Certificate Program in Paralegal Studies

SMU Paralegal Certificate | Frequently Asked Questions

About the Certificate

What are the pre-requisites for SMU’s Paralegal Program?

  • A 4-year undergraduate degree is required
  • Basic computer and word-processing skills
  • Access to the internet with high speed connection
  • An updated résumé

Learn more about SMU’s program requirements and details

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 program to earn the SMU 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 SMU 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?"
SMU’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. 

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 still have additional questions. Does SMU have advisors for the Paralegal Certificate that I can speak to further? 
Yes, please contact SMU at 214-SMU-CAPE and our program advisor will be in touch with you within two business days.

General Questions about Paralegal Certification

Why a certificate program?
We understand that students have many choices in paralegal education. That is one of the strengths of the profession. The type of 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 are seeking to enhance their specialized skills.
  • 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.

Click here to learn more about becoming a paralegal professional.

About Financial Aid/Assistance

Can I get a loan for the cost of books and supplies as well as tuition?
No. However, 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.

Do you accept the HOPE or LIFE scholarship?
The majority of financial aid programs such as the Pell Grant, Stafford Loan, or the HOPE or LIFE Scholarships are only available to students attending credit courses which lead to a degree or other academic credential. Since SMU’s paralegal certificate program is not credit-based, we are unable to process these traditional forms of financial aid.

Do I need to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)?
No, the FASFA is used only for degree programs.

Learn more about SMU’s financing options and enrollment.

OR...Register for an upcoming information session to learn more about the program

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