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Certification in the paralegal profession
usually refers to any means by which a paralegal or legal assistant has sought
to establish, through the oversight of a professional organization, that they
have acquired and can exhibit the skills needed to perform the duties
associated with the job of paralegal.education
examination, or both.

By this same point,
certification should be seen as means of improving one’s standing
It is simply a means of measuring competence and ability, not a means by
which to qualify for employment.

The most recognized means of certification
recognized in the legal profession is the National Association of Legal
Assistants’ (NALA), though there others, and they each have different
requirements for certification.

The CLA/CP certification requires varying
levels of existing experience and education, typically pertaining to having
completed an 
NALA, American Bar
(ABA), or American Association For Paralegal
Education (AAfPE) accredited paralegal training program.

In the case of an individual having a bachelor’s degree in a field other
than legal assistant/paralegal studies, they must have an additional year of
experience as a paralegal under a lawyer’s supervision. 

The Advanced Paralegal
Certification is usually given to experienced paralegals that focus more
specifically on specialized fields of the law, like property, malpractice,
tort, criminal, and so on.

Other certification exams include the American
Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) credential, which is administered by the
American Alliance of Paralegals (AAP).   The National Federation of
Paralegal Associations offers the Registered Paralegal credential. Both require
additional course work in order to renew their certification every two years.

Certification can also be extended to
paralegal institutions, as well with AAfPE  To be certified with either organization, the
program must meet elevated standards of education quality, not limited to
extensive diversity and depth of studies offered, combined with a substantial
emphasis on ethics, and they must maintain those standards through ongoing
periods of review and renewal every 5-7 years.

Is Paralegal Registration Required?

Is Paralegal Registration Required?

In nearly all states, paralegal
registration is not required with any government affiliated agency, because the
paralegal profession as a whole is subject to very little oversight.  In these regards paralegal
registration is a means of empowerment to the profession and a means of
establishing paralegals’ commitment to their occupation.

Organizations that many
professional paralegals and legal assistants can join include the
National Association of
Legal Assistants
(NALA), National Federation for
Paralegal Associations
(NFPA) , as well as educational
certification organizations such as the American Association for Paralegal
Education (AAfPE) and the American Bar Association (ABA).

The ABA ad AAfPE are both heavily involved in
certifying paralegal training facilities, and all four organizations run
regular conferences that

Paralegal registration also often
proves to be a valuable networking tool, especially in the Internet age, with
many websites providing sites where paralegals can come together, keep in touch
with one another,  

websites also provide a valuable source of news that involves the legal
profession, and they often offer services that can help a paralegal, especially
in terms of finding employment, as well recommending additional training and
the means by which to acquire it.

As of the current time, legal
registration of paralegals is only required in two states, California and
Washington, and exists on a voluntary basis in a third, Florida.  They are otherwise
forbidden from engaging in any legal activity on behalf of a client.  They must also be bonded by
their respective states.

In Florida, registration remains
voluntary, and is done primarily in the interest of establishing the paralegal’s
transparency in the eyes of the law.

All Paralegals Should Know About Credentials

All Paralegals Should Know About Credentials

Credentialing in the paralegal profession is still a fairly new idea, and one that can be implemented by numerous organizations. While no single paralegal certification is universally recognized as the best (though the National Association of Legal Assistants’, or NALA, is the most prominent), they do provide a means by which an employer can ascertain an employee’s potential viability based on their knowledge and capability.

Almost any organization that trains paralegals or legal assistants offers some credentials that the paralegal has achieved a certain level of knowledge in their field (especially with that credential takes the form of an associates or bachelors degree).  

Where the acquiring of credentials become beneficial is when the prospective paralegal has no actual degree in the field, then passing a certification exam can become vital to establishing to an employer that the applicant has a certain degree of knowledge in the field.

While certification exams or means of credentialing may vary, they can generally be held to adhere to a certain level of content, with many requiring some kind of preexisting proof of having made it through an accredited paralegal training program.  

Commonly these will then be combined with a comprehensive testing of basic legal knowledge that a paralegal will be required to call on during the course of their work.  nearly all certification exams is a comprehensive overview of ethical protocols that are required by any participant in the legal profession, especially as it comes to issues of disclosure and conflicts of interest.

It is important to note, however, that since paralegals are often unregulated and unlicensed, that certification is not required, and paralegals are hired on other merits and trained on the job without any prior experience in the paralegal profession.  

Occasionally, higher end paralegal positions will ask for some form of credentials or certification based on the more precise needs of the job, but it is fairly rare that they will specialize a particular form of certification. 

Why Do Paralegals Have Licensing Credentials?

Why Do Paralegals Have Licensing Credentials?

Licensing is a concept that is still fairly foreign in the paralegal profession, with the only state so far requiring full scale paralegal licensing is California, which is mainly in place to regulate Legal Document Assistants.  Whether this should be the case or whether licensing should be enacted remains a pertinent source of debate amongst the legal profession.

Essentially, it must be understood that the rise in paralegals in the 1970s was in response to lawyers being overburdened with substantive legal tasks, such as research, analysis, filing, and many other assorted task that lawyer, were, in essence, too well paid to do.  

The results were beneficial to both sides, as the legal industry, which expanding at a significant rate, was able to control costs by delegating the new and growing work loan to paralegals, who were paid well, but far below the amounts that a typical attorney could bill for his or her services.

The paralegal profession exploded, and continues to grow at significant rate, because the profession often did not require substantial training or education.certification from voluntary organizations, anyone could become a paralegal provided they could be hired to be one. 

However, what this has led to is an inconsistency in the ways in which paralegals have been classifiable, and the nature of activities undertaken by members could be radically different from position to position, even within the same firm or organization.  

Therefore, many states, short of licensing paralegals, began to set guidelines and mandates that described paralegals in reductive terms, typically in ways that specified which powers of attorney that paralegals were not allowed to assume. 

In many regards, the lack of regulation of paralegals has actually been relatively effective, as it has not led to an increase in legal abuses, according to most bar associations.  

Some also feel that providing licensing and regulation will result in greater specification of the tasks and jobs that paralegals can perform, thus entitling them to an increased rate of compensation, one more commiserate with lawyers (many paralegals and paralegal organizations remain divided on this particular idea).

The key factor that will likely continue to inform this debate is the relative need for education required by paralegals going forward.  However, given the important part paralegals play in the modern legal profession, and given how vital the rule of law is the organization of any society, there are some who consider the open and deregulated nature of the paralegal industry an ethical breach in and of itself, even a potential disaster waiting to happen.