Are All Paralegal Certificates Valid And Will They Help With Career Progression?
People looking to enter the legal profession often ask if all paralegal certificates are valid and the answer sometimes shocks them. It is possible to study for a certificate online only to find that you have wasted your time. If you are serious about having a long and lasting career as a legal assistant, as paralegals are also known, you should pass one of the recognized paralegal certifications. They are those offered from the following organizations:
National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA):
This organization has about 25000 members and offers the CLA/CP exam. You have to meet specific educational and work experience criteria. You can find out more about these requirements on the NALA website. The exam itself is quite rigorous and most students will take their time studying to make sure they are properly prepared. When you are ready to sit this certification test, the exam itself will take two days. The subjects covered include an introduction to legal documentation, ethics, an introduction to law etc. You have the choice of picking four specific areas of law from a range of nine. For example some people want to become a bankruptcy paralegal so they would choose to study bankruptcy law. Once you have passed you can call yourself either a certified legal assistant or certified paralegal. Some believe that certified paralegal sounds better but it is up to you.
If you want to continue your studies once you pass the initial certification, you can sit advanced modules offered by NALA.
National Federation of Paralegal Association (NFPA)
This is the other major player in the world of paralegal certification and is particularly relevant for those who have worked in a legal assistant role for many years but for whatever reason didn’t sit their certification exams. Once you pass a four hour exam you can call yourself a Registered Paralegal (RP). In addition to being a shorter exam, the PACE exam is also available virtually all year round as it is a computer based test.
The above are the two best known but you may want to investigate what certifications are available locally. Some students do not want to get into the politics associated with the above associations. They are also costly to join and can be quite time consuming as you are obliged to attend lectures and may have to work pro bono for a certain numbers of hours per year.
The benefits of joining a local legal association can be huge as they offer you the chance to meet with other people in the legal profession. These contacts could help you secure a new position.