The IPMA supports quality paralegal education through its involvement with the Standing Committee on Paralegals of the American Bar Association (ABA-SCOP). The Standing Committee on Paralegals develops and promotes policies relating to the education, employment, training, and effective use of paralegals. The Standing Committee, through its Approval Commission, serves as the body to set standards for paralegal education. The Standing Committee monitors trends in the field and recommends for approval and reapproval to the House of Delegates (the ABA's policy-making body) those paralegal training programs that have met the standards and guidelines set by the ABA for quality paralegal education.
The IPMA holds a seat on the Approval Commission. Members of the association are often called upon to assist the commission with its site visit process for program approvals and reapprovals.
Members who have an interest in serving on a site visit team should review the following ABA Site Visit FAQs, view the ABA Site Visit Webinar, and contact IPMA headquarters to be placed on the list provided to ABA-SCOP.
Each site visit team is chaired by a current or former member of the ABA Approval Commission. The chairperson will coordinate the communication with the school and will be available to answer your questions. For an initial approval site visit, there is normally a site team chair and two additional team members. For a re-approval visit, there is normally a site team chair and one additional team member.
Each site team member reviews a report prepared by the school along with the previous report(s) prepared by prior site teams to the school. The ABA headquarters staff reviews each report for completeness prior to distribution to the site team. The site team visits the school, meets with many different groups including faculty, staff, students and graduates. After the site visit, the team prepares a report to the ABA Approval Commission with a recommendation on the potential re-approval of the program.
Reviewing the report prepared by the school takes from 3 to 5 hours. The amount of time for the visit to the school will depend on whether it is an initial approval or re-approval. The schedule for initial approval visits is two and a half days. The schedule for re-approval visits is one and one half days - some re-approval visits are scheduled on a Sunday and Monday. The majority of site visits are for program re-approvals. The preparation of the written report to the ABA Approval Commission is normally 2 to 4 hours. Your first visit may require a higher time commitment as you get accustomed to the rules and processes involved in a site visit.
The ABA has approved programs across the United States. The ABA tries to find site team members as close as possible to the school. One goal of having IPMA participants available to the ABA is to have more site team members that are nearby the schools to cut down on travel time and expenses. However, you may not serve on the site team that is evaluating a program at a school where you are on the advisory committee or faculty.
All travel expenses are covered by the school being visited. Each site team member may make their own travel arrangements and have the expenses reimbursed by the individual school or arrange for the school to make the arrangements and pre-pay the travel.
The ABA Approval Commission has many different materials to help you prepare for the site visit which will be supplied during training and preparation for your site visits. Materials include sample questions, checklists for required items to be reviewed during a visit and sample completed reports.
How often you participate is up to you. The ABA headquarters staff will contact you when a team member is needed for an upcoming visit.
The IPMA wants to assist the ABA in its important mission of insuring educational excellence. We hope that our participation will increase the visibility of IPMA within the educational community and that this opportunity will offer a unique volunteer activity to our members.
Your participation increases the visibility of your firm among educators, faculty, who are oftentimes local practicing attorneys, and advisory committee members, who have many connections in the community. Your firm name is listed in the site visit report and you will introduce yourself and your firm name at numerous times throughout the visit.
Your participation can help to shape the future of paralegal education in such matters as technology, educational requirements, and paralegal utilization. Throughout the visit you will be giving feedback to the school/program. Many times program officials like to know "how your firm does it" or "what your firm looks for."
Paralegal managers having input into the quality of paralegal education will only help to ensure that you get the best possible candidates for your employer. For a small investment of time, it will pay off in the long run. Learning more about how the schools operate can be useful in identifying potential new employees. Understanding a school's educational content will help you decide whether candidates from the program would be a good match for your organization. And, since many schools often keep connected with their graduates, you may be able to tap into a network of experienced paralegal candidates for positions within your firm or company.
Emphasize that this is participation in an American Bar Association project. Attorneys like having their company or firm names associated with ABA-related activities. They just aren't aware of this opportunity for non-attorneys to be involved.