Becoming a Certified Legal Assistant or Certified Paralegal is a great goal to achieve on your journey to becoming the Best Legal Assistant.
Certification gives you an advantage when you are looking for a Legal Assistant job.
Not only that, it can even help you to get a promotion, and bring you a higher salary!
The American Bar Association (ABA) recognizes Legal Assistants who have received certification as those whose professional achievement shows exceptional Legal Assistant abilities.
How to Earn Legal Assistant Certification
A common misconception is that completing a Paralegal program in which you earn a certificate means that you are a certified Paralegal or certified Legal Assistant. This is not the case; completing a certificate program earns you the title certificated Legal Assistant or Paralegal.
Legal Assistant certification is currently voluntary, but there is a growing movement toward legislation that restricts who can refer to themselves as Paralegals without specific training, including certification.
Having a CLA or CP designation shows potential employers you are a highly capable employee and individual.
In order to become a Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) or Certified Paralegal (CP) you must pass an exam. An examination consists of a standardized test that will judge your legal competency. There are four professional organizations that administer legal certification testing for Legal Assistants and Paralegals.
Each organization has its own exam. The test questions will be similar in context, but not the exact same. The requirements to take the Legal Assistant certification tests vary from minimal education and experience to advanced qualifications. You will also notice that prices to take the paralegal exams vary in cost.
Once you decide which certification you want to achieve, you will need to prepare to take the examination.
View our post on Study Guides for Legal Assistant Certification to get the right tools to help you pass the test.
The Paralegal Certification Program is the only organization that does not require a test in order to receive certification.
AAPI certification is granted to experienced professionals who meet the criteria of having a paralegal degree and at least five years’ experience working as a paralegal. You must also currently be working as a paralegal. The cost is $75 USD. Certification must be renewed every three years, along with 18 hours of CLE’s.
The Certified Paralegal Program examination is administered by the NALA Certifying Board for Paralegals. Upon completion of the certification exam, you will receive the distinction of Certified Legal Assistant or CLA. You will also be entitled to use the term Certified Paralegal or CP*.
You must meet certain educational / experience requirements to qualify to take the Certified Paralegal examination. If you have not graduated from a paralegal program or do not have Legal Assistant work experience, you will need to contact NALA to see how you can meet the qualifications.
The fee to take the Certified Paralegal examination is $275 USD. You are also required to complete continuing legal education (CLE) courses periodically to keep your certification current.
The NALS organization offers three levels of legal certification. Periodic recertification is required at all levels.
Accredited Legal Professional – You need to have competed a legal training course through NALS, or other accredited legal or business course. Additionally, one year of experience working in an office environment is required. The ALP exam costs between $75-$125 USD.
Professional Legal Secretary – The PLS exam requires a minimum of three years’ experience in the legal field, or two years’ experience and a request for a waiver. The cost is $225 USD.
Professional Paralegal – In order to qualify for the PP exam, you must meet at least one of several requirements. Qualifications include graduation from an ABA-approved paralegal program, a bachelor’s degree in paralegal, or at least three years’ experience working as a paralegal. The PP exam costs between $200-$275 USD.
There are two types of certification you can earn through NFPA. Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits are required to maintain either certification.
Paralegal CORE Competency Exam – The PCCE certification tests the knowledge of entry-level paralegals. You may elect to participate in a seven week online preparation course for $395 USD. Upon passing the PCCE, you earn the credential of using the designation of CORE Registered Paralegal or CRP. The application fee for the exam is $215 USD.
Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam – PACE certification tests advanced knowledge of experienced paralegals. You must meet one of the required qualifications in order to take the exam; one possible qualifier is to have completed a paralegal education degree plus six years paralegal work experience. Successful completion of the PACE exam earns you the distinction of the title of Registered Paralegal or RP.
Legal Assistant Certification Online
The above organizations offer resources for paralegal online certification. For instance, applications for certification can be completed online. In preparation for the PCCE, a seven week online course is offered, for a fee. Some tests may be taken online at proctored testing facilities. Visit the applicable websites for more information.
Don’t forget to pick up the necessary Legal Assistant Certification Study Guides so you can increase your knowledge on the appropriate topics and be confident you will pass the test.
Continue to return to Best Legal Assistant for answers to all your questions about being a Legal Assistant.
* California and Montana require you to meet certain state requirements to call yourself a Paralegal.