Paralegal Certification, Credentialing, Licensing and Having a Paralegal Certificate
This is frequently a source of confusion. In short:
- If you have completed a paralegal education program for which you have a certificate hanging on your wall, you could say you are certificated. This is different from being certified.
- Licensing is how a governmental authority controls certain professions. There is no single authority in the United States which oversees the paralegal profession. Also, at the time of this writing, no state has paralegal licensure.
- However, effective September 1, 2012 Washington State does have the Limited License Legal Technicians (LLLT) program and other states are considering similar programs.
- If you have successfully passed a paralegal certification exam, such as NFPA's PCCE or PACE, you are certified. This confers a credential which you put after your name, such as Jane Doe, RP®. Maintaining that credential requires ongoing Continuing Legal Education (CLE) and keeping your address current with the organization that issued the credential. These credentials can be verified by prospective employers by contacting the issuing organization. Note that being a certified paralegal (generic term) and being a Certified Paralegal (a credential by NALA) are not necessarily the same, although if you are the latter you are also the former.
See also the American Bar Association's document on this topic. (PDF)
Paralegal Certification Through NFPA
One way is by earning a credential which is widely recognized in the field. NFPA offers two credentialing exams:
- The Paralegal CORE Competency Exam™ establishes your education has prepared you for many types of paralegal work and helps you stand out from others whose schooling and experience are otherwise similar. Those who have passed the PCCE may proudly display the CRP™ designation after their name.
- The Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam® (PACE®) is for those with not only a comprehensive education in paralegal studies but also years of practical experience. Earning the RP® designation by passing the PACE Exam shows that you are one of the best in the field!
See also this Comparison of National Level Paralegal Certification Exams document. (PDF from April 2014)
This diagram may help you determine if you are eligible to sit for PACE: