Iowa does not regulate paralegals, although in 2003, the Iowa Supreme Court did state that it was desirable for paralegals to obtain voluntary national certification through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). Iowa’s paralegal professional association, the Iowa Association of Legal Assistants.Paralegals (IALA), is an affiliate of NALA.
Like most states, Iowa does define paralegals as falling within the broader category of legal “paraprofessionals.” As such, their work must be supervised by an attorney and the supervising attorney must also accept responsibility for the paraprofessional’s work conduct.
Because registration and certification are not required of paralegals in Iowa, aspiring paralegals may choose to enter the field through on-the-job training or education.
Is There Paralegal Certification in Iowa?
Aspiring paralegals have several educational options including certificates, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees in paralegal studies.
Iowa Job Statistics
Some educational institutions offer certificate programs in paralegal studies. There are two types of certificate programs: those that offer a stand-alone certificate without the prerequisite of a baccalaureate degree and those that offer a certificate as a supplement to a bachelor’s degree in another subject. Certificate programs focus exclusively on paralegal studies and typically do not offer any general education. Graduates of such programs are called certificated paralegals. The American Bar Association approves some certificate programs and some, but not all, are offered by accredited institutions. Future employers and national certification examining bodies may prefer that these standards be met, so it is important to research programs with those things in mind.
Earning a degree in paralegal studies can help entry-level paralegals stand out from their peers. Degree options include associate, bachelor’s and master’s. In addition to giving aspiring paralegals and educational boost, some program also help paralegals qualify to take national certification exams.
Paralegals who meet educational and work experience qualifications can voluntarily choose to become certified paralegals. To do this, paralegals must pass one of the national exams offered by the three national paralegal associations. In Iowa, the preferred exam is the CLA/CP offered by NALA. However, 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)
Each exam has different eligibility and renewal requirements. A comparison can be found here.
The Iowa Association of Legal Assistants.Paraleglas (IALA), an affiliate of NALA, represents approximately 300 paralegals and legal assistants from throughout the state.
Membership is divided by district, with each membership region corresponding to one of Iowa’s eight judicial districts.
IALA was founded with the goal of providing educational opportunities for its membership. Today it continues that mission by offering twice yearly seminars, student mentoring, and support for members preparing to take the NALA CLA/CP exam. It also collaborates with the Iowa State Bar Association to address regulation and other legal matters of interest to paralegals and the larger legal community. IALA works to keep its membership informed of relevant developments regarding laws and legislation both in the state and nationally.
The majority of Iowa’s paralegals are employed by law firms, usually in larger cities like Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Sioux City and Iowa City. Law firms that employ paralegals in Iowa include: