Paralegal positions are currently in high demand, with increasing job opportunities in various specialties like Immigration Paralegal or Real Estate Paralegal.
However, there is a scarcity of information available when one looks for Paralegal Certifications. According to the American Bar Association, paralegals who meet specific education and work experience standards and pass certification exams are known as certified paralegals in the United States.
Even though being a Certified Paralegal is not a mandatory requirement, it can give you an edge over others. Additionally, certification requirements can vary from one state to another.
In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about paralegal certifications.
A Paralegal is responsible for having legal knowledge and its related concepts. It’s usually not necessary for paralegals to have the complete expertise as that of a licensed lawyer.
The paralegal job market is large and diverse, with opportunities in consulting firms, organizations with legal departments, and those engaged in regulatory and administrative compliance in areas such as environmental, labor, intellectual property, drafting, and taxation.
Paralegals are commonly employed in support roles for public bodies and law firms. The field of a paralegal also offers various job opportunities, from internships and entry-level positions to associate junior, mid-senior, and senior positions.
The American Bar Association (ABA) endorsed the paralegal concept in 1967 and established its first committee on legal assistants in 1968.
It is important to note that the scope of a Paralegal’s tasks can vary depending on the laws and regulations of the country they are working in. In most countries, Paralegals are not allowed to provide legal services independently like attorneys.
However, some Paralegals may choose to start their own business where they offer services such as preparing legal documents, filing paperwork in court, conducting legal research, and other related services. It is essential for Paralegals to ensure that they comply with all applicable laws and regulations while providing these services. (Read More: How to Become a Paralegal?)
Difference Between Certified Paralegals vs Certificated Paralegals
It’s important to note that there is a difference between “certified” paralegals and “certificated” paralegals. The American Bar Association has clarified that these terms are not interchangeable.
“Certified” paralegals have met certain education, work experience, and examination requirements to earn a certification from a recognized professional organization, while “certificated” paralegals have completed a paralegal education program and have been awarded a certificate of completion. (Read More: Paralegal Schools)
Different Certification Authorities for Paralegals
Certification By NALA
In the United States, paralegals who have completed their Certified Paralegal Exam and education and experience requirements for certification such as CP or CLA are awarded certifications by the National Association of Legal Assistants (CP or CLA). (Read More: Paralegal requirements
The American Bar Association, as well as the State Bars, both recognize the CP and CLA credentials. The Certified Paralegal program, which is the oldest in the United States and is administered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), was established in 1976.
The CP Exam has a pass rate between 45 and 50 percent, according to Legal Assistant Today magazine. A paralegal who earns the CP credential is eligible to take part in the Advanced Paralegal Certification program. (Read More: Paralegal vs Legal Assistant)
Accreditation by the Public League of Paralegal Affiliations
The Public League of Paralegal Affiliations, or NFPA, offers two confirmation programs. In 1996, they launched their Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam. In 2011, they launched their Paralegal CORE Competency Exam.
A paralegal who finishes the certificate cycle through the NFPA gets the certificate -> Enlisted Paralegal (RP) for passing the Speed Test and Center Enrolled Paralegal (CRP) for passing the PCCE Test.
The objective of the Paralegal CORE Competency Exam TM (PCCETM) is to evaluate the knowledge, abilities, and capabilities of entry-level and early-career paralegals.
The RP and CRP credentials are recognized by the American Bar Association and State Bars.
The PACE exam consists of hypothetical questions testing the advanced application of general knowledge, paralegal experience, and critical analysis that can only be obtained through a higher level of education and actual work experience. (Read More: Paralegal qualifications)
Certification by NALS
NALS stands for the Association for Legal Professionals (formerly the National Association of Legal Secretaries).
This Professional Paralegal Exam was established in 2004 and is offered by NALS, the Association for Legal Professionals (formerly the National Association of Legal Secretaries).
The Professional Paralegal (PP) credential is awarded to a paralegal who successfully completes the NALS certification process. The PP credential is recognized by the American Bar Association and State Bars.
Top 5 Skills You Need to Have as a Paralegal
To become a successful paralegal, you will need to equip yourself with these few essential paralegal skills.
Let us take a look at the top 5 skills that help you become a valued paralegal-
- Ability to Multitask
Paralegals are mostly seen juggling between different cases and tasks. They are often expected to handle any given case like a pro. As Litigation often moves rapidly, Paralegals are required to multitask and be able to handle each case effectively.
- Strong Attention to Detail
Paralegals are expected to pay close attention when dealing with various documents, and for this reason, they are required to have strong attention to detail.
- Willingness to Learn
As a matter of fact, the work of a Paralegal is not just restricted to handling cases or document drafting but so much more.
Paralegals are often required to work out of their comfort zone, communicate with the clients, handle meetings individually, or take interviews with witnesses.
- Expertise in Legal Education
A Paralegal’s prime duty is to handle litigation files with ease, be it written papers or electronic files. Also paralegals are also required to organize files efficiently. A paralegal that specializes in litigation is called a Litigation Paralegal.
Job Duties of a Paralegal
Have you ever asked this question, what do paralegals do? Here are the top job duties of a paralegal
- Preparing affidavits, legal correspondence, and other documents for attorneys
One of the core duties of a Paralegal is to prepare various types of affidavits, legal correspondence, and other documents for the attorneys as and when required. If you’re confused about the duties of a lawyer and a paralegal, check out Paralegals vs Lawyers.
- Organizing and maintaining documents in a paper or electronic filing system
Paralegals are also required to organize documents and maintain them efficiently via physical or digital platforms.
- Meeting with clients, attorneys, and other professionals to talk about case details
A Paralegal is often required to be attentive while managing files or scheduling different meetings with clients and attorneys.
- Filing pleadings with the court clerk
Paralegals are also expected to file pleadings with the court clerk and take accountability for the same.
- Preparing briefs, wills, contracts, real estate closing statements, pleadings, appeals, and other legal documents
A Paralegal is required to have a great flair for preparing briefs, wills, contracts, and other related legal documents on a standalone basis. (Read More: Working as a Paralegal)
- Investigating facts and laws of cases and searching public records and other resources to prepare cases and determine causes of action
Paralegals mostly investigate the facts and laws of cases and search public records.
- Calling on witnesses to testify at hearings
A Paralegal can be also seen calling on witnesses to testify at the hearing.
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