Paralegals, who are also commonly referred to as legal assistants, assist attorneys in their everyday professional practices and are thus, a vital part of the legal industry.  These professionals typically work in legal firms, however, there are numerous positions that they fill within corporations and government agencies as well.  There is a very high demand for certified paralegals and this can be an extremely rewarding and exciting career once an individual has completed his or her training.  To get started in this industry, it is usually the case that a paralegal certification must first be obtained.

What Is A Paralegal Certification?

A certified paralegal is an individual who has completed an acceptable amount of training and who has fulfilled all requirements for being recognized by third-party agencies and associations.  In order to obtain a paralegal certification, people must first meet educational and experience requirements as well as obtain passing marks on a special examination.

It is purely voluntary to obtain a paralegal certification, but there remain many benefits for the people who obtain a paralegal certification.  This is especially true when applying for employment within the legal industry.

What Type of Certification is Required?

There are four bodies who issue paralegal certification.  Successful applicants are granted different recognitions by each.  They include NALS (the National Assoc. for Legal Professionals, AAPI (American Alliance of Paralegals), NALA (National Assoc. of Legal Assistants) and NFPA (National Federation of Paralegal Associations.

Since 1976 the NALA has sponsored exams.  Those who pass this exam can become a CP (Certified Paralegal) or a CLA (Certified Legal Assistant).

Once an association for legal secretaries, NALS offers 3 different certification types; the PP, ALS and PLS. The most basic of these certificates is the ALS, while those who wish to receive a paralegal association will need to apply for the PP.  A PLS is reserved for people who have had a substantial amount of prior experience and have completed advanced studies.

The AACP is offered by AAPI although applicants are not required to pass an exam.  They must simply provide AAPI with proof of working experience.

The Paralegal Advance Competency Exam or PACE is offered by the NFPA.  Those who pass will then become PACE registered paralegals or RPs.

Requirements For Eligibility

There are standard qualification sets that most certifying bodies have in place for people wishing to receive a paralegal certification.  The most basic of these requirements are:

An AA as a paralegal from an ABA approved institution or a BA in any course when applicants have an adequate number of credits in the area of paralegal studies. When no post-secondary degree has been obtained, applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent as well as seven years or more of experience as a legal assistance or paralegal under a licensed attorney.  Additionally, applicants must also complete a minimum of 20 hours of related instruction no more than two years before the certification exam is taken. Between two and five years of experience as a post-graduate legal assistant. Completed application form.

Continued Training

In order to maintain a paralegal certification it will be necessary to receive continued training every several years or to complete a specified amount of training within a specific time period.  This helps to ensure that individuals with a paralegal certification maintain the current skills and knowledge for continuing to be qualified for their positions.