IUPUI had a noncredit paralegal certificate program offered through the School of Continuing Studies for many years. The director of the noncredit programs, Dr. Irv Levy, thought it would be beneficial for students if the paralegal studies classes were also available for credit, and if students could receive a certificate for completing the courses whether they took them for credit or not. The most significant advantages for the students from having a for-credit option available were the potential availability of financial aid, and the prospect of accumulating credit that could be applied eventually to a bachelor’s degree for those students who did not already have one. Dr. Levy also hoped that someday the paralegal program at IUPUI might qualify for American Bar Association approval, and launching a for-credit version of the program was a needed first step in that direction.
Dr. Levy began to inquire around the IUPUI campus, looking for partners. One of the places he contacted was the law school, but they did not wish to start operating an undergraduate program. He contacted the Political Science department in the School of Liberal Arts in 1996, and a collaboration began.
The Political Science department created and gained approval for a set of for-credit classes matching the classes that had long been offered in the noncredit program. A few adjustments had to be made — the for-credit classes were tied to the 16-week standard semester length, and the number of credit hours had to meet the university’s requirements for a credit certificate. But for the most part, the noncredit and for-credit options matched very well, and the cohort of instructors who had been teaching the noncredit courses (experienced paralegals and attorneys) continued. Now they had some students in their classes who were taking the course for credit through the School of Liberal Arts and other students who were taking it as a noncredit course through the School of Continuing Studies. A procedure was also developed whereby students who started off in the noncredit program could switch to the credit program or vice versa.
The Certificate in Paralegal Studies through the School of Liberal Arts was approved during the 1998-99 school year. Operating the parallel programs required considerable communication and coordination over scheduling, advising of incoming students, entering grades, and tracking student’s progress toward and completion of either the noncredit certificate or the credit certificate. This was accomplished and sustained throughout the early years by a close collaboration among a small group of staff and faculty in Continuing Studies and Liberal Arts.
Once the credit version of the paralegal studies certificate was up and running, a new partnership developed between the paralegal studies program at IUPUI and the legal studies associate’s degree program at Ivy Tech-Indianapolis. Facilitated by the staff in the IUPUI-Ivy Tech Passport office, procedures for transfer credits and matching Ivy Tech courses with IUPUI courses were put in place. This allowed a student who started taking paralegal studies courses at IUPUI to switch to the associate’s degree program at Ivy Tech, or a student who started at Ivy Tech to switch to the paralegal certificate program at IUPUI.
Paralegal studies at IUPUI continued through the 2000s with this combination of the for-credit certificate program housed within the Political Science department at IUPUI, the noncredit program operated by Continuing Studies at IUPUI, and the associate’s degree program at Ivy Tech-Indianapolis.
Under the leadership of director Erin Engels, the program expanded to include a Bachelor’s Degree in Law in Liberal Arts in 2015. The program also added a BA/JD program in partnership with the IU McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis in 2016. In 2018, the program became the only American Bar Association approved program in Indianapolis; joining only two other ABA approved programs in Indiana. Today the program has over 100 majors and certificate students and is one of the more popular majors in the School of Liberal Arts.