3 Organizations That Pave the Way to Paralegal Certification
The benefits of becoming paralegal certified are invaluable. Many paralegals that work within the field often overlook the positive benefits of obtaining professional certification. Although not a mandatory requirement, every paralegal should give pause to consider the process as the growth in self-development and professional expertise make it worthwhile. Let’s explore the process.
Obtaining Paralegal Certification
Paralegal certification can be obtained in three ways. Although there is no standardization across the board, each certification process does ensure the proper rigor through experience and/or academics in order maintain integrity and high standards. The first way that certification can be obtained is through the completion of an academic degree program from a college, university, or other degree granting school. This is a good pathway to follow in achieving academic certification but requires additional time and expense to complete the necessary academic coursework.
The next pathway to becoming paralegal certified is one that embraces prior work experience and proficiency within the field and confers a professional certification as opposed to merely an academic one. There are three primary organizations that paralegals can qualify for professional certification through. They are:
- The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), offering Certified Paralegal (CP) and Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP) certifications.
- The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), offering the Paralegal CORE Competency Exam (PCCE) to earn the Core Registered Paralegal (CRP) certification and the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE) to earn the coveted Registered Paralegal (RP) certification.
- The National Association of Legal Secretaires (NALS), offering Professional Paralegal (PP), Certified Legal Professional/Professional Legal Secretary (CLP/PLS), and Accredited Legal Professional (ALP) certifications.
Although membership within these organizations is not necessary to obtain certification through them, membership will confer a healthy discount on testing and certification fees. Last, once a certification is conferred, Continuing Legal Education (CLE)/Continuing Professional Education (CPE) must be earned in order to maintain it. Each organization and certification have different requirements with some allowing certification renewal through CLE/CPE every five years and others requiring it annually.
The last way of obtaining professional certification is through voluntary state certification. The Bar Associations in Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio for example, have their own in-house programs to assist paralegals on this journey. The Florida Bar offers the Florida Registered Paralegal Program (FRP). The Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) offers the OSBA Paralegal Certification Process. The North Carolina State Bar offers the North Carolina Certified Paralegal (NCCP) certification. Last, the State of Texas offers a Texas Board Certified Paralegal (TBPC) certification through the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
Some programs, such as North Carolina’s, will waive the education provisions required for certification if NALA’s CLA or CP or NFPA’s CRP or RP certification is held. Please don’t forget to include engaging your employer in your professional certification goals as the organization might offer to pay for the certification and CLEs as part of your employment package. It never hurts to ask, right?
Benefits of Becoming Paralegal Certified
Finally, the benefits of earning a professional certification and becoming paralegal certified more than offset the fees for certification testing and CLE maintenance. First and foremost, professional certification is an investment in making yourself more marketable within the legal field by providing more employment opportunities. Next, a professional certification may qualify you for a higher salary. By way of comparison, NALA claims that the average salary increase by holders of their CP certification is $4,880 per year.
Obtaining a professional certification (and through subsequent CLE training) will also allow you to stay abreast of the most current rulings and laws affecting the paralegal community and will also serve to sharpen your paralegal skills. Last, a professional certification will allow you to prove that you have the ability to do just that, therefore proving your intellectual capacity, technical proficiency, and determination to be among the best in the field. This may result in greater employer satisfaction thus providing you with even more employment security.
In sum, a paralegal professional certification is certainly worth your consideration to further your career and to show your commitment to excellence within the field. The benefits of becoming paralegal certified can advance a professional in the field in a number of ways. For more information on becoming paralegal certified or details on any of these programs, please reach out to the respective certification granting organizations under the website addresses provided.
Written by Professor Jeffrey Hauck
Professor Jeffrey Hauck currently resides in Texas with his wife and family. He is serving in the U.S. Army as a Space Operations Officer for an Innovation Command providing guidance and assessments for Theater and Homeland Defense missions. His military service includes more than twenty years of experience both as a U.S. Army Non-Commissioned and Commissioned Officer employed as an Airborne Infantry Pathfinder; Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) basic branch Officer; and now a Space Operations Officer (FA-40). His law enforcement career includes fifteen years of service as a municipal police officer hired, and twice promoted, through the Civil Service Commission.
Professor Hauck retired from law enforcement at the rank of Sergeant as a platoon shift supervisor and administrator. He possesses many years of training, lecturing, & business management experience as well as more than fifteen years of experience as a Licensed Private Detective (LPD). During the years of 2006 – 2014 he was Licensed and Bonded as a Private Detective empowered to conduct private investigations throughout the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of Alabama.
Professor Hauck is currently licensed as a Private Investigator in the State of Texas. He earned a Juris Doctor (JD) Degree and was a fellow at the Law & Government Institute earning specializations in both Administrative and Constitutional Law at Widener University School of Law. He also holds a Master of Science (MSc) degree in Criminal Justice, a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Criminal Justice, and a Career Diploma as a Certified Legal Assistant/Paralegal. Currently, he is a Ph.D candidate.
As a law enforcement officer Professor Hauck held certification to teach at the Police Academy Level (PA Act 120) as a Special & General law enforcement Educator/Trainer. He is credentialed as a Certified Law Enforcement Trainer (CLET), Certified Protection Officer (CPO), Certified International Investigator (CII), and Certified Instructor in the areas of academics, skills, and firearms for Pennsylvania’s Act 235, The Lethal Weapons Training Act. He has been teaching as an Adjunct Professor of Criminal Justice and Paralegal Studies in both brick and mortar and distance institutions since 2002. He is a proud member of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), the Texas Association of Licensed Investigators (TALI), and other professional organizations.