Kansas is home to nearly 2,000 paralegals according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2010 survey. Metropolitan areas such as Wichita, Topeka and the Kansas City region employ the majority of these paralegals. However, according to the BLS survey, nonmetropolitan Kansas ranks as having the highest employment levels of paralegals of all nonmetropolitan areas in the country.
Kansas does not have state regulations in place that govern the training or education of paralegals. However, guidelines from the Kansas Bar Association recommend that legal assistants/paralegals be considered qualified only if they meet the one of the following requirements:
- Completion of a paralegal studies program that is either ABA-approved or accredited and of similar standards to ABA-approved
- Passing one of the national certification exams offered by the national professional paralegal associations (see below)
- Completion of a baccalaureate degree and one year of in-house paralegal training/li>
- Completion of five years of work in a legal setting under the supervision of a lawyer including one year of in-house paralegal training
In Kansas, paralegals may perform substantive legal work provided that it is delegated to them by a supervising lawyer who also assumes responsibility for their professional actions and omissions. The paralegal must maintain confidentiality and the lawyer must maintain direct contact with the client.
Is There Paralegal Certification in Kansas?
The Kansas State Bar Association’s guidelines allow for paralegals to enter into employment through on-the-job training and education. Many paralegals find that completion of educational programs sets them apart from other job candidates, which can be helpful in a competitive job market.
|Kansas Job Statistics|
Aspiring paralegals have several options for education, including certificate programs and diploma-conferring programs offering associate, bachelor’s or master’s degrees in paralegal studies.
Aspiring paralegals may earn a certificate of completion from a certificate program in paralegal studies. Certificate programs offer focused coursework on paralegal studies without requiring general education classes. Some certificate programs require that applicants have previously earned a baccalaureate degree in another subject. Other certificate programs do not require a previous degree. For purposes of meeting the Kansas Bar Association’s guidelines or of qualifying to sit for national certifying exams, it is important to locate educational programs that are either approved by the American Bar Association or accredited and comprehensive in their coursework.
Earning a degree in paralegal studies can help distinguish entry-level paralegals from other job candidates and help paralegals meet the requirements for the national certifying exams. Associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies are most commonly earned by aspiring paralegals.
Paralegals may demonstrate their proficiency in their field by passing one of the four national certification exams. Upon successful completion of the exam, the paralegal becomes a certified paralegal. Currently the three professional organizations offer 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)
Each exam has different eligibility requirements. A comparison can be found here.
Kansas is home to three professional paralegal associations: the Kansas Paralegal Association, the Kansas Association of Legal Assistants and the Heartland Paralegal Association (HPA).
An NFPA affiliate with members throughout the state, the Kansas Paralegal Association (KPA) works to increase the visibility of paralegals within the legal field and solidify their role as partners in delivering legal services. The KPA promotes continuing education and professional development, networking and the exchange of ideas, and the forging of strong working relationships with paralegal and bar associations at the local, state and national levels.
The KPA offers eight levels of membership:
- Affiliate – Open to any paralegal who meets the qualifications for Voting Membership, except for being employed
- Sustaining – Open to any entity or individual who supports the KPA
- Student – Open to anyone enrolled in a paralegal program
- Educator – Open to any full-time paralegal educator
- Retired – Open to any retired paralegal
- Military – Open to paralegals on active duty
- Qualified Fellowship – Open to those with a promotion code such as students, who would get this code from their paralegal program
- Voting – Open to employed/retained paralegals who meet one of the following:
- Post-secondary degree in a paralegal studies field
- Bachelor’s or associate’s degree in any field plus one year of paralegal work experience
- Certificate from a paralegal program and paralegal work experience that when combined totals at least three years
- Three years of paralegal work experience
The Kansas Association of Legal Assistants (KALA) supports legal assistants and paralegals in increasing their level of professional ability through national certification, specialized training and continuing legal education. KALA is a NALA affiliate. KALA members meet monthly to network, gain insight into local, state and national developments in the legal field and further their education and professional development.
KALA offers five levels of membership:
- Voting – Open to those who meet any of the following:
- Certified Legal Assistant (CLA)/Certified Paralegal (CP) credential from NALA
- Graduate of an ABA-approved paralegal program and currently working as a paralegal
- Graduate of a paralegal program that included at least 60 semester credits of classroom study, who is currently employed as a paralegal
- Graduate of a paralegal program plus six months of in-house paralegal experience
- Bachelor’s degree in any field plus six months of in-house paralegal experience
- Three years of law-related experience plus six months of in-house paralegal experience
- Two years of in-house paralegal experience
- Affiliate – Open to anyone who meets one of the following:
- Has been employed as a paralegal in the past but is not currently
- Paralegal program graduate who has not yet found a job as a paralegal
- Employed paralegal who does not meet the requirements for Voting membership
- Sustaining – Open to persons or firms that are interested in supporting the paralegal profession
- Student – Open to students in good standing who are enrolled in a paralegal program
- Honorary – Open to anyone who has supported the goals of KALA, who KALA votes to declare an honorary member
Connecting legal assistants and paralegals across the Missouri-Kansas state line, the Heartland Paralegal Association works to increase the utilization of paralegals within the legal field. The HPA supports voluntary national certification and high ethical expectations as means to this end, and offers its members resources to increase their professional achievement. The HPA brings together students, practicing paralegals, paralegal educators, institutions and vendors to network and develop community within the legal field.
HPA offer three levels of membership:
- Voting – Open to those who meet one of the following:
- Passage of NALA’s Certified Paralegal (CP)/Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) exam
- Graduate of an ABA-approved paralegal program
- Graduation from a paralegal program of study that includes at least 60 semester credits of classroom study
- Graduation from a paralegal program plus six months of in-house paralegal training
- Bachelor’s degree in any subject plus six months of in-house paralegal training
- Three years of law-related experience plus six months of in-house paralegal training
- Two years of in-house paralegal training
- Student – Open to students in good standing who are enrolled full or part-time in a paralegal studies program
- Sustaining – Open to persons or entities that endorse the paralegal concept
The majority of Kansas’ paralegals work in law firms, especially in the Wichita, Topeka, Overland Park metropolitan areas. Law firms in these cities include:
- Foulston Siefkin LLP
- Sloan Eisenbarth Glassman McEntire & Jarboe, L.L.C.
- Fisher, Patterson, Sayler & Smith
- Wallace Saunders
- Gilliland & Hayes, PA
- Hampton & Royce L.C.
- Kutak Rock LLP
- Morris, Laing, Evans, Brock & Kennedy, Chartered
- Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP
Many paralegals also work across the river in Kansas City, Missouri. Large law firms in Kansas City include:
- Shook, Hardy and Bacon
- Polsinelli Shughart
- Stinson Morrison Hecker
- Lathrop and Gage
- Husch Blackwell
Important Contacts for Paralegals
- Kansas Paralegal Association (KPA), affiliated with the NFPA
- Kansas Association of Legal Assistants (KALA), affiliated with NALA
- Heartland Paralegal Association (HPA), affiliated with NALA
- Kansas Bar Association
- Kansas Judicial Branch
- Kansas Secretary of State