Like many other professions, the paralegal profession is one that is bound by a core set of philosophies, standards and principles that are supported by a number of strong professional organizations and associations.
From professional memberships that provide everything from continuing education to trade publications to associations that host conferences and events that support the advancement of the profession and provide professional certification, paralegals in any specialty or at any point in their career can benefit from becoming involved with paralegal organizations.
National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), which was founded in 1974, was the first established association for paralegals. This non-profit association, which includes more than 50 member associations (member associations can be found here), boasts more than 9,000 members. NFPA monitors legislation, ethics, and case law that affects the paralegal profession and has addressed many of the issues that have allowed the growth and expansion of the paralegal role. NFPA works closely with the American Bar Association, the International Paralegal Managers Association and the American Association for Paralegal Education, among others.
NFPA offers professional certification that is widely recognized in the field. Two credentialing exams are offered through the NFPA:
- Paralegal CORE Competency Exam (PCCE) – For early-career and entry-level paralegals
- Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE) – For advanced paralegals
National Association of Legal Assistants
The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), which represents more than 18,000 paralegals, provides continuing education opportunities, professional certification programs, and materials and seminars to help legal assistants advance their profession.
The Certified Paralegal (CP)/Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) program, which is recognized by the American Bar Association, is a professional certification through the NALA. Because the terms paralegal and legal assistant are synonymous terms, professionals that pass the credentialing exam may use either the CP or CLA designation.
National Paralegal Association (NPA)
The National Paralegal Association (NPA) is an international organization that offers programs and benefits for individuals, corporate legal departments, law firms, training schools and colleges, and independent paralegals. In addition to membership opportunities, NPA provides its members with an employment network and other networking opportunities.
American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE)
The American Association for Paralegal Education promotes quality paralegal education through educational standards and professional growth. Other services offers through the AAfPE include:
- Forums for professional improvement for paralegal educators
- Annual conferences and seminars
- Technical assistance and consultation to educators, employers, and educational institutions
The AAfPE is also working alongside the American Bar Association and other professional associations and institutions to develop an approval process for paralegal education programs.
The American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc.
The American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. is a national paralegal association that offers both membership and certification opportunities. To become a member of the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. paralegals must meet at least one of the following requirements:
- Bachelor’s degree and two years of paralegal experience
- Bachelor’s degree and a two-year paralegal certificate
- Associate’s degree, a two-year paralegal certificate, and two years of paralegal experience
- Associate’s degree and four years of paralegal experience
- Paralegal certificate and six years of current paralegal experience
Candidates seeking professional certification (American Alliance Certified Paralegal -AACP) through the American Alliance of Paralegals must have no less than 5 years of substantive paralegal experience and must have a bachelor’s degree or advanced degree; an associate’s degree in paralegal studies from an ABA-approved program; or a certificate from an ABA-approved paralegal program that is a voting institutional member of the American Association for Paralegal Education.