Smoky Mountain Paralegal Association

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Am I A Certified Paralegal

Paralegal Certification vs. Certificate Program


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There are significant differences between achieving a nationally recognized paralegal certification such as those available through an organization like National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and a certificate program offered by some colleges and universities.

The paralegal profession has experienced a period of vibrant growth and widespread recognition. However, the use of terms describing paralegal qualifications and education is often confusing and misleading. Some paralegals call themselves “certified” by virtue of completing a paralegal training course or another type of preliminary education. Although a program may award a certificate of completion, this is not the same as earning professional certification. Through a paralegal training course, the school’s certificate is only proof of completion of the training program. A certificate is received, but the individual is not “certified.”

The University of Tennessee Paralegal Studies Certificate Program grants certificates to graduates who have successfully completed a four-month course of study. This is not the same as Paralegal Certification. Completing the University of Tennessee’s Paralegal Studies Certificate Program does NOT mean that its graduates are Certified Paralegals.

Paralegal Certification is granted by three professional organizations: the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), the National Federation of Paralegal Association (NFPA), and the American Alliance of Paralegals (AAPI). NALA and NFPA offer comprehensive examinations to become certified. NALA offers the CLA/CP exam, which upon successful completion, paralegals may call themselves a Certified Paralegal and use the designation of CP; or alternatively, call themselves a Certified Legal Assistant and use the designation of CLA. These designations are trademarks owned by NALA and cannot be used until successful completion of the NALA Certified Paralegal Examination. NFPA offers the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam, which upon successful completion, paralegals may call themselves a PACE Registered Paralegal and use the designation PACE RP. This designation is a trademark of NFPA and cannot be utilized until successful completion of the NFPA exam. Certification through AAPI is achieved through a combination of work experience and education.

All paralegal students should challenge themselves to become certified paralegals; however, the examinations to achieve this credential can only be taken after the student has completed a paralegal school program. Completing a paralegal school program does not make the student a certified paralegal. For additional information regarding the qualifications required for the NALA Certified Paralegal Examination, NFPA PACE Certification Examination and/or AAPI Certification, please visit their websites indicated above.

To be eligible for the NALA Certified Paralegal examination, a paralegal must meet one of the NALA requirements…