After completing your paralegal training, the next step in building a successful paralegal career is to obtain voluntary paralegal certification. Certification demonstrates your expertise to employers and clients, increasing your employability and potential salary.
There are several organizations that offer paralegal certification, including:
- The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
- The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- The American Alliance of Paralegals (AAP)
The details of each of these organizations is outlined below.
What is Paralegal Certification?
Paralegal certification is an official recognition that you have the training, knowledge, and ability to work as a paralegal. A paralegal certification is essentially a “seal of approval” that can help to distinguish you from other job applicants and increase your job mobility.
There are currently no requirements stating that paralegals must obtain certification before working. However, employers prefer certified paralegals to uncertified ones, and job candidates are increasingly using certification as way to secure better career paths and future promotions. Fortunately, many paralegal schools offer help gaining your certification.
How to Get Paralegal Certification
Paralegal certification agencies each have their own requirements that must be met in order to become certified. Chief among these requirements is your completion of a certain amount of paralegal training and education, followed by an exam.
The specific guidelines set by each organization are outlined below.
The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
The NALA awards their paralegal certification to applicants who pass their 2-day exam. In order to be eligible for this exam, you must meet at least one of the following requirements:
- Graduation from a paralegal program that is approved by the American Bar Association
- A bachelor’s degree in any field plus a year of experience as a paralegal
- A high school diploma or GED, 7 years of experience as a paralegal under the supervision of a member of the Bar, and evidence of at least 20 hours of continuing legal education completed within 2 years before the examination date
Upon passing this exam, you will be awarded the Certified Legal Assistant or Certified Paralegal credential. The registration fee for this exam is $250 for NALA members and $275 for non-members. More information can be found on the NALA website.
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
Like NALA, the NFPA requires that you meet a certain level of experience and educational requirements before taking their certification exam. Once you pass this exam—called the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE)—you will be certified as a Registered Paralegal (RP).
The application fee for the PACE is $25 for NFPA members and $75 for everyone else. If you are accepted to take the exam, there is a fee of $225. More information is available on the NFPA website.
The American Alliance of Paralegals (AAP)
If you are seeking your paralegal certification through the AAPI, you do not have to complete a certification exam. They do, however, require that you to have a minimum of 5 years of work experience combined with a certain amount of education.
To apply for this certification, you must fill out an application and pay a $75 fee. Detailed information about this certification program can be found on the AAPI’s official website.