The 3,500 paralegals working in Indiana comprise more than one quarter of the state’s legal community. According to a 2010 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these paralegals are employed in a number of areas including private law firms, corporate law, government and industry.
Despite work in support of state regulation by a coalition of Indiana’s paralegal associations and the Indiana State Bar, the Indiana Supreme Court failed to adopt Rule 2.2, which would have standardized the educational and work experience requirements for professional paralegals. While Indiana’s three paralegal associations and the Indiana State Bar encourage member paralegals to become nationally certified, uphold the organizations’ code of ethics and professional responsibilities, and earn continuing legal education credits, none of that is mandated by the state. It is possible that regulation of the paralegal profession may be revisited by the Indiana Supreme Court in the future.
Indiana’s Rule 5.3 does define the role of the legal “paraprofessional,” stating the attorneys must supervise their work and must accept responsibility for the professional conduct of non-lawyer assistants. However, as there are no training or educational guidelines, aspiring paralegals may enter the profession through on-the-job training or education.
Is There Paralegal Certification in Indiana?
Aspiring paralegals have several educational options: certificate programs which do not offer a degree, and associate, bachelor’s and master’s programs which offer degrees in paralegal studies.
The length of the program, state or federal accreditation of the program, and American Bar Association (ABA) approval of a program can all be important factors to potential employers and for purposes of national certification.
|Indiana Job Statistics|
Certificate programs may offer entry to those with no previous education or they may require a bachelor’s degree in any subject as a prerequisite. Certificate programs allow students to focus solely on paralegal studies without taking general education classes. These programs can be helpful to aspiring paralegals who have previously completed a degree but wish to specialize as paralegals, or to those who are trying to enter the job market quickly. A paralegal who earns a certificate of completion from such a program is a certificated paralegal. This is different from a certified paralegal, which is a paralegal who has passed one of the national certifying exams.
National Paralegal Certification
Paralegals who meet educational and experiential requirements can elect to become certified paralegals. Earning national certification is a way for paralegals to demonstrate their competence in their field, distinguishing themselves among their peers and within the job market. 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 PCCE 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
As members of the Alliance of Indiana Paralegal Associations, Indiana’s three paralegal associations work together to provide, support, education and advocacy to paralegals throughout the state. All three associations are affiliated with the NFPA and encourage their membership to receive national certification through the PACE or PCCE exams.
The Indiana Paralegal Association, Inc. (IPA) works to increase the professionalism of paralegals in Indiana through fostering strong working relationships with other organizations, setting high expectations for ethics and professional attainment, and encouraging ongoing education and professional development. It offers many benefits to its members, from social and networking opportunities to a job bank to liability insurance through its affiliation with the NFPA. The IPA has members from throughout Indiana.
The Northeast Indiana Paralegal Association (NIPA) supports paralegals and other legal professionals in Northeast Indiana. NIPA offers continuing legal education, a job bank, networking and educational seminars to its members.
The Michiana Paralegal Association (MPA) includes more than 60 members from northern Indiana and southwestern Michigan. The MPA hosts monthly dinner meetings that offer education, networking, support and recognition for their members. The MPA also works to promote the professional and business interests of the paralegal profession.
Indiana’s law firms employ many of its paralegals. Some of the largest law firms in are located in the Indianapolis metro area, including:
- Barnes & Thornburg
- Baker & Daniels
- Bingham Greenebaum Doll
- Ice Miller
- Hall, Render, Killian, Heath & Lyman
Important Contacts for Paralegals
- Indiana Paralegal Association, Inc., affiliated with NFPA
- Northeast Indiana Paralegal Association, affiliated with NFPA
- Michiana Paralegal Association, affiliated with NFPA
- Indiana Bar Association
- Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct – Use of Nonlawyer Assistants
- Judicial Branch of Indiana
- Indiana Secretary of State