Distance Learning - The Way of the Future for Busy Paralegals

By Loni Morganelli
American Paralegal in London

In today's busy world with our hectic work schedules, family commitments, and endless pressures, it's hard to find the time to stop and go to school.  But whether you're a fully qualified paralegal or working towards your certificate, continuing education is a vital part of our profession.  Fortunately today, there are J0386223many options out there that allow you the possibility to keep working, care for your family and receive a quality education without having to go out of your way or take time off.  With the help of the vast Internet, distance learning degrees have continued to increase in popularity over the years.

Despite all of the negative press going around about distance learning degrees and online education in general, there are still plenty of legitimate universities and colleges offering well-prganized, exciting online programs. In an effort to change the negative perception, the U.S. National Education Board has established 6 accreditation agencies to evaluate and provide accreditation to high learning institutions.  One such agency is the Distance Education and Training Council which provides accreditation for those institutes solely dedicated to online degree programs.  The agency is recognized the by the US Dept. of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Well known schools such as The George Washington University, University of California at Irvine, South University, and the American Institute for Paralegals Studies (AIPS) all offer outstanding online paralegal programs to fit your distance learning needs.  AIPS, for example, offers intensive one-month courses from Litigation, Corporate, and Immigration law to Bankruptcy, Foreclosure, and IP.  This school has seen numerous, proud graduates enter the paralegal workforce through welcoming employers.  The old adage that online education is not accepted by employers is fast becoming old news! Today, many employers recognize and appreciate the demands on employees and are becoming well-tuned to the work/life balance.

If you've taken a number of paralegal courses in the past with your undergraduate university, for example, I would recommend looking into one of the above schools to finish your certificate.  In this demanding, yet job suffocating economy, it is vital for you to prevent yourself from being made redundant [the UK term for layed-off, say goodbye or mere memory]. A paralegal certificate from an accredited university or a specialist certificate from tuition-friendly AIPS will surely put the pizzazz in your professional profile to help keep your position secure.

PS:  Don't forget to read, read, read! We've launched our first issue of SUE, For Women in Litigation (www.suemagazine) and the reviews are terrific! And don't forget to sign-up for KNOW, The Magazine for Paralegals (www.knowparalegal.com) that is receiving excellent reviews.  We appreciate your continued support.  The e-mails and phone calls supporting us have been overwhelming!


"University of Miami Launches New Online Paralegal Program in Spanish"

Good news for paralegals wanting to add add another language. This course is expensive -- $6,995! -- although the fee includes all books and materials:

"Coral Gables, FL.--(HISPANIC PR WIRE - BUSINESS WIRE)--April 2, 2007--The University of Miami is launching a new online Paralegal Studies Program in Spanish, geared to reach Spanish-language speakers worldwide.

[snip]

"Because the program deals exclusively with the U.S. legal system, students are required to have a working knowledge of English. However, all instruction is conducted in Spanish, including exercises and examinations. Students will be assigned a Spanish-speaking online instructor who will answer questions and supervise instruction."


Paralegal: “A Fairly Well-Educated Chimp Could Practice Law”

Like the creativity involved in this paralegal's pursuit of a law degree, but truly enjoyed all the comments following the blog's post [link in original]:

"A Connecticut paralegal has sued the state’s bar exam committee because it won’t let him take the bar, despite his earning a degree from an unaccredited Internet correspondence law school....

"Mel Thompson took law courses at West Coast School of Law, an Internet correspondence law school based in Downey, Calif., not accredited by the ABA. The school’s program — which has graduated ten students in its brief history — is designed for students who want to practice in California; it requires out-of-state students to sign a waiver before enrolling.

"Connecticut has filed a motion to dismiss the claim. Meanwhile, Thompson has some choice words for the legal profession: 'A fairly well-educated chimp could practice law. It’s not hard to understand. For [the defendants] to put [the legal profession] on this pedestal . . . it’s a lie.'”

No offense to lawyer friends, but here's my favorite comment: "I personally would hire a chimp to represent me than any lawyer."


"Report on Paralegal Education Programs in the US"

Very thorough survey [PDF link] of U.S. paralegal programs researched & prepared by LawCrossing:

[snip]

"In an effort to provide future paralegals with the information they need to choose a paralegal education program and to aid higher education administrators in evaluating programs, LawCrossing has compiled statistics on 36 paralegal education programs.

"The majority of paralegal students are career-oriented and outcome-focused. Because most students enrolled in these programs are studying for more practical or immediate reasons than a traditional liberal arts student would have in mind, our report emphasizes job placement [see #9] success rates. Unlike more traditionally academic subjects such as history and philosophy, paralegal studies offers a unique amount of opportunity for clinical work and internships that simulate a real-world work experience. Programs that require student involvement--such as legal workshops, pro bono work, and internships--offer students résumé-building opportunities as an enhancement to the traditional educational experience.

"Also, distance learning has emerged as one of the fastest-growing components of higher education, and many paralegal students are interested in these kinds of programs. Geographical distance from physical campuses, increased opportunities for student-professor interaction, and flexibility in time management have all contributed to make online courses an attractive option to many potential students. Still, many have concerns about how to appropriately balance convenience and quality in choosing a distance or online program."


Law Firm Management Graduate Certificate

The George Washington University's College of Professional Studies has created a graduate certificate for Law Firm Management. This new 12-credit graduate certificate program is co-sponsored by the Hildebrandt Institute.

"This first-of-its-kind certificate program is the culmination of two years of planning and market testing to design a higher education program that is convenient for busy professionals.  The certificate program provides an overview of theory, structure, operations, and management of the modern law firm."

[snip]

"These unique, executive education programs consist of a nine-day residency at GW's Graduate Education Center in Alexandria, Va., followed by a three to four month, Internet-based distance learning segment.  Both conclude with a four-day capstone residency at GW. Students successfully completing both certificate programs as well as an independent research project may obtain a Master of Professional Studies degree in Professional Service Firm Management."

Read much more about the program in this analysis by Of Counsel (PDF link).