Common Questions about the JMU Paralegal Certificate

What Will I Get When I Finish the Program?

Upon successfully completing the program, you will receive a certificate in Paralegal Studies from James Madison University. This certificate is also approved for 6.2 Continuing Education Units (CEUs), or 62 contact hours.

Will I Ever Have to Travel to Your Campus?

No. Our Paralegal Studies program is 100% online. You will never have to travel to our campus in Harrisonburg, Virginia or any other location to earn your paralegal certificate from JMU.

What’s the Difference between a Paralegal and a Legal Assistant?

Nothing. The terms “paralegal” and “legal assistant” refer to the same career.

Certificate or Certification?

A few states require paralegal certification. To become “certified,” you must qualify for — and pass — an exam given by an outside paralegal organization. Virginia, however, does not require paralegal “certification.” Even the American Bar Association does not require paralegals to be certified. Still, employers value paralegals who possess job-related education or training. JMU’s certificate in paralegal studies is taught to provide the student with a command of several skills employers are looking for, including knowledge of legal procedure, research, and ethics, and the ability to draft legal documents.

JMU’s certificate is NOT a certificate of participation, which is given to individuals who attend very brief workshop events and aren’t required to demonstrate mastery of the learning material taught in our course.

Why Are Paralegal Certificate Program Graduates Paid More?

Attorneys want, and are willing to pay for, a paralegal who possesses skills and training that make their firm or organization more productive. As a general rule, attorneys are less concerned about the geometry, literature, and other general study courses a paralegal has completed. Instead, they value whether their employee can maintain a client file, conduct legal research, draft legal documents, and perform other relevant tasks. Paralegal Certificate programs provide training in the specific skills attorneys expect of paralegals.

What is a Passing Score in Each Paralegal Section?

Students must earn a minimum of 70% in each of the four program sections. Class projects and exams will be given. Participants must achieve a score of 75% or better in the overall program to earn the JMU Paralegal Studies certificate.

What are the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) Score Requirements?

It is highly recommended that students score at least 250 on the computer-based exam, or 100 on the internet-based exam.

Is This Program ABA “Approved?”

JMU’s Paralegal Studies certificate is not ABA approved, as many ABA-approved programs are two-year associate degrees at community colleges. Typically, ABA-approved programs of study are a better fit for students who do not meet the qualifications required to enroll in a Paralegal Studies certificate.

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. Many paralegal programs choose not to seek ABA approval, as such approval is voluntary and usually not a factor in many law firms’ decision to hire a paralegal. The accreditation and reputation of the institution you attend is often more important. JMU is one of the state’s most distinguished universities.

Will Graduates be Able to Sit for a Certification Exam?

Some paralegal organizations offer certification exams for a fee. Please note there are requirements to take these exams, which can change at any time. For up-to-date information to sit for such a test, please reach out directly to a paralegal
industry resource, such as NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants) or NFPA (National Federation of Paralegal Associations.)

I Have Other Questions. Is There Someone I Can Speak To?

We would be happy to chat with you. Please email saccoeg@jmu.edu or call 540-568-4038, and Elizabeth, our Enrollment Specialist, will be in touch soon.

About Financial Assistance

Do I Need to Fill Out the FAFSA?

No. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is used for a degree program (associate’s, bachelor’s, etc.) and not a non-credit certificate program like Paralegal Studies at JMU.

How Will I Pay for the Program?

Please visit our Enrollment & Financing page for more information on payment options.