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Common Questions about the JMU Paralegal Certificate

What Will I Receive When I Complete the Program?

Upon meeting the necessary requirements of the program, you will receive a certificate of completion in Paralegal Studies from James Madison University.

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 position.

Certificate v. Certification?

A few states require paralegal certification. To be considered “certified,” the individual passes a comprehensive exam administered by a credentialing body, such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA.) Virginia, however, does not require paralegal “certification.” As well, even the ABA does not define a paralegal as “certified.” Nevertheless, employers value paralegals who possess relevant education or training. JMU’s certificate in paralegal studies is structured to provide the student with a command of several key competencies employers seek, including legal procedure, research, ethics, and legal writing.

JMU’s assessment-based certificate is NOT a certificate of attendance or participation, which is issued to individuals who attend very brief education/training events and aren’t required to demonstrate mastery of the learning material taught in our course.

Institute for Credentialing Excellence | Certificate vs Certification: What’s the Difference?

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 Section?

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 Studies certificate.

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 ideally suited for students who do not meet the education or professional work experience required to enroll in post-secondary paralegal certificates.

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 such a distinction 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 more important. JMU is one of the state’s flagship institutions.

Will Graduates be Able to Sit for the NALA Exam and the NFPA Exam?

The NALA and the NFPA offer voluntary examinations at a fee. Please note that the aforementioned organizations frequently alter their exams’ prerequisites. For the most current requirements to sit for either test, please reach out to the NALA and NFPA directly.

I Have Additional Questions. Does JMU have Advisors for the Paralegal Certificate Program with Whom I Can Speak?

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

General Questions about the Paralegal Certificate

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, a paralegal who possesses skills and training that make their firm more productive. As a general rule, attorneys are less concerned about the geometry, literature, and other general study courses an employee has completed. Instead, they value 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?

No. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is used for degree-seeking programs, and not non-credit certificate programs like Paralegal Studies at JMU.

Can I Get a Loan to Pay for the Course Fee?

You may consider a private loan with your banking institution or local credit union. As an alternative, you may apply for a Sallie Mae Smart Option Student Loan or a Wells Fargo Collegiate Loan. Learn more about registering with a loan and registration deadlines on our Enrollment & Financing page.

Can I Start a Class While I am Waiting for My Loan to be Approved?

No. When using a loan to pay for the program, you must submit the registration form and apply for your loan at least one month before the course start date to allow for ample loan processing time. Registration is not complete until the loan is approved. For more information, please contact us. You may also visit our Enrollment & Financing page to learn more about the loan process, as well as other payment options.