NALS: National Association of Legal Secretaries
NALS, formerly the National Association of Legal Secretaries, was founded in 1929 and incorporated in 1949 with the mission of improving the careers of legal secretaries and paralegals. NALS provides a variety of services to its members, including continuing legal education, information for paralegals, training, and certification. It costs $98 per year to be a member, although there is a financial hardship waiver.
NALS offers three different types of certification:
- Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS)
- Professional Legal Secretary (PLS)
- Professional Paralegal (PP)
The ALS and PLS are designed for legal professionals of all types, and the PP is specifically for those who are performing paralegal work. Introduced in 2004, the PP certification shows that you possess a mastery of procedural skills; an advanced knowledge of procedural law, the law library, and the preparation of legal documents; knowledge of substantive law; the ability to work with attorneys and clients; and a high degree of ethics and discipline.
In order to receive PP certification, you must pass an examination. In order to be eligible to take the examination, you must meet one of the following requirements:
- Possess five years of experience working as a paralegal or legal assistant/secretary.
- Possess a post-secondary degree or a paralegal certificate and four years of experience.
- Possess a paralegal degree and three years of experience.
The PP exam is offered on the first Saturday of March and the last Saturday of September every year. Application deadlines are as follows:
- Postmark by January 1 for the March test
- Postmark by August 1 for the September examination.
- Applications postmarked after the deadline but received by NALS by January 11 or August 11 will be accepted, but with a 35 dollar late fee.
If you already have PLS certification, then the price of the PP exam is $150 for NALS members $200 dollars for non-members. If you do not have PLS certification, then the PP test is $200 for members and $250 for non-members. To re-take the test it costs $50 per part for NALS members and $60 per part for non-members.
The PP exam is divided into four parts:
- Written Communications: Dedicated to testing your grammar, spelling, composition and other writing skills.
- Legal Knowledge and Skills: Tests your ability to conduct legal research, interview clients, plan investigations, and docketing.
- Ethics and Judgment: Measures your understanding of the ethical standards of the legal profession and your ability to appropriately apply this understanding.
- Substantive Law: Tests your knowledge of substantive law, which refers to the body of rules that determine the rights and obligations of individuals and collective bodies.
To successfully complete the test, you must earn at least 70 percent on each section. If you are a PLS, then you only need to pass the Substantive Law section.
The PP certification must be renewed every five years. In order to maintain certification, you must take 75 hours of continuing education classes. At least 50 of these hours must be on substantive areas; a minimum of five hours must be on ethics; and no more than 20 hours can be on other areas. Recertification costs $75.