year trial process where it expected to maintain its standards under ABA guidelines, during which time they will submit interim reports to the Standing Committee.
Some organizations do not seek approval from the ABA, and can do so for a multitude of reasons, which could simply mean that their organization is not able to meet ABA standards, but there are other reasons, as well.
Generally, most programs that offer paralegal studies as part of an academic institution, such as community college or a university, will pursue ABA approval in order to maintain a certain level of academic reputation.
Generally, training with a program that has ABA approval is highly recommended for anyone looking to receive an education in becoming a paralegal.