American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc.
The American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. (AAPI) was founded in 2003 to “promote and improve the profession of paralegals; to advance the educational and literary standard of the paralegal profession; and to foster, encourage and disseminate information concerning the profession.”
Only paralegals are eligible for membership with the APPI, and membership costs $20 per year. To become a member you must meet one of the following qualifications:
- Possess a bachelor's degree and have two years of paralegal experience
- Possess a bachelor's degree and a two-year paralegal certificate
- Possess an associate's degree and have four years of paralegal experience
- Possess a two-year paralegal certificate and have two years of paralegal experience
- Possess a paralegal certificate and have six years of paralegal experience
The AAPI offers the American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) designation. By obtaining this designation, a paralegal proves that he or she has a high level of expertise in his or her field. The credential requires a combination of education and experience. Other certificate programs place less emphasis on levels of education and more emphasis on testing to ascertain ability.
To become an AACP, you must possess at least five years of substantive paralegal experience and meet at least one of three educational criteria:
- Possess a bachelor's or advanced degree in any field.
- Possess an associate's degree in paralegal studies from a program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).
- Possess a certificate from an ABA-approved paralegal program.
Not sure if your paralegal program is approved by the ABA? Find out by going to the directory of approved programs on the ABA website.
Unlike other paralegal certification organizations, the AAPI does not require that you pass a test before earning AACP status. Instead, you must complete an application, provide a certified copy of your official transcripts, provide an affidavit or declaration from an attorney that proves your work experience, and submit a processing fee. The processing fee is currently $75, although it is subject to change. A commission consisting of three members appointed by AAPI board of directors will review your qualifications and decide whether or not to designate you as an AACP. Decisions by the commission can be appealed. Application forms can be found on the AACPI website.
Your AACP certification must be renewed every two years. To be eligible for renewal, you must complete 18 hours of continuing legal education with at least two hours in ethics, and you must be employed as a paralegal. The renewal fee is $25, and your renewal application must be submitted with documents that prove you have completed at least 18 hours of legal education. Your renewal application with all supplementary materials must be submitted to the AACPI 60 days before your AACP expires.
There are a number of ways to earn continuing legal education credits. You may attend legal conferences or seminars, subject to the approval of the AACPI director of education. If you aren't sure if a conference or seminar will be approved, contact the AACPI. You can also earn credit for publishing legal work, speaking or teaching, and for completing legal course work at an ABA-accredited law school or paralegal program.