Certification

 

National Paralegal Certification Through NFPA

JOIN THE RANKS OF SELECT PARALEGALS IN THE UNITED STATES WHO ARE CREDENTIALED AS REGISTERED PARALEGALS

Employer requirements vary widely due to the various types of work performed by paralegals.  So then how do you make yourself stand out as an exceptional paralegal?  A great way would be to earn an authorized credential which is widely recognized in the field.  NFPA offers two voluntary credentialing exams, both of which require strict requirements be met before taking:

  • The Paralegal CORE Competency Exam™ establishes that your education has prepared you for many types of paralegal duties and helps you stand out from others whose schooling and experience are otherwise similar. Those who have passed the PCCE may proudly display the CRP™ designation after their name after verIfication by NFPA.
  • The Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam® is for those with not only a comprehensive education in paralegal studies but also years of practical experience.  Earning the RP® designation by passing the PACE Exam shows that you are one of the best in the field!

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Understanding Certification and Credentialing for Paralegals

As GAP noted in its Position Statements, currently there is no formal regulation scheme for paralegals in Georgia or in the United States*, with the possible exceptions of the Limited Liability Legal Technician (LLLT) in Washington state and the Licensed Paralegal Practitioner in Utah.  However, GAP highly recommends that paralegals in the state of Georgia obtain voluntary certification in order to demonstrate a high level of competency within the profession.

Since GAP is a charter member of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (NFPA), members are encouraged to seek national certification through NPFA by sitting for and passing the PACE or PCC national exams.  Please note, however, that other certifications are also available through other national paralegal associations, such as NALA.

*For detailed information on United States Paralegal Activity, see  http://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/resources/state_activity_home.html

For Information on paralegal certification from the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, see the Occupational Outlook Handbook, Latest Edition, which states: “Although most employers do not require certification, earning voluntary certification from a professional national or local paralegal organization may offer advantages in the labor market.”   

 See also this Comparison of National Level Paralegal Certification Exams document. (PDF from April 2014)

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Paralegal Certification, Credentialing, Licensing and Holding a Paralegal Certificate

                                                                          LICENSING

  • Licensing is how a governmental authority controls certain professions. There is no single authority in the United States regulating the paralegal profession. However, SOMETHING RELATIVELY NEW AND EXCITING ON THE U.S. HORIZON with respect to licensing are the Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) in Washington state and the Licensed Paralegal Practitioner in Utah.  Limited licensing in some form is also being considered for other U.S. states due to affordable access to justice considerations.  How does this relatively new licensed profession impact paralegals?  Because many of the requirements are met by seasoned paralegals and some requirements may be waived for educated or nationally certified paralegals in good standing. 
  • More reading:
  • http://www.wsba.org/licensing-and-lawyer-conduct/limited-licenses/legal-technicians
    https://www.utahbar.org/licensed-paralegal-practitioner

  •                                   CERTIFICATED VS. CERTIFIED

 

This is a frequent source of confusion, even to employers and recruiters.  In short:

  • If you have completed a paralegal education program for which you have earned a certificate, you are certifiCATED. This is different from being certified.
  • If you have successfully passed a national paralegal certification exam, such as NFPA's PACE or PCC or NALA's Certified Legal Assistant or Certified Paralegal (CLA or CP), you are considered a "certified paralegal" (a generic term).  Once a candidate passes a national exam and the score is verified by its national paralegal association, it will notify the paralegal that he/she may use the organization's trademarked credential (i.e., Jane Doe, RP).  In addition, maintaining the credential requires ongoing Continuing Legal Education (CLE) reporting and a fee to that organization. These credentials may be verified by prospective employers by contacting the issuing organization or viewing their website. 

Again, being a "certified" paralegal means that you have passed a national paralegal exam and have been authorized to use a credential, not only that you have earned a paralegal certificate.  Many paralegals are BOTH certificated and certified.  Make sure you realize the difference!

Further reading:  The American Bar Association's definition of "certified" paralegal in its statements on Utilization of Paralegals.

http://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/resources/information_for_lawyers_how_paralegals_can_improve_your_practice.html

To view a list of NFPA Credentialed Certified Paralegals, including our state of Georgia, click:

https://www.paralegals.org/i4a/member_directory/feSearchForm.cfm?directory_id=22&pageid=3296&showTitle=1&showDebugOutput=false&widgetPreview=0&page_version=

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HOW TO PREPARE AND APPLY FOR THE EXAMS AND THEN MAINTAINING THE CREDENTIAL

1. Review requirements for each exam to see for which you qualify and can document.
2. Print handbooks and order a study manual at www.paralegals.org for that exam.
3. Form a GAP study group with the assistance of GAP's Certification Ambassador, form your own study group with colleagues, or take an on-line course to prepare.
4. Make formal application to NFPA.
5. After NFPA approval, schedule your exam at an independent testing center per instruction from NFPA.
6. Take the exam and await verification of a passing score by NFPA.
7. After NFPA verification and authorization to use your credential, two year approved CLE reporting and a small fee to NFPA will be required to maintain the credential.

JOIN A GAP STUDY GROUP OR TAKE AN ON-LINE STUDY COURSE tO STUDY TO EARN YOUR OWN RP® OR CRP CREDENTIAL

A fantastic benefit offered to qualified GAP members is a FREE study group to prepare for either the PACE or PCC exam.  To participate: (a) review in detail requirements for both exams to determine the exam for which you qualify; (b) print and review a free handbook and brochure on that exam found at the Paralegal Certification tab at https://www.paralegals.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageID=3295; (c) order a PACE study manual or PCC study manual through www.paralegals.org; and (d) reserve your space in the study group by emailing Mary McKay, GAP's Certification Ambassador.   Please note that this is limited to one study group per GAP member and depends upon whether there is enough demand to hold a study group. 

To virtually prepare at your own schedule and pace, there are also excellent on-line study courses offered through PEG and API.  More information on these courses may be found at http://www.paralegals.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageID=1


SCHOLARSHIPS

NFPA offers annual certification scholarships (which covers the cost of the exam, on-line study course and a study manual) which are awarded at its annual convention each October.  See www.paralegals.org for information and deadlines.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION: Consult the Paralegal Certification tab at https://www.paralegals.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageID=3295.

If you have further questions after review of this page and materials, please contact Mary McKay, GAP Certification Ambassador at CLE-Certification@gaparalegal.org.