Paralegal Schools & Programs in New York City
New York City has one of the highest concentrations of law offices - of all different kinds - in the world. It also has one of the highest concentrations of working attorneys. Not everyone wants to invest the large amount of time and money it takes to get through law school and pass the bar though. However, there is an alternative for those who would still like to work in law, becoming a paralegal in NYC.
Featured NYC Paralegal Programs
What is a Paralegal?
A paralegal - also sometimes referred to as a legal assistant, is a lot more than an office assistant. A paralegal is a trained professional who assists attorneys they are under the supervision of with any and almost every aspect of their law practice. Paralegals cannot legally practice law, but an ever-expanding role does mean that they can come remarkably close.
Paralegal NYC Salaries: Average & Entry-Level
If you are going to work for a law office in the Big Apple as a paralegal you can expect that your salary is going to be a good one. According to Bureau of Labor statistics the average salary for a New York City based paralegal was just over $62,000 annually1. Even entry level paralegals averaged an annual wage of $48,0002, and the most experienced legal assistants, usually those working for one of the city's prestigious white shoe corporate law firms commanded annual wages of, on average, $77,000. The outlook for employment for NYC paralegals is excellent too. An increasing number of law firms are seeking ways to reduce costs without decreasing the level of service they provide to their clients. Hiring more qualified paralegals is one way to do that.
What Education Does a Paralegal in NYC Need?
As is the case for most US states there is no formal licensing requirement for paralegals in NYC. Their work must be supervised by bar-admitted attorneys at all times though, and their actions are the sole responsibility of their supervising attorney. This does make potential employers selective, and it is rare that law offices in New York will hire a paralegal without some form of specific legal education. Larger law firms prefer that their entry level legal assistants hold at least an associate degree in paralegal studies, with some demanding a minimum of a BA. Smaller concerns and non-profits will often, however, accept a paralegal certificate as proof of adequate education. The American Bar Association has approved 36 New York paralegal programs3. These programs provide the legal knowledge and administrative skills to land a paralegal job in NYC and other states.
Paralegal Schools in NYC
Nassau Community College
Nassau Community College - a part of the CUNY system overseen by the State of New York - offers a wide range of more affordable associate degree and certificate programs to New York residents (and others at a higher cost). For those interested in a career as a paralegal who already hold a formal degree, they offer a certificate program that provides students with a year's additional training to meet the requirements of future employers. But for those just starting out their American Bar Association approved AAS degree in Paralegal Studies is a suitable place to begin. The AAS in Paralegal Studies program at Nassau Community College is a competitive, campus-based program that takes two years to complete. Students are admitted based on their high school transcript as well as personal interviews and admission essay review. Those who are accepted can expect two years of challenging coursework that will provide them with all the skills and knowledge to work as a paralegal in a general law office environment, along with the legal research skills that every good paralegal needs. The cost of the program is charged on a per-credit basis, with that cost being based on a student's residency and personal circumstances. Most students make use of traditional federal and state financial aid to fund their education, but those who do not qualify can also consider taking out a private student loan from a lender such as Sallie Mae.
SUNY Westchester Community College
SUNY Westchester lies to the north of NYC and is a part of the state college system. For those interested in working as a paralegal their AAS in Paralegal Studies is a popular choice, especially as credits earned can be transferred to any four-year school within the SUNY system with ease after graduation. This 2-year, ABA approved degree program offers a comprehensive overview of the duties of a paralegal, along with their moral and ethical responsibilities, a solid foundational legal education, and a detailed understanding of legal research. This is a competitive program and students are admitted both based on their academics, including their SAT and Regents scores, and a personal interview. Those admitted to the 60-credit course are also offered the chance to complete a school arranged internship to gain valuable real-world experience. The cost of the degree program, which most students meet via traditional financial aid - is charged on a per-credit basis, with Westchester County residents receiving the lowest rates. Final costs are tallied as a part of the admissions process.
CUNY LaGuardia Community College
LaGuardia Community College, located in Long Island City, Queens is one of the oldest schools in the CUNY system and has a reputation for being a diverse, innovative school. Their AAS in Paralegal Studies program is a campus based, ABA approved 2 year offering that focuses on providing both specific legal knowledge and a broader liberal arts education. Admission to the program is open to high school graduates over the age of 18, but it is a selective process. Students' prior academic performance - including SAT and Regents scores - are a weighty factor in acceptance, but so are personal interviews and admission essays. As a part of their degree all students are required to complete a school selected internship with a local employer and are also given additional training on the LexisNexis legal software utilized by most law offices and attorneys nationwide. The cost of the 60-credit course will vary according to a student's personal circumstances and will be assessed as a part of the admissions process. Those who qualify typically make use of Federal and State financial aid to pay for school, or, in the case that they are not eligible for that private student loans from a commercial lender.
CUNY Hostos Community College
Located in the Bronx, CUNY Hostos Community College offers students interested in working in a legal setting as a paralegal the chance to complete an AAS in Paralegal Studies degree that is approved by the American Bar Association and offers a solid foundation of knowledge to prepare graduates to work as a legal assistant. This program differs from many others offered by CUNY schools as it focuses on training students to enter the field of public service legal work. Students, while also being provided a general paralegal education, are given in depth knowledge of the unique challenges faced by public service law offices, and even have the chance to intern with one as they study. Each student will also be asked to choose one of three specialties as a special focus of their study: Immigration Law, Family Law, and Public or Employee Benefit Law. Admission is available to all those over 18 who meet academic requirements, but priority is given to Bronx residents. The cost of the course is charged on a standard sliding scale per credit basis, and traditional financial aid is available, but graduates can take advantage of a work credit that will forgive much of their debt once they have worked in an approved public service law environment in New York State for a certain period of time.
CUNY New York City College of Technology
CUNY New York City College of Technology was the first public school in New York State to offer a specialized bachelor's in legal assistant studies. This comprehensive, ABA approved campus based four-year degree program is designed for those who wish to work in a white shoe corporate law office environment or at the higher levels of state court and government. Admission to the program is limited and competitive. Many of the students transfer into this program after completing an AAS in Paralegal Studies at another CUNY or SUNY school, which allows them, via transfer credit, to complete their BS with just two more years of study. The cost of this program is usually met via traditional financial aid and is charged on a sliding scale per credit basis.
Mercy College Dobbs Ferry Campus
Mercy College is a four-year private university that offers a highly regarded ABA approved Bachelor in Paralegal Studies. This campus-based program offers access to a particularly qualified teaching staff as well as to internship opportunities with some of the city's top law firms. A focus is placed, during the specific legal portion of the degree, and developing superior legal research and law office management skills. Admission is competitive and comes after a full review of a student's academics and their personal interview and entrance essay. The 120-credit course is charged at a per credit rate. These rates differ slightly from student to student but they averaged out at a cost of $823 per credit. Most students meet this cost via traditional financial aid, or should they not qualify for that, private student loans.
Plaza College, located in Forest Hills, Queens, is a private for-profit school that offers both a 30 credit Paralegal Studies Certificate program and a 60 credit AAS in Paralegal Studies degree program to those interested in a legal assistant career. Students with no prior legal education begin in the Certificate program. This 30-credit hour offering is completed on campus and offers a basic overview of the paralegal profession, the legal ethics surrounding it and the basics of legal research. Many students, upon graduation from the Certificate program the complete the AAS degree in an additional 30 credit hours to provide them with additional knowledge and training. The cost of the Certificate in Paralegal Studies is $18,000, with an additional $3,000 in books and fees, Students over the age of 18 who hold a high school diploma or GED are eligible for admission. Traditional financial aid is available to those who qualify, and a limited number of scholarships are awarded by the school to promising students. Those who do not qualify for financial aid may also seek a private student loan from a lender like Sallie Mae.
ASA College is a private college with several campuses located across the country. For NYC based students interested in becoming a legal assistant they offer a 2-year, campus based AAS in Paralegal Studies degree course at their Brooklyn, NY campus. The program is a comprehensive one that focuses on general law practice and law office operations. It also offers a very comprehensive offering of the LexisNexis system and its use in day-to-day legal research and case administration. Students also go on work-based field trips to New York's local level and city level Supreme, Civil, Family, Surrogate, Appeals, and Federal Courts. Some students are also offered the chance to complete an internship with a local law firm. For admission students must be aged 18 or older, hold a high school diploma or GED and meet minimal educational standards as set by the school. The four-semester program is charged at the rate of $5,940.00 per semester, with books and fees adding an additional $1,500 per year to that cost. Financial aid is available to those who qualify.
Touro College is a private, for profit school with campuses located across New York City and the lower half of Upstate New York. For those interested in a paralegal education they offer an AAS in Paralegal Studies degree at their Manhattan location. The two-year, campus-based degree program encompasses both a solid legal foundation and degree level liberal arts courses. Students are given the chance to choose a specialty within the law to take additional classes in and are required to complete a 3-credit internship with a local employer prior to graduation. To be admitted students must meet minimal educational standards, be over 18 and hold a high school diploma. The cost of the degree program is charged at a flat fee of 7,690 flat fee per semester, with this degree program taking four semesters to complete. Most students make use of traditional financial aid to cover their costs.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020 Occupational Employment and Wages, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm
2. O*NET OnLine, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/23-2011.00
3. American Bar Association: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/paralegal-resource-directory/