Paralegal Education & Certification in the Field of Law

In the grand scheme of the field of law, paralegals play an important behind the scenes role in the day to activities that result in settlements, cases going to trial and all manner of litigation. Long considered the backbone of the legal field, their work is often unheralded though an integral part of the success of any given lawyer or law firm. Paralegals are well paid for their efforts, and unlike in many other fields, can count on above average earnings and a favorable job market.

What truly separates paralegals from those who hold positions in other industries, however, is the exceptionally favorable ratio of education to earnings that they enjoy. Most paralegals complete a two year associate level program and are ready to enter the profession through a federal, state agency or private practice. Compared with the earning potential for most other two year programs, the contrast is apparent.

Perhaps because of this, recent years have yielded several attempts by legislators and other entities to govern the credentials of working paralegals. Select consumer protection and some paralegal groups have petitioned congress for mandatory licensure of the profession under the premise that it would assure uniform standards of practice while guaranteeing that law firm clients receive services from qualified, well trained professionals. Opponents argue that regulation is moot point as the statutes disallowing the unauthorized practice of law provide sufficient safeguards.

Voluntary certification is offered from the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) and other groups who offer nationwide examinations. In addition, some states have regulations in place that would fall under the category of required compliance. California and Arizona, among others, require state certification of anyone who prepares or assists in the preparation of legal documents. Other states require continuing education criteria that must be met and reported to governing agencies in order for paralegals to remain employed.

In truth, the most effective form of competency assurances should be offered by paralegal employers. The lawyers who use their services must be able to rely on accurate, well documented information that will stand up to the rigors of the legal system. Without the ability to perform their duties effectively, those who wish to remain paralegals will find it extremely difficult to do so.

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About the Author - Shay Rosen

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