Paralegals are trained professionals who provide support and help to lawyers, legal firms and government agencies. Most paralegals obtain their training through certificate or associate degree programs offered at community colleges or technical schools. Paralegals are not required to have certification in any of the states, but many choose voluntary certification to enhance their resumes and improve their career and job opportunities. Here are a few organizations that offer certifications for paralegals as well as the certifications they offer.
Related resource: The 19 Cheapest ABA Approved Online Paralegal Programs
The National Association of Paralegals (NALA)
The Certified Paralegal (CP) and Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) credentials are available through NALA for paralegals who meet the requirements and pass the exam. Certified paralegals who want to advance their credentials can also take the Advanced Paralegal Certification (APC) exam. More than 19,000 paralegals have obtained the CP credential, and more than 3,400 have earned the APC credential in the U.S. as of 2017. There are also a few state-specific paralegal certifications offered through NALA.
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
Candidates who pass the Paralegal CORE Competency Exam® through NFPA can use the use the CRP® credential. The NFPA also has the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam® (or PACE), which entitles paralegals to use the RP® credential after their name once they’ve passed the examination. Although having a degree in paralegal studies and work experience qualifies the candidate to take these exams, a degree is not a requirement if the individual has from 2 to 4 years of experience in paralegal work.
The Association for Legal Professionals (NALS)
NALs features the following three certifications.
• Accredited Legal Professional (ALP) – This is for paralegal students and entry-level paralegals just starting their careers who want a credential for career growth.
• Certified Legal Professional (CLP) – This four-part, one-day examination is for candidates who have at least three years of legal work experience.
• Professional Paralegal (PP) – This test, which is also a four-part, one-day examination, is for individuals who either have at least five years of paralegal work experience or have graduated from an ABA-accredited paralegal or legal studies academic program.
The American Alliance of Paralegals (AAPI)
The AAPI offers the American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) credential to paralegals who are members of the AAPI and meet the eligibility requirements. To be eligible, the applicant must have at least five years of relevant paralegal experience and have completed a paralegal education program that resulted in either a certificate or associate degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor’s degree in any major.
State Bar Association
The American Bar Association indicates that several states, such as Florida, North Carolin, and Ohio, offer paralegals the opportunities to earn state certification through the state bar association. Paralegals in Indiana who meet the training and education requirements can earn the Indian Registered Paralegal credential by registering with the state bar association. The Texas bar association offers paralegals certification in seven areas. Arizona, California, and Washington offer specific certifications to registered paralegals who wish to offer legal document services. Paralegals who have earned certification must complete continuing education credits to maintain the certification.
The demand for paralegals continues to grow because it allows lawyers to do less in the office but see more clients. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that while certification is not a legal requirement, many employers prefer to hire paralegals who are certified.