Being a paralegal is hard but also, a very rewarding job. Even though we are not attorneys, we as paralegals do a lot because we are the ones who assist the lawyer or lawyers in the legal industry by drafting documents, conduct legal research and maintain and organizing files and the list of duties goes on. What exactly is a paralegal? According to the American Bar Association (ABA), a paralegal is, “ a person qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.” From the 1970s to 2020, the paralegal industry has changed dramatically and paralegals are in high demand than ever before.
One way to be a paralegal is to receive a paralegal certificate and that is when you successfully completed and graduated from an ABA-Approved paralegal studies program. When you receive a Paralegal Certificate, it does not make you a Certified Paralegal (CP). How do you become one you might ask. To be a Certified Paralegal, you need to successfully complete both the knowledge and skills exam from the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). You first have to see if you are eligible to take the two-section exam to be a certified paralegal. The candidate must submit the CP application on www.Nala.org, pay a fee and send the required supporting documentation via e-mail, online or mail to NALA. You will be notified via e-mail if you were or not approved to take the exam. The exam is a comprehensive assessment based on federal law and procedure. There are several benefits of having a Certified Paralegal Credential including a salary increase, which will assure employers and clients that they possess a specified level of understanding and competence and having a CP credential is recognized worldwide.
Once you become a Certified Paralegal, the next step you can do is being an Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP). Yes, there is more! To be one, you have to successfully complete the Advanced Certified Paralegal program that is hosted by NALA and it is designed to advance your education. The average course is about 20 hours in length and organized into multiple chapters and these web-based courses are available on a 24/7 basis. Anyone can take the courses and you do not have to be a NALA Certified Paralegal but the ACP credentials are only available to current Certified Paralegals.
The paralegal plays an important and critical role on any legal team and because of that, we should always try to learn. The more education we obtain, the more knowledge we will be of the legal world. If you cannot be a Certified Paralegal or an Advanced Certified Paralegal, that is ok! A few ways to learn about certain law fields is by attending legal seminars, webinars, online courses, and Paralegal conventions/events. What Anton Chekhov has said, “Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.”