National Association of Legal Assistants
The National Association of Legal Assistants, or NALA, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a variety of services to legal assistants or paralegals. NALA represents more than 15,000 paralegals. Its major programs include certification for paralegals; educational classes; publications; and occupational research.
NALA offers the Certified Legal Assistant/Certified Paralegal (CLA/CP). Through the CLA/CP certification program, NALA hopes to establish a national professional standard for paralegals. The CLA/CP credential is recognized by the American Bar Association and by more than 47 other paralegal organizations and bar associations.
In order to be eligible to take the CLA/CP examination, you must first meet one of three educational requirements:
- You must have graduated from an ABA-approved paralegal program or an associate's degree program; possess a post-baccalaureate certificate in paralegal studies or a bachelor's degree in legal assistant studies; or have completed a paralegal program of at least 60 semester hours.
- Possess a bachelor's degree in any field and have one year of experience as a legal assistant, or have completed a paralegal program of at least 15 semester hours.
- Possess a high school diploma and seven years of experience as a paralegal while working with a member of the bar, and at least 20 hours of continuing legal education credits.
The test itself is administered three times a year, once in March or April, once in July, and once in December. You can find exact test dates and the application at the NALA website. Generally, applications must be submitted about two months before the test date. The cost of the exam is $250 for NALA members and $275 for non-members. It costs $60 dollars to retake a section.
The actual test is divided into 5 sections that test your knowledge of different areas:
- Communications : How well can you communicate, both verbally and in writing, with clients?
- Ethics : How well do you understand your ethical responsibilities, how well do you know the ABA's Rules of Professional Conduct and the NALA Code of Ethics?
- Legal Research : Measures your ability to find and correctly cite the right facts and legal issues.
- Judgment and Analytical Ability : Tests your ability to identify relevant facts and arguments, and how well you draw logical conclusions.
- Substantive Law : Tests your knowledge of the facts and principles that make up different parts of the law.
A minimum score of 70 percent is required on all sections in order to earn the CLA/CP credential. Each section is comprised of a combination of true/false, multiple choice, and matching questions. The Communications and Judgment and Analytical Ability sections also contain essay questions.
There are many resources available to help you prepare for the CLA/CP examination. Take a look at the NALA website for information on study materials.
The CLA/CP certification remains valid for five years. You must obtain 50 hours of continuing education (including five hours of ethics training) in order to maintain certification. If you allow your certification to lapse without completing the required continuing education, you will have to take the exam again to be recertified.