Paralegals play an important role in the delivery of legal services in Maine. With more than 1,100 paralegals working in the state, Maine employs nearly as many paralegals as it does attorneys, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2016 survey.
Maine follows the standard American Bar Association definition of the role of paralegals that many other states use:
“Paralegal” and “legal assistant” mean a person, qualified by education, training or work experience, who is employed or retained by an attorney, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which an attorney is responsible.
However, while in most states this definition is used as a guideline, in Maine it is state law. This means that if people call themselves paralegals without being qualified to do so, they are breaking the law and may be fined up to $1000.00.
The Maine law does permit paralegals to enter the profession through education or on-the-job training. There are no regulations requiring registration, certification or minimum educational standards.
Is There Paralegal Certification in Maine?
As paralegals continue to grow in prominence within the legal field, higher levels of education or experience are becoming expected. Job candidates with solid educational credentials can distinguish themselves from their peers in a competitive job market. Additionally, education can help paralegals meet eligibility requirements for national certification exams. Educational options for aspiring paralegals include certificates and degrees.
Maine Job Statistics
Certificate programs offer focused coursework in legal studies as they pertain to paralegals.
Certificate programs are available as post-baccalaureate programs in which the applicant already has a degree, and as stand-alone programs in which no prior education is required. General education coursework is usually not required in a certificate program as the focus is exclusively on paralegal studies. Successful completion of a certificate program makes one a certificated paralegal. Employers and national certification examining bodies may prefer programs that are either recognized by the American Bar Association or offered by accredited institutions. Not all certificate programs meet these standards.
Degrees in paralegal studies are increasingly available. It is currently possible to earn an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree in paralegal studies. Holding a degree may offer entry-level paralegals a competitive edge in the job market. Additionally, a degree may qualify a paralegal to sit for one of the national certification exams.
Voluntary certification is available through one of three national paralegal associations to paralegals who meet minimum education, training or work experience requirements. 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.
There are no professional paralegal associations in Maine despite the high number of paralegals. However, the Maine Trial Lawyers Association (MTLA) accepts paralegals, legal assistants and legal secretaries as affiliate members if their employer is a member of the MTLA. As members, paralegals receive opportunities to earn continuing legal education units (CLE) including paralegal-specific CLEs, networking, support from the MTLA, participation in Case Evaluation clinics and access to web-based MTLA resources.
Law firms of all sizes and specialties employ paralegals in Maine. This makes law firms a natural place to search for employment for the entry-level paralegal. Maine law firms that employ paralegals include: