According to a 2010 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over six thousand paralegals providing legal services in Georgia. In fact, the metro-Atlanta area boasts the fifth highest employment level for paralegals in the country. Law firms employ the majority of paralegals in the state.
Under Georgia’s Rule 5.3, paralegals are considered legal “paraprofessionals” who may be employed as non-lawyer assistants. This rule requires lawyers to supervise their assistants and to accept responsibility for the professional conduct of these assistants. Rule 5.3 does not define educational or training requirements for paralegals. This allows aspiring paralegals to pursue employment through educational coursework, such as a certificate program, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree, or through on-the-job training.
In an effort to increase the standing of the paralegal profession within the legal community of Georgia, the Georgia Association of Paralegals has set voluntary minimum standards for entry-level paralegals. Their recommendation is that an entry-level paralegal has earned one of the following:
- Paralegal Certificate from an American Bar Association (ABA) approved program
- A.A. in Paralegal Studies
- B.A. in Paralegal or Legal Studies
- B.A. in any subject plus a Paralegal Certificate from an ABA approved program or an accredited institution
Is There Paralegal Certification in Georgia?
Certificated paralegals have completed a certificate program in paralegal studies. There are two types of certificate programs: those that offer certificates to those with no previous education and those that require that applicants have previously earned a bachelor’s degree in any subject.
|Georgia Job Statistics
Not all certificate programs are recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA) and not all of these programs are accredited. The Georgia Paralegal Association encourages entry level paralegals to choose programs through accredited schools or those with ABA recognition. Employers may prefer this as well.
Experienced paralegals can demonstrate their competence in the field by becoming certified paralegals. A paralegal is eligible for taking such an exam through a combination of education and professional experience. An informational chart comparing national certification exams, eligibility for testing, fees, and recertification is available here.
National certification exams are offered by one of the three national paralegal associations. Currently there are four national exams from which to select:
- The PACE offered by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- The PCC also offered by National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- The CLA/CP offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
- The PP offered by the Association for Legal Professionals (NALS)
Professional Paralegal Associations
The Georgia Association of Paralegals (GAP) has worked since 1974 to advocate for the paralegal profession while providing support and education for its members. As there are no state guidelines for paralegals, GAP has worked extensively with the NFPA to create voluntary guidelines to increase the education and professional standing of paralegals in Georgia. These standards encourage minimum educational levels for new paralegals, national certification for experienced paralegals, continuing legal education for all paralegals, and a high code of ethics.
In addition to this work, GAP offers networking, job board, pro bono community service and social opportunities to its members. While the largest concentration of its members is in the metro-Atlanta area, GAP works to include and represent paralegals from throughout the state.
As law firms are top-employers of paralegals, it can be helpful to contact them for employment requirement information and job opportunities. Some of the largest law firms in Georgia include:
- Kilpatrick Stockton
- Ford and Harrison
- Alston and Bird
- Smith, Gambrell and Russell
- Fisher and Phillips
- Troutman Sanders
- Sutherland Asbill and Brennan
- McKenna Long and Aldridge
- King and Spalding
Important Contacts for Paralegals
- Georgia Association of Paralegals (GAP), affiliated with the NFPA
- GAP Standards for Paralegals
- State Bar of Georgia
- Georgia Court System
- Georgia Secretary of State