Classes can fill quickly. In order to enroll, you must submit a completed registration form and full form of payment. It is strongly recommended that you register two weeks prior to a course start date.
Paralegal Studies certificate program is approved for 12.0 CEUs (120 contact hours) through Outreach & Engagement at James Madison University.
JMU Paralegal Certificate Program
Commonly Asked Questions
Upon meeting the necessary requirements of the program you will receive a certificate of completion from James Madison University.
Certificate v. Certification?
Professional or personnel certification is a voluntary process by which individuals' pre-acquired knowledge, skills, or competencies are evaluated against predetermined standards. The focus is on an assessment that is independent of a specific class, course, or other education/training program. Participants who demonstrate that they meet the standards by successfully completing the assessment process are granted the certification.
An assessment-based certificate program is a non-degree granting educational program that:
(a) provides instruction and training to aid participants in acquiring specific knowledge, skills, and/or competencies associated with intended learning outcomes;
(b) evaluates participants’ achievement of the intended learning outcomes; and
(c) awards a certificate only to those participants who meet the performance, proficiency or passing standard for the assessment(s).
An assessment-based certificate is NOT a certificate of attendance or participation, which are provided to individuals (participants) who have attended or participated in classes, courses, or other education/training programs or events but did not have to demonstrate accomplishment of the intended learning outcomes.
What are the TOEFL score requirements?
We recommend non-native English speakers have a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score of at least 250 on the computer-based exam or 100 on the internet-based exam. These scores are recommended, but not required.
What is a passing score in each paralegal course?
Students must earn a minimum of 70% in each course module. Class projects and exams will be administered. Participants must achieve a score of 75% or better in the overall program to earn the JMU Paralegal Certificate.
What if I experience a difficult life event and am forced to withdraw from the program?
If you encounter a life event that might interrupt your participation in the JMU Paralegal Certificate Program, please discuss the matter immediately with a student advisor. In the past, we have been able to work with students to arrange for future participation in the program with no extra charge.
Is this program ABA "approved?"
JMU’s Paralegal Certificate Program is not ABA approved, nor are paralegal programs at most other major universities. Typically, ABA approved programs require approximately 2 years to complete because of the hourly requirements imposed by the ABA. Approximately 250 out of 1,200 paralegal programs nationwide are ABA approved and the majority are offered by smaller community colleges and technical schools for candidates with little college or work experience.
Does ABA "approval" matter?
The ABA does not formally “accredit” any paralegal program, but for a fee, the organization “approves” programs that meet certain standards. Most paralegal programs choose not to seek ABA “approval" because ABA “approval” is not a primary factor in most law firms’ decision to hire a paralegal. The reputation of the institution attended by the paralegal is often much more important. JMU is one of the state’s flagship institutions.
Will graduates be able to sit for the NFPA Pace exam and the NALA CLA exam?
The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) offer (for a price) voluntary examinations. While the majority of paralegals have chosen not to take either exam, they are certainly worthy resume and professional development enhancers. Please note that the above organizations frequently alter their exams' requirements and years in the paralegal profession. Contact each association for the most current requirements to sit for those examinations.
I have additional questions. Does JMU have advisors for the Paralegal Certificate Program with whom I can speak?
Yes, please contact JMU at 540-908-4578and our program advisor will be in touch with you within two business days.
General Questions about Paralegal Certification
Why a certificate program?
We understand there are many choices in paralegal education. That is one of the strengths of the profession. The program chosen by each student usually depends on several factors, including:
- Prior Educational Experience - Students who already possess a college degree are not likely to attend a two or four year paralegal program.
- Prior Life Experience - Many paralegal certificate students have valuable real-world experience, but lack the credentials to be competitive for job opportunities.
- Motivation - Students who take certificate programs must be motivated, since they are expected to gain knowledge and skills in a relatively short period of time.
- Compensation - Graduates of certificate programs are, on average, better compensated than graduates of associate or bachelor degree programs.
Why are paralegal certificate program graduates paid more?
Attorneys want to hire paralegals that can efficiently and accurately perform specific law related tasks. They want, and are willing to pay for, paralegals that possess skills and training which make their firm more productive. As a general rule, attorneys care less about the geometry, literature, and other general study courses an employee has taken. They care about whether the employee can maintain a client file, conduct legal research, draft legal documents, and perform other relevant tasks. Paralegal certificate programs offer training in the specific skills attorneys seek in paralegal employees.
About Financial Assistance
Do I need to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)?
No, the FASFA is used only for degree programs and not non-credit certificate programs.
Can I get a loan for the tuition?
Yes. You can apply for a Sallie Mae Smart Option loan for continuing education studies through the link on our website. Note that some programs sell out weeks before the start date. If you plan to apply for a Sallie Mae Smart Option loan, begin your application early to allow for adequate processing time.
Can I start a class while I am waiting for my loan to be approved?
No. But once we receive notification that your loan has been approved, you can start registering for classes.