Continuing education, often called professional development, has become a common denominator of all recognized professions. It is typically required, measured, recorded, and tracked in terms of classroom or program hours of participation. And it is quite often mandatory as a prerequisite to maintenance or renewal of a professional license or credential. In some instances, professional development may be considered to be a little broader than continuing education and encompass participation in organized activities resulting in the improvement or advancement of professional skills or abilities rather than instructional type activities.
Continuing education of various hourly amounts per year is required to maintain or renew all credential designations currently issued for paralegals by any professional association or organization. There are numerous methods available for meeting these various continuing education requirements. It is always prudent to verify in advance that a program, course, or seminar you may be considering is acceptable and approved as acceptable continuing education by whatever entity you must report to and satisfy regarding your continuing education or professional development.
When you are confirming the approval, you should also always confirm the number of credit hours that have been approved for any given program, course, or seminar; they may be different from the clock hours involved. Be certain to determine any specific processing steps necessary to ensure you properly and in a timely manner receive credit for your participation and completion. It is not unusual that the necessary paperwork for claiming credit due for a course or program must be filed in a specific manner or with a special office. Often special forms must even be completed on the date at the location of a particular program or seminar in order to receive credit.
Each of the various professional associations or organizations issuing professional credentials for paralegals offers continuing education programs in the form of seminars or courses which satisfy their requirements. Some associations offer their continuing education, or professional development, programs as classroom-style courses or seminars requiring only monitored attendance on a specified date to receive credit, and some may be taken as web courses available any date and time that require passing a test upon completion to receive credit. Companies in the business of professional education, such as Sylvan Learning, Lorman Seminars and Sterling Seminars, also offer a wide variety of professional development and continuing education opportunities. Numerous continuing education programs are also offered as web courses via Internet by other providers such as the proprietary schools who offer certificate education programs.
Most state bar associations offer convenient and economical continuing education programs for attorneys that also satisfy the continuing education requirements for paralegals. These programs are often designed to address areas of specific needs or interest in particular geographic locales and practices that may be peculiar to them. Typically they are very economical and also tend to offer excellent opportunities for networking opportunities with professional colleagues.
Ongoing professional development may be achieved through active participation in a variety of civic or community service activities or organizations. While membership participation in a civic club, such as a local Rotary club, or any number of other such organizations will certainly advance your professional development, it may not satisfy any particular reporting entity requirements. However, occasionally participation in an organized professional activity such as a legal clinic for seniors, youth, or disadvantaged groups may satisfy a mandatory professional development requirement while simultaneously providing a community benefit.
Whatever form you choose for your participation, or however you satisfy any mandatory reporting requirements, ongoing professional development, whether mandatory or not, is essential for the growth and advancement of your paralegal career.