The regulation of paralegals has been considered and thus far rejected by both the Hawaii State Bar and the Hawaiian Supreme Court. Under Hawaii’s Rule of Professional Conduct 5.3, any legal “paraprofessional,” including paralegals, must be directly supervised by a lawyer. Lawyers must also assume responsibility for the professional actions of the paraprofessionals in their employ.
Paths to Employment
In Hawaii, one may become a paralegal by completing coursework in paralegal studies, receiving on-the-job training or a combination of the two. Educational options include certificates, associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees and even master’s degrees in paralegal studies.
To earn a certificate, a paralegal must complete certificate program in paralegal studies. Some certificate programs require that applicants already hold bachelor’s degrees in another subject. This type of certificate program allows them to focus solely on paralegal studies without the need to complete additional general education classes.
Hawaii Job Statistics
Other certificate programs admit students with no previous degree and issue stand-alone certificates. It is important to research certificate programs as they may or may not be approved by the American Bar Association and their issuing institutions may or may not be accredited. These can be important distinctions to employers or to the national paralegal associations that offer national certification.
Some students may prefer to earn a degree in paralegal studies. Degrees can help distinguish entry-level paralegals from their peers in the job market. Additionally, some paralegal degree programs prepare their graduates for taking the national certification exams.
National certification is a voluntary process that paralegals may undertake in order to increase their professional standing, raise the professionalism of paralegals as a whole, or distinguish themselves from their peers in the job market. Some national certification programs also allow paralegals to specialize in certain areas of the law.
Currently, three national paralegal associations offer four different national certification exams.
- 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)
Eligibility requirements vary from exam to exam. A comparison can be found here.
There are two professional associations for paralegals in Hawaii: the Hawaii Paralegal Association and Hawaii Legal Support Professionals.
The Hawaii Paralegal Association (HPA), based in Honolulu, was founded in 1978 to support the paralegal community with education, information and advocacy. It has developed working relationships with other professionals in the legal community and also works educate the general public about the role of the paralegal. The HPA offers membership to students and professional paralegals. It assists members in obtaining education, certification and continuing legal education (CLE). The HPA is affiliated with the NFPA.
The Hawaii Legal Support Professionals (HLSP) offers membership to paralegals, legal assistants and other legal paraprofessionals. It is affiliated with NALS and as such supports its members in becoming nationally certified through NALS’ Professional Paralegal (PP) exam. The HLSP works to increase the professional standing of legal paraprofessionals, provide networking opportunities to its members and offer educational seminars and CLEs. The HLSP is based in Honolulu.
The majority of paralegals are employed by law firms. In Hawaii, the largest law firms are located in the Honolulu area, though some have smaller offices throughout the islands. Hawaii’s largest law firms include: