NFPA PACE and NALA CLA exams for paralegals are a great way for new graduates to earn a professional certification that will give them the upper hand in today’s tough legal job market. After they have finished their degrees, earning a national certification can be the ticket that grants them access to more interviews, better connections with law firms and the chance to prove their skills and knowledge. Some schools and programs may require their students to take national certification exams in order to graduate. Even if this is not necessary, paralegals are encouraged to get a professional certification in order to stand out as a newly qualified graduate.
The CLA Exam
The Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) is designed to produce paralegals who are educated to a high standard. The exam has five main categories: ethics, communication, substantive law, legal research and judgment and analytical ability. Candidates must pass a certain percentage of each section of the test in order to pass. A person who successfully completes the CLA exam is designated as a “Certified Paralegal (CP)”. Along with their degree, they can use this certification as proof of their skills and abilities in the field of legal assistance. These credentials are valid for a period of five years. This can be renewed if the certified paralegal submits proof of at least 50 hours of continuing legal education during this time. Paralegals must also maintain ethical standards in order to be CLA members in good standing.
The PACE Exam
The Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE) is offered by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations. The exam itself is designed to test the applicant’s knowledge of tasks, legal terminology and ethics. Passing the exam is a sign that the paralegal involved is highly knowledgeable and capable of working in the fast-paced legal world. Paralegals who successfully complete the PACE exam are thereafter referred to as a “PACE Registered Paralegal” or “RP”. This status can be actively maintained by taking twelve hours of legal education every two years. At least one hour must be dedicated to the subject of ethics in law. The re-certification requirements for those who take the PACE exam are not as stringent as those for the CLA, but the PACE exam is every bit as thorough.
Taking the PACE or CLA Exams: a Great Way to Start a Paralegal Career
A student can graduate from a paralegal program and immediately enter the job market, but they will lack the professional certifications that could make them stand out in the workforce. These nationally recognized certifications are proof that the paralegal in question is educated to a recognizable standard and has a good level of commitment towards the profession. NFPA PACE and NALA CLA exams for paralegals are a fantastic idea for anyone who is dedicated to beginning and maintaining an exceptional career in the paralegal field.
For more information on approved programs in a paralegal career, please see “The 20 Cheapest ABA Approved Online Paralegal Programs“.