The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) promotes excellence within the paralegal profession mainly through NALA certification and other professional development programs. NALA is a non-profit organization that serves over 18,000 members around the country. Its membership categories include everyone from seasoned paralegal professionals to students who are enrolled in accredited paralegal studies at universities. The organization gives members access to numerous articles and journal publications that help to keep paralegals knowledgeable about regulatory changes, ethics and prominent case law. While members find NALA’s online legal library and its comprehensive job board appealing, it is the association’s certification programs that are the main attractions. Here are the types of paralegal professional certifications that are offered by NALA, the requirements for earning the certifications and the career benefits for those with NALA certification.
Types of Paralegal Certifications Offered by NALA
NALA administers the Certified Paralegal (CP) and Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP) programs which are strictly voluntary credentials that are not required by law for employment in the paralegal profession. The CP designation is designed for paralegals who are new to the profession as well as those people who want to gain entry into the career field. The CP credential indicates that the paralegal has sufficient knowledge that relates to legal research, communication, ethics and the legal system in the United States to gain and maintain employment in the legal profession. While students are free to prepare for CP certification on their own, NALA which has been sponsoring the CP credential since 1976 offers courses and other study aids to help CP candidates in their quest. The ACP program which has been administered by NALA since 2006 was created for certified paralegals who want to demonstrate to employers and colleagues that they have mastered certain legal topics that are needed for more challenging work assignments. The organization offers the ACP program in 26 categories, and some of them are trademarks, social security disability, trial case law, personal injury and real estate.
Requirements for Earning Paralegal Certification Through NALA
For paralegals and aspiring paralegals to become certified, they must pass the national CP exam. Besides administration and ethics, the CP exam focuses on the areas of contracts, civil litigation,business organization, judgment and analytical ability. NALA is committed to making sure that the CP exam remains relevant to the modern challenges faced by legal professionals in actual work settings. Subsequently, the organization regularly conducts job surveys using its extensive network of paralegals around the country, and they modify the exam’s content and weighted scoring scales to meet the legal profession’s standards for competence. A paralegal must have successfully passed the CP exam and hold that credential in good standing to qualify for the ACP designation. Instead of taking another exam to verify advanced subject knowledge, ACP candidates must complete course work in one of NALA’s 26 designated categories. Each course takes about 20 hours to complete.
Employment Benefits for NALA Certified Paralegals
NALA certifications give law firms, government agencies and other potential hiring authorities a quick way to verify the skills and competency levels of paralegals who are seeking initial employment or promotions within their organizations. NALA administered certification programs are endorsed by the American Bar Association, and its certified paralegals enjoy the benefits of increased job opportunities and higher salaries than non-credentialed paralegals.
A paralegal who seeks certification through NALA must have a degree in legal studies or relevant work experience to even qualify to sit for the CP exam. While NALA certification is not a quick entry into the paralegal profession, it does offer a qualified professional an effective platform to gain quality employment if they have done adequate preparation.