The Paralegal Studies program at College of DuPage this fall marked its 10-year anniversary of approval by the American Bar Association. COD is one of only 10 community colleges in Illinois with this designation.
Paralegal Studies Professor Sally N. Fairbank said she is thrilled the College has maintained ABA approval over the last decade. She added that it was no easy task.
“The program must undergo a thorough review, which includes an examination of classes and curriculum, self-evaluation reports and on-site evaluations,” she said. “For paralegal studies programs, the ABA emphasizes practical skills over theory. We must demonstrate that our program serves the needs of both the legal community and students who are seeking employment. We must ensure that we provide accurate information to prospective and new students about the profession as a whole and the necessary steps for completing the program. It also is essential that our library can provide necessary industry and legal research resources to our students.”
The ABA requires all program faculty have professional experience as a paralegal or working with a paralegal. The program also must maintain an advisory committee comprising practicing lawyers and paralegals, education administrators and faculty, as well as one or more members of the public to ensure curriculum stays current with the ever-evolving legal industry.
Fairbank said paralegals increasingly are becoming an indispensable part of a legal team and expects well-trained paralegals to be in demand well into the future. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics support this assertion, anticipating the paralegal field will grow by 10 percent through 2029 - much faster than the average for all occupations.
According to Fairbank, lawyers recognize the difference between students who have graduated from ABA-approved programs and those who completed programs without the designation.
“ABA approval guarantees our paralegal students will receive an education and gain skills that are sought after by employers in the legal profession,” she said. “I see more and more law offices and corporations requiring that prospective employees have completed an ABA-approved program. We are very proud of the fact that we consistently get feedback from employers who say they will only hire students from our program because they are so impressed with their training and abilities.”
The Paralegal Studies program at College of DuPage provides students with the knowledge, training, skills, values and professional attitude they need to become highly competent, ethical paralegals who will make a positive contribution to the advancement of the paralegal profession. The program features an Associate in Applied Science degree track, which covers law office organization and technology, legal document drafting, litigation, legal ethics, and legal research and writing, as well as a variety of specialized areas of practice, such as corporate and contract law, criminal law, environmental law and immigration law. A required practicum in a law office provides students with real-world experience. The College also offers a post-degree certificate in Paralegal Studies available to students who have earned an associate degree or higher. In addition, the program’s award-winning Paralegal Club provides students the opportunity each week to learn from and network with judges, attorneys, and paralegals. Exceptional students also are considered for COD’s chapter of Lambda Epsilon Chi (LEX), the national honor society for paralegals.