Certification can be a great way to advance your career as a paralegal, once you have graduated with a degree. It's not a requirement, but it is highly recommended. Here is an introduction to the organizations that offer certification along with some tips to ace the exams.
Though it is not required, paralegal certification is highly recommended. Four organizations offer paralegal certification. They are:
Offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants, this certification option is an introductory certification for those who are new to the field. NALA also offers advanced paralegal education and testing for future growth in the paralegal industry. To earn this accreditation, you must have graduated from an approved paralegal certificate program; have a bachelor's degree with one year of paralegal experience; or have seven years of experience and a high school diploma. After the qualifications are met, the applicant must apply and pass a two-day comprehensive exam on the paralegal profession.
Offered by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, this certification option is a more advanced option for those who possess a substantial amount of experience in both the education and practice of the paralegal field. This option requires one to six years of paralegal experience and various levels of education. Passing a one-day exam on legal communications, procedures, ethics, and knowledge completes the certification.
Offered by the National Association of Legal Secretaries, certification as a Professional Paralegal is primarily an experience-based certification requiring two to five years of experience as a legal assistant. Once these requirements are met, passing a one-day exam on legal communications, knowledge, ethics, and practices completes the certification. After certification, NALS offers options for advanced education and certification in the paralegal field.
Offered by the American Alliance of Paralegals, this certification is also experience heavy, requiring five years of paralegal experience coupled with an associate's or bachelor's degree and an ABA-approved certificate program. Once all qualifications are met, a processing fee must be sent in alongside an application, transcripts, and an affidavit from the employing attorney. No exam is necessary.
- If you can afford the $50 to $100 cost, you should take online review courses and practice examinations.
- Stay hydrated before and during the exam
- Rest well the night before
- Read questions carefully
- Review essay answers for clarity and errors
- Skip questions that take too much time and come back to them later
- Cost: $250 members, $275 non-members
- Study Materials: Practice Exam, Review Texts, and Online Resources Website
- Communications : word use, vocabulary, writing
- Ethics : responsibilities, client contact, integrity, relationships, attorney codes, ABA Rules of Professional Conduct
- Legal Research : sources of law, citing and updating, problem analysis
- Judgment and Analytical Ability : data comprehension, knowledge application, evaluation and categorization, organizing data in writing
- Substantive Law : court systems; branches of government, agencies, and concepts; legal concepts and principles; sources of classification
- Specialty Knowledge : administrative law, bankruptcy, business organizations, civil litigations, contracts
- Domain I : administration, conflict checks, client organization, calendar and tickler maintenance, database development
- Domain II : development of client legal matters, interviews, information analysis, counsel collaboration, legal documents, preparing clients and witnesses
- Domain III : factual and legal research, investigation and compilation, inspection, evaluation, analysis
- Domain IV : factual and legal writing, client communication, draft documents
- Domain V : office administration, personnel management, technology, vendor services, library and legal resources, billing
- Written Communications : grammar and usage, spelling, punctuation, number usage, composition, expression
- Legal Knowledge and Skills : research citations, terminology, court system and ADR, client interviews, investigations, docketing
- Ethics and Judgment : client contact, co-workers and subordinates, ethical codes, decision making, prioritization
- Substantive Law : business organization, contracts, civil procedure and litigation, criminal, family