Department of Politics and Government Associate Professor Tom McClure and a co-author have published the first paper to empirically examine paralegal programs seeking approval from the American Bar Association (ABA). ABA approval is considered the “gold standard” of paralegal education. Less than a third of the 900 educational institutions offering this field of study have attained the coveted ABA designation.

McClure, the chair of the ABA Paralegals Approval Commission, and Jessica Watson, ABA approval process manager, reviewed 133 reports produced by ABA site teams that visiting schools seeking initial approval or reapproval of their programs. Their article entitled, “An Empirical Look at Programs Applying for ABA Approval: Does Program Director Longevity Matter?” was published this month in The Legal Educator, the only peer-reviewed journal in paralegal education.

The study reveals that a paralegal education program director’s increased longevity on the job is associated with a greater likelihood that the program will be approved by the ABA. Data extracted from site visit reports revealed that 85 percent of program directors held their position for fewer than 15 years. ABA site teams suggested to 42 percent of the applicant institutions that they should adopt measures to improve resources that enable a positive work environment. McClure and Watson also offered recommendations to institutions that may reduce program director attrition. Additionally they suggested other methods to improve their prospects of achieving ABA approval.