3 Organizations That Lead to Paralegal Certification
Paralegal certification is an important career decision that should not be taken lightly. Although it is not a mandatory requirement, every paralegal should consider the process as 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 requires experience and/or academics to 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 option to pursue certification, but it requires additional time and money to complete the coursework.
The next path to paralegal certification is one that embraces prior work experience and proficiency in the field. There are three primary organizations that paralegals can qualify for professional certification through. They include:
- 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 Secretaries (NALS), offering Professional Paralegal (PP), Certified Legal Professional/Professional Legal Secretary (CLP/PLS), and Accredited Legal Professional (ALP) certifications.
Although membership is not necessary to obtain certification through these organizations, there are member-exclusive discounts on testing and other fees. Once a certification is conferred, Continuing Legal Education (CLE)/Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits must be earned in order to maintain it. Each organization and certification have different requirements, with some allowing certification renewal through every five years, while others require annual renewal.
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
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. This helps increase the prospects of new employment opportunities.A professional certification could also qualify you for a higher salary in the firm that you currently work under.. 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 allows you to stay current of recent rulings and laws affecting the paralegal community and will also serve to sharpen your paralegal skills. A professional certification ultimately proves 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 a competitive industry.
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.
The Blackstone Difference
Blackstone’s nationally-accredited Legal Assistant/Paralegal Diploma Program & Training offers you more than the 900 clock hours of coursework needed to sit for the Accredited Legal Professional (ALP) exam and/or the Professional Paralegal (PP) certification, given by NALS, the association for legal professionals.
Blackstone Career Institute’s online Paralegal Diploma Program & Training meets the accredited business/legal course criteria needed to sit for the Certified Legal Assistant/Certified Paralegal (CLA/CP) exam given by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA).