The American Alliance of Paralegals is all about education, training, and advancing the paralegal’s job as a profession. It focuses on continuing the education and training of each individual paralegal as its way to accomplish its primary goal, or mission, of advancing the entire paralegal profession.
To become an AAPI member one must initially meet minimum education and work experience requirements and pledge to follow its ethical standards. To maintain membership, members must continue advancing their education and training, and professional employment.
AAPI members benefit from networking opportunities the alliance opens up for them, both with fellow members and through AAPI’s association with other professional organizations on both national and local levels. On request, the AAPI supports and assists local paralegal organizations participating in or dealing with local jurisdiction regulatory activities.
AAPI functions as a comprehensive resource center for its members that provides them with a variety of professional resources useful for both furthering individual training and education as well as a valuable reference resource handy for on-the-job use.
Although they’re actually quite similar, each of the various professional organizations and associations involved in the paralegal profession has adopted its own specific definition of “paralegal”. The definition adopted by the AAPI is “A person qualified by education, training or work experience who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is ultimately responsible or who is authorized by administrative, statutory, or court authority to perform substantive legal work.”
AAPI members receive the professional designation “AACP” which may be used on business cards, stationary, and professional literature, following one’s signature on correspondence or in other appropriate ways. Displaying this designation communicates to the professional community that the individual is an American Alliance Certified Paralegal. To those familiar with it, the AACP designation instantly establishes credibility as a professional who has achieved a minimal level of verified education and work experience because the AACP certification is only available through qualification by education and/or experience. No exam or test is offered or required for AAPI certification as an AACP.
An AAPI membership applicant seeking AACP certification must have at least five years of work experience performing duties as a paralegal and meet at least one of three education criteria.
The membership applicant may hold a bachelor’s or advanced degree in any discipline conferred by an accredited educational institution, or an Associate’s degree in paralegal studies, or a Certificate earned through either an American Bar Association approved paralegal program or a program which is a voting institutional member of the American Association for Paralegal Education.
As one should expect, each applicant must provide a certified copy of his or her official educational transcripts. Additionally, the AAPI requires written confirmation of the work experience requirement in the form of either an affidavit or declaration from an attorney, or attorneys, covering the term of the work experience required. Since AAPI individually verifies each applicant’s experience and education credentials very carefully, payment of an application fee is necessary to cover the review cost.
A three-member Certification Commission reviews the eligibility documentation submitted by applicants. Two of the commission members are AAPI paralegal members and one must be a paralegal educator; all three are appointed by the Alliance’s Board of Directors and serve as commission members without compensation. A denial by the Certification Commission may be appealed to the Board of Directors for further review and final determination.
AACP certification is valid for two years and must be renewed for a paralegal to continue claiming and using the AACP designation. During the two years the designation is valid the paralegal must complete at least eighteen hours of continuing legal education with at least two of those hours being ethics courses. The AACP may only be renewed for paralegals currently employed as a paralegal at the time of renewal. Any ethical code violation, the unauthorized practice of law, or conviction of a felony or other crime of moral turpitude prohibits an AACP renewal.
AAPI is proactive in advocating regulation furthering the growth of the paralegal profession. For example, as part of its commitment to paralegal training and education, the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc has currently arranged for Lorman Education Services to schedule an offering of 41 different online courses between December 2009 and February 2010 for its members’ continuing education.
On request, the AAPI supports and assists local paralegal organizations participating in or dealing with local jurisdiction regulatory activities.