National and State Certifications
There are three different national paralegal professional organizations that offer national paralegal certification exams:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
- National Association for Legal Professionals (NALS)
Exams given by the above organizations are intended to prove the competence of a paralegals’ skills and general knowledge. Since state regulations vary so drastically, national exams are great barometers for employers to judge the overall abilities of possible candidates.
Levels of National Certification
Paralegal Certification: Core Competencies
Most people begining their paralegal career begin by taking one of the national examinations that cover a wide range of legal topics. This demostrates their proficiency in a large spectrum of competence. Most national examinations cover topics such as procedural law, substantive law, written communication, verbal communication, ethics, preparation of legal documents, and law office technology. There are three early-career or entry level or entry level examinations available:
- The PCC offered by the NFPA
- The CP/CLA offered by NALA
- The PP offered by NALS
The PCC Certification
Once passed, successful canidates become CORE registered paralegals (CRPs). Requirements to take the PCC are: In order to be eligible to take the test, participants must meet the following requirements.
- A high school diploma or GED plus five years of work experience plus twelve hours of continuing legal education, including one hour of ethics taken in the two years prior to the examination application date; OR
- An associate degree in any field plus one year work experience plus six hours of continuing legal education, including one hour of ethics taken in the year prior the examination application date; OR
- A bachelor’s degree in any field, plus six months of work experience, plus one hour of continuing legal education in ethics taken within the year prior to the examination application date; or
- A bachelor’s degree in any field plus a certificate in paralegal studies. No work experience or continuing legal education required
The CP/CLA Certification
The NALA offers the Certified Paralegal/Certified Legal Assistant Exam. Successul canidates become Certified Paralegals (CPs) or Certified Legal Assistants (CLAs) upon passing the examination.
- A high school diploma or GED plus seven years of work experience as a lawyer-supervised paralegal/legal assistant plus at least 20 hours of continuing legal education within the two year period prior to sitting for the exam.
- An associate degree in paralegal studies
- A bachelor’s degree program in paralegal/legal assistant studies; or