What Training Is Required to Become a Certified Legal Assistant?

To get certified as a legal assistant or paralegal, you need to meet education or training requirements as mandated by a voluntary professionals' association and pass the association's exam. After certification, you need to take continuing education classes or workshops to maintain your certified status. Schools offering Paralegal degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Certified Legal Assistant or Paralegal Education and Training

A legal assistant or paralegal handles many tasks within a law office. In fact, as a legal assistant or paralegal, you will carry out many of the same tasks as a lawyer, with two major exceptions: you cannot dispense legal advice or represent a client in court. In most cases, your job will involve handling a lot of paperwork and managing clients.

While it is not always an employment requirement, being certified allows you to provide proof of your skills and can enhance your chances at securing employment. There are three recognized organizations that offer certification options for legal assistants and paralegals.

Important Facts About Paralegals/Legal Assistants

Online AvailabilityFull coursework online; internship onsite
SpecializationsFamily law, litigation, immigration, estate planning
Common CoursesEthics, wills and estates, litigation, legal research
Continuing EducationRequired every five years for NALA or NALS recertification; every two years for NFPA

National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) - for Legal Assistants and Paralegals

The NALA offers the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) or Certified Paralegal (CP) certifications. The organization also offers advanced certifications in certain legal specialties.

To sit for the CLA/CP exam, you need one of these educational backgrounds:

  • American Bar Association-approved certificate or degree
  • Associate's degree in legal assistant or paralegal studies
  • Any bachelor's degree plus a paralegal certificate
  • Bachelor's degree in paralegal studies
  • NALA-approved equivalent
  • Any bachelor's degree plus a year's experience as a legal assistant
  • High school diploma plus seven years' experience
  • Current paralegal student nearing graduation

National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (NFPA)

This organization offers the Registered Paralegal (RP) certification for qualifying legal assistants. Candidates must have education from a school, college or university that's accredited by a mainstream accrediting organization. RP certification also requires work experience as a legal assistant, in one of these combinations:

  • Paralegal studies associate's degree or a paralegal education program approved by the American Bar Association, plus six years' experience
  • Any bachelor's degree plus three years' experience
  • Bachelor's degree in paralegal studies plus two years' experience
  • Four years' experience on or before December 31, 2000

NALS (The Association for Legal Professionals)

This organization began as the National Association of Legal Secretaries, but it's now simply referred to as NALS. It offers certification as a Professional Paralegal (PP). The following backgrounds qualify someone to take this certifying exam:

  • Bachelor's degree in paralegal studies
  • Any college degree or a paralegal certificate plus one year experience
  • Five years' experience as a paralegal/legal assistant

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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