In 1967, the American Bar Association began promoting the concept of legal assistants and established a committee on legal assistants in 1968. That committee is now called the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Assistants, and it continues to promote the paralegal concept and conducts surveys of attorneys on their utilization. The first formal paralegal educational programs were established in the early 1970s. The ABA adopted guidelines for legal assistant education and curriculum and then began to approve paralegal programs in 1975. ABA approval is voluntary for all paralegal programs.
Several types of educational programs area available for training legal assistants. Each program varies in format and length. These programs are offered through community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, business colleges, and proprietary schools. These institutions make it possible for people with diverse backgrounds to enter the legal assistant profession.
Associate degree programs are offered by two-year community colleges, some four-year colleges and universities, and some business schools. A student can earn an associate degree upon completion of 60-70 semester units. The curriculum is usually about one-half paralegal courses and one-half general-education courses.
Baccalaureate degree programs are offered by colleges and universities, which have a paralegal studies major, minor or concentration within a major. These programs are usually about 120 to 130 semester units with 30-60 semester units in paralegal and related courses.
Various kinds of educational institutions offer legal assistant certificate programs. Some of these programs can require up to 60 semester units. Certificate programs are usually designed for students who already hold an associate or a baccalaureate degree.
The State of Oklahoma has numerous paralegal educational programs which service a diverse student body while providing quality education. The Oklahoma Bar Association lists the following paralegal programs on its web site:
East Central University – This program offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Legal Studies. The program is ABA approved, and the director is Dean Peterson. The program is located at East Central University, Legal Studies Program, ECU Box N-6, Ada, OK 74820. 580-332-8000 (www.ecok.edu)
Northeastern State University – This program offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice (Paralegal Emphasis). It is in substantial compliance with ABA guidelines, and the director is Cari Brown. The program is offered at Northeastern State University, Legal Assistant Division, 607 North Grand Avenue, Tahlequah, OK 74464. 918-456-5511 (www.nsuok.edu)
Rogers State University – This program offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Legal Assisting. It is in substantial compliance with ABA guidelines, and the director is Carole Burrage. The program is located at Rogers State University, Legal Assistant Program, 1701 West Will Rogers Boulevard, Claremore, OK 74070. 918-373-7777 (www.rsu.edu)
Rose State College – This program offers an Associate of Applied Science degree. It is ABA approved, and the director is Judy Shaw. The program is located at Rose State College, Legal Assistant Program – Business Division, 6420 Southeast 15th, Midwest City, OK 73110. 405-733-7460 (www.rose.edu)
Tulsa Community College – This program offers an Associate of Applied Science degree and is ABA approved. The director is Sherry Taylor. The program is located at Tulsa Community College, Legal Assistant Program, 909 South Boston Avenue, Tulsa, OK 74103. 918-595-7000 (www.tulsa.cc.ok.us)
University of Oklahoma Law Center – This is a certificate program which is two years in length and requires 40 hours of general education prior to completion. It is ABA approved, and the director is Kyle L. Buchanan. The program is located at University of Oklahoma Law Center, Legal Assistant Education, 300 Timberdell, Room 314, Norman, OK 73019. 405-325-1726 (www.law.ou.edu/lae)
University of Tulsa – This is a certificate program for students who have a baccalaureate degree. It is ABA approved, and the director is Pam Mitchell, Esq. The program is located at the University of Tulsa, Paralegal Studies, Division of Continuing Education, 600 South College Avenue, Tulsa, OK 74104. 918-631-2524, [email protected] (www.conted.utulsa.edu)