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CSU plans to expand paralegal studies program

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton State University officials have cleared one hurdle in their efforts to expand the school's paralegal studies associate's degree program into a bachelor's degree program.

The University System of Georgia's Board of Regents approved the expansion June 11, during the governing body's meeting in Atlanta. The university is now awaiting final approval from the American Bar Association, before it can proceed with growth plans for the program.

University Spokesman John Shiffert said Clayton State officials will not comment on the bachelor's degree plans until the American Bar Association approves the program. Shiffert would only say it is possible the program could be approved in the coming weeks. Officials from the bar association directed questions to their web site.

"The program will further the mission of Clayton State University, and at a higher level, provide graduates who will demonstrate additional competencies in the paralegal studies field," university officials said in their request to the Board of Regents.

The officials also cited statistics that say the job market for paralegals between now and 2014 is expected to grow by 27 percent, and that those with a bachelor's degree would be able to earn more than those who have only an associate's degree, or a paralegal certificate.

To gain the American Bar Association's approval, the bachelor's program needs to be at least 60 semester hours in length, and it must be offered by an accredited postsecondary institution.

"The institution must maintain a program for the education of paralegals that is designed to qualify its graduates to be employed in law-related occupations," states the American Bar Association's "Guidelines for the Approval of Paralegal Education Programs."

According to the request for regent's approval, graduates of the program will be able to find employment in district attorney offices, law firms and government agencies as case assistants, paralegal managers, judges' assistants, and senior paralegal agents.

If the American Bar Association gives its blessing, the change from an associate's degree program to a bachelor's degree program will take place immediately.

The program's objectives are to "enhance the critical thinking, analytical and evaluation skills of students with an emphasis on learning legal principles and applying them to case studies and activities," according to the request that was submitted to the Board of Regents.

The program will start with a cohort of 10 students, and the number will grow to 20 students in three years. A summary, capstone course, or project, will be included to prepare the pupils for the National Federation of Paralegal Associations' Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE), and the National Association of Legal Assistants' Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) program exam.

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On the net:

Clayton State University:

www.clayton.edu/

American Bar Association:

www.abanet.org/legalservices/paralegals/