Paralegal Certification – What’s it all about?

There are two types of distinctive marks that a paralegal takes on once they complete a paralegal course, and get their certification. The first is called the CLA. CLA stands for certified legal assistant. The term CLA was established in 1976, and since that time many paralegals have held the professional designation of a CLA. The other acronym is CP which stands for certified paralegal. This term was established in 2004 and the word CP is for those who prefer the term certified paralegal.

NALA Certification

Many actually do prefer the term CP over the designation of certified legal assistant but the terms are interchangeable so it is simply a matter of preference for the person being certified. In order to gain the designation as a CLA or CP a paralegal must pass the exam that is issued by the National Association of Legal Assistants. There are five sections of the exam; however, it is a difficult exam and it’s estimated that only half of the professionals who take it are able to pass the exam the first time.

Why is having the CLA or CP credential important?

It’s important because it symbolizes that the individual is capable of professionally servicing a legal firm or corporation. Those who are certified have higher salaries and are able to specialize more specifically than those who are lacking certification. CLA and CP certification is also recognized by the American Bar Association as a high level of professional accomplishment. In order to take the exam the person must be approved by the ABA and have completed some type of certification in legal studies and completed a legal assistant program.

Where to take the exam?

Colleges, universities, and other schools all have testing centers that collaborate with the National Association of Legal Assistants. A person can simply find a testing center that is established within their area. The actual examination fee is $250 and if the person doesn’t pass they can retake sections of the exam for $60 per section. Getting the certification and professional credentials increases the value of the paralegal professionally.

The certification ensures that the level of service the paralegal can give to the law firm they work for goes beyond the basic duties. Getting certification also demonstrates that the paralegal is serious about their career in law. Approximately 70% of paralegals that get their certification end up working at a law firm. The other 20% end up working for corporations and the last 10% of those certified either work for government entities or other companies. Certification from an accredited paralegal school increases the potential for a paralegal to be hired and also proves to firms that the paralegal is serious about their education and professionalism. Getting certification is the first step to starting a lasting career in the legal field.

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