The benefits of being associated with NALS are numerous. These benefits include a curriculum that is developed by “experts” in the legal profession, networking opportunities and prestige for the school and its students, and an accreditation program that notifies the school’s community and students of the fact that the school is dedicated to the achievement of excellence. Each individual must review the positive aspects associated with affiliation with a national organization against not being affiliated.
Accreditation Process Summary
- Submit an application.
- Do a self-study of the program.
- Construct a self-study document.
- Host a visit by NALS representatives.
- Review the results of the visit.
The application is an educational organization’s declaration of its intent to initiate the accreditation process. The application must be completed in full and submitted to NALS for review. NALS Education Department will review the application and determine if the educational organization merits further consideration. If further consideration is warranted, then the educational organization will be notified that it may begin the self-study process. If the application is denied, the educational organization will be notified of the denial and the reasons for the rejection. If the denial is for any reason other than the organization is not an educational entity, then the educational organization may reapply after a 120-day waiting period. An organization that is not an educational entity may not apply or reapply for accreditation. The application fee is due when the application is submitted and is nonrefundable. The application fee of $125 includes The Guide to NALS Accreditation. If the application is denied for any reason, then the application fee and/or the cost of materials will not be refunded. Each separate physical campus is considered a separate institution and requires a separate application.
Once the application has been approved, the educational organization or institution will embark on a complete self-study of its lawyers’ assistant or legal secretary program. NALS in conjunction with the educational organization, and the specific educational institution to be visited, will establish the following:
- A due date for the self-study document.
- A date for the visit.
The educational organization should conduct a complete self-study of its educational program, faculty, administration, staff and facilities. The following specific areas should be examined:
- Faculty qualifications
- Organization and administration
- Resource availability
- Completion rate
- Outcome assessment and placement rate
- A mission and purpose statement
The educational organization is responsible for all costs associated with the accreditation process. The costs include, but are not limited to, funds required by NALS to accomplish the accreditation process. The actual cost will depend on the length, type of visit, and the proximity to the educational organization of the evaluators and NALS Resource Center. An itemized list of potential NALS accreditation expenses to be incurred by the educational organization is as follows:
- Application Fee: $125
- NALS Materials (optional): $___
- Visitation team (example of prepaid items below):
- Transportation expense: $___
- Hotel/motel expense: $___
- Meals and miscellaneous expenses: $___
- Visitation expense: $200/day/evaluator and $250/day/staff person
- Annual membership fee (if approved): $450
Policy and Procedure for NALS
- Composition of the Team
The team will be made up of the Certification and Education Manager and one or two qualified members of NALS. The NALS member(s) may be any member in good standing who has attained the status of Certified PP or PLS, except those who currently serve as members of the NALS Executive Committee. The visitation team’s qualified NALS member(s) may be from the local area, when possible, to help defray the cost to the educational entity. A member from the NALS Certifying Board or a member from the NALS Education Committee is preferred and will be utilized when feasible.
The team size will be determined by NALS Resource Center’s Certification and Education Manager based on the complexity of the educational entity. Two members and one staff person will be used if there is no resident student population, i.e., distance learning activities and/or independent study programs. The educational entity should contact NALS Certification and Education Manager for details.
- Length of the Visit
The actual length of the visit will depend on the size and the configuration of the educational organization or institution. An average visit should be concluded in one or two days.
- Duties of the Team
The team will be responsible for reviewing the educational institution’s material prior to the visit. The evaluators review the material that was submitted by the educational institution and ensure that the institution is “doing what it said it is doing.” They will talk to the teachers, staff and students. It is important that every aspect of the educational institution is examined and accurate notes are assembled. The team will complete the evaluation process during their visit. They will meet at the end of the evaluation visit to write a summary of the visit and make a recommendation. The institution will be notified by the staff member of the evaluators’ recommendation. Regardless of the recommendation, the issuance or denial of accreditation does not become effective until the recommendation has been reviewed by NALS Education Committee. The accreditation or non-accreditation date will be the date of the visit.
- Evaluation Process
The materials collected during the visit, the notes of the evaluators and their recommendation are assembled by the staff member and sent to every Education Committee member for review.
- Accreditation Status
The NALS Education Committee recommendation is based on the facts as presented. The recommendation will be for one of four levels of accreditation. The four levels of accreditation are as follows:
- No accreditation. This status is given when an educational entity has a major defect in its curriculum and accreditation criteria. In that event, the NALS Education Committee’s decision would be based on the belief that individuals who complete the program will not be able to enter the career field with the credentials necessary to perform at the preferred level of competency that accreditation implies. The process for appeal and/or a revisit is described in the appeals procedure section.
- Provisionally accredited. This status is given to an educational entity if the visit reveals major problems in the structure of the curriculum and accreditation criteria, but the Committee believes that these defects are correctable. A provisional accreditation may warrant a second visit. The visit, if deemed necessary, needs to be scheduled at the educational entity’s request and prior to the end of the accreditation year. The entity will submit an updated self-study following the original accreditation criteria. Failure to schedule a subsequent visit (when required) within 60 days of the expiration of the provisional accreditation will warrant denial of all accreditation. The purpose of the second visit is to confirm that all concerns have been addressed and corrected. If so, then the new visitation team will recommend a change of accreditation status. If a problem condition still exists, then the team can recommend non-accreditation or continuance of the provisional accreditation for only one additional year, after which the educational entity will have to reapply. A maximum of two years is allowed as a provisional accreditation period utilizing the same application. The process for appeal and/or a revisit is described in the appeals procedure section.
- Accredited for three years. This status is given to an educational entity if the visit reveals that the majority of the curriculum and accreditation criteria are being accomplished. The process for appeal and/or a revisit is described in the appeals procedure section.
- Fully accredited for five years. This status is given to an educational entity if the visit reveals that all of the curriculum and accreditation criteria are being accomplished. No appeal is necessary at this level of accreditation.
An appeal can be initiated if the educational organization feels that there were extenuating circumstances associated with the evaluation. The appeal process requires that an educational organization submit its written protest of the accreditation level within forty-five (45) days of the date of the notice to the educational organization of its approved accreditation level. The appeal material, along with an analysis or summary by the staff member of the material from the site visited (with no recommendation), will be submitted to the NALS Executive Committee for a final determination. The fee for the appeals process is $900. This fee, plus any direct expenses incurred by NALS, must be submitted with the protest.
The annual accreditation fee is $450. The annual fee entitles the educational institutions to publications offered by NALS. The school becomes a nonvoting member of NALS.
The educational organization may use NALS in its advertising when stated as follows: “The lawyers’ assistant (or legal secretary/paralegal) program at __________ (name of school) is accredited by NALS... the association for legal professionals.” This statement is to be used only in conjunction with the program that is approved. No reference may be made to other programs. Variations are permitted provided they maintain the rationale indicated in the official statement. NALS is a registered trademark. It is the responsibility of an educational organization and an educational institution to honor and protect it.
Schools/Programs Currently Accredited
1900 Springlake Drive
Oklahoma City, OK 73111-5240
Tulsa Technology Center
P.O. Box 477200
Tulsa, OK 74147-7200
Contact: Angela Durant-Tyson
West Virginia Northern Community College
Program: Paralegal Studies - A.A.S.
- Wheeling Campus
1704 Market Street
Wheeling, WV 26003
Phone: (304) 233-5900
- Weirton Campus
150 Park Avenue
Weirton, WV 26062
Phone: (304) 723-2210
- New Martinsville Campus
141 Main Street
New Martinsville, WV 26155
Phone: (304) 455-4684