The Best Paralegal Schools and Training Programs in Illinois
If you live in Illinois and are interested in a career in law, becoming a paralegal might be just the right job for you. If you’re already paralegal or studying to become one and are willing to relocate, there are several reasons why Illinois is one of the best states to be a paralegal. For one, Chicago happens to be home to some of the United States’ biggest companies and law firms - many who employ paralegals.
To help you make your decision, we’ve compiled some important information including statistics on paralegals in Illinois, state requirements for paralegals, where to find a good education, and what professional organizations exist in state that can help you meet people, network, and advance your career even further.
Featured Paralegal Schools in Illinois
Statistics on Paralegals in Illinois
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) May 2017 data shows that Illinois has the 5th largest employment levels for paralegals and legal assistants in the US, with 12,070 individuals employed in this occupation. In fact, for every 1,000 jobs in the state of Illinois, 2.04 of them are paralegals or legal assistants. Paralegals in Illinois are well-compensated, with an annual mean wage of $56,990 or $27.40 hourly.
The metropolitan area with the 3rd highest employment of paralegals and paralegal assistants is the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL Metropolitan Division, which employs 9,530 paralegals.
Of course, if you’re considering moving to another state, things like cost of living and quality of life should also be part of your decision. Illinois falls in the middle in terms of cost of living, coming in at 25th out of 51 states. The state falls quite lower on the scale when it comes to quality of life, being ranked 47th out of 51 states in terms of things like natural and social environments.
Illinois State Requirements for Paralegals
Illinois does not require paralegals to be certified or registered. However, paralegals in the state must follow the Illinois Code of Paralegal Ethics. This code of ethics consists of a set of rules meant to uphold the quality of legal services in the state. These rules mirror the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, used by the Illinois Supreme Court for lawyers.
A few important rules that this code of ethics covers include:
- Scope of Professional Duties - paralegals work under the supervision of a lawyer and are not allowed to offer legal advice or engage in the unauthorized practice of law
- Confidentiality - paralegals should not at any time reveal or use confidential information about clients without their consent
- Diligence - paralegals should do their work promptly and with care to effectively support lawyers and their clients
Altogether, the Illinois Code of Paralegal Ethics consists of a preamble and twelve rules that paralegals in the state are expected to follow, but which are not enforced in any organized way.
Education for Paralegals in Illinois
To become a paralegal in Illinois you may choose to seek employment offering on-the-job training after you graduate from high school (or equivalent). If you want to enter the workforce with a little more knowledge and training under your belt, you can pursue post-secondary education as well as graduate certificate programs in paralegal studies.
When you’re looking at places to study to become a paralegal it’s important to find a program that is American Bar Association (ABA) approved from an accredited institution. Next, you may choose to take national certification exams if you want to show your excellence as a paralegal and commit to continued learning over the course of your career.
List of Illinois Paralegal Schools for High School Graduates
Places that offer education for paralegals out of high school:
College of Dupage
Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Paralegal Studies
Paralegal Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
Illinois State University
Bachelor of Arts/Science (BA/BS) in Legal Studies
Bachelor’s in Paralegal Studies (BAPL)
List of Illinois Paralegal Schools for Graduates
Places that offer education for paralegals post-degree:
College of Lake County
Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Paralegal Studies (for Undergraduates)
847-543-2517 and 847-543-2442
Kankakee Community College
Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Paralegal/Legal Assistant Studies (for Graduates with some college coursework)
Elgin Community College
AAS degree in paralegal (for Undergraduates)
Paralegal Basic Vocational Certificate (BOV) (post-AA/AS graduates)
The great thing about all these programs is that they are all approved by the American Bar Association, meaning they meet the requirements of a quality program and are a stepping stone to achieving national certification. Only a small percentage (approximately 22%) of the 1,200+ paralegal programs in the US have ABA approval.
Not all employers require paralegals to have graduated from an ABA approved program, however. If you do not wish to pursue national certification you may choose to take a non-ABA approved program from a reputable school and still do well in your career.
Illinois Paralegal Professional Organizations
Illinois has two paralegal professional organizations:
The IPA was originally the Chicago Association of Paralegal Assistants, formed in Chicago in 1971, but changed its name in 1976 after incorporating as an Illinois not-for-profit in 1973 and expanding to include members from across the state.
The IPA’s goals are to promote the paralegal profession, keep members up to date on new developments in the profession, support and offer continuing education for paralegals, and encourage communication between paralegals, the legal community, and related organizations.
The CIPA is an affiliate of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). CIPA is led by volunteer paralegals who want to advance the occupation, and its members are made up of students, paralegals and legal assistants, attorneys, educators, and others who are interested in the profession.
Benefits of being a CIPA member include access to important information and education at regular meetings, the ability to earn Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits, leadership and networking opportunities, volunteer opportunities, and information on local job opportunities.
Time to Decide
If a passion for law and great attention to detail make you perfect for paralegal work, you might want to consider working in Illinois, a state with a lot of law firms. Paralegals in Illinois do not have to be registered or certified, but they are expected to follow a basic code of ethics. You can get started as a paralegal with on-the-job training after high school or earn a certificate or degree in paralegal studies.