Moving forward with the standard of excellence
After months of anticipation and high hopes, Feb. 17 was the day Daemen College announced that their Paralegal Studies program had received approval from the American Bar Association. This honorary distinction makes Daemen one of two colleges in the Buffalo-Niagara Region that offers an ABA-approved Paralegal Studies program.
This effort was spearheaded by the director of the Paralegal Studies program at Daemen,
Margaret Phillips, J.D.
When asking her about the recent approval, Phillips claimed, ‘Receiving this approval from the ABA associates Daemen’s name with quality even more so.’
This approval affirms the standard of excellence for a legal education at Daemen and it will help lead to great opportunities for both the students and the college.
Phillips stated, ‘The American Bar Association is the largest, most prestigious, preeminent organization that oversees both the legal profession and legal education;’ it was no small effort for the college to receive their approval.
Months of preparation went into the approval process. There were books of guidelines from the
ABA that outlined their standards for an exemplary legal education. Phillips spent great amounts of time developing curriculum and establishing a sound legal education with the help of the program’s advisory committee (consisting of educators, attorneys, judges, and other legal professionals).
Phillips had to show student objectives to the ABA and had to provide several samples of student coursework. The ABA also required Philips to demonstrate that the college was in support of the professional program and that there was backing at all levels of the college.
A formal application had to be submitted, the ABA visited and did a ‘visual inspection,’ and the College’s request for approval had to be voted on by the ABA’s House of Delegates. Ultimately, with the great efforts of students, staff, and advisors, the process was successful.
The approval means a number of benefits to come for students and the college:
- Graduates are able to become ‘Associate’ members of the ABA as paralegals.
- Daemen will be listed on the ABA’s list of colleges and universities providing an approved paralegal studies education, potentially leading to an increase in visibility and enrollment.
- Whether pursuing the four year degree or the undergraduate or post-baccalaureate certificate, all options are approved by the ABA which leaves prospective students confident in the legal education they may choose to receive.
- There are no ‘formal’ requirements to become a paralegal in New York State, so being able to show a hiring employer an ABA-approved education in paralegal studies is an advantage to stand out from a large pool of applicants.
The ABA’s involvement with legal education for both lawyers and paralegals has helped with an integration and better understanding between the two agents in the legal profession. Lawyers are now understanding that paralegals with a sound legal education, such as that at Daemen, are able to draft legal writing and documents, conduct legal research, and engage in other critical components in legal casework.
Phillips said that during the approval process she had to ‘research and learn to understand assessment of student objectives and the legal community,’ to progress with the integration of skilled paralegals into the legal profession.
The ABA is one of the world’s largest voluntary professional organizations with nearly 400,000 members. As stated on their website, ‘It is committed to doing what only a national association of attorneys can do: serving our members, improving the legal profession, eliminating bias and enhancing diversity, and advancing the rule of law throughout the United States and around the world.’
Daemen is now a part of that group of professionals dedicated to enhancing legal education and the legal profession.
The ABA defines a paralegal as ‘a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.’ Paralegals can only work under the supervision of a licensed attorney.
If a paralegal gives legal advice or performs legal duties unsupervised, it is considered the ‘unauthorized practice of law.’