According to the 2016 US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report, more than 6,000 paralegals work in Maryland. In fact, the metropolitan area surrounding Washington, D.C., including suburban Maryland, boasts the second highest number of jobs for paralegals and the fifth top paying region for paralegal jobs in the nation.
Maryland’s paralegals are not regulated, meaning that the state has not mandated any formal education or training requirements for paralegals. This enables aspiring paralegals to enter the field through on-the-job training or education.
Like other states, Maryland’s Rule 5.3 does define the scope of practice of paralegals. Rule 5.3 requires that paralegals work under the supervision of an attorney who accepts responsibility for their professional actions.
Is There Paralegal Certification in Maryland?
In Maryland, aspiring paralegals who wish to obtain education may pursue certificate programs or degree-conferring programs in paralegal studies. Many of these programs help entry-level paralegals prepare for taking one of the voluntary national certification exams. Education in paralegal studies can also help distinguish entry-level paralegals from their peers, which can be useful in a competitive job market. Not all programs are approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) and not all are offered by accredited educational institutions. These factors can be important qualifications for potential employers or for eligibility to sit for national exams.
There are two types of certificate programs available: one which is offered only to students who already have a baccalaureate degree and need additional coursework in paralegal studies, and one for students with no previous education. Certificate programs typically offer a specialized focus in paralegal studies with no general education requirements. A graduate from such a program earns a certificate of completion and becomes a certificated paralegal.
Maryland Job Statistics
Aspiring paralegals may also choose to earn a degree in paralegal studies. Associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs are available. As the paralegal profession continues to grow in prominence, many employers desire a degree, or a degree plus certificate, when hiring an entry-level paralegal. Degrees can also help a paralegal qualify to take a national certification exam more quickly.
National Certification for Paralegals
Many states, such as Maryland, have not established training or education standards for paralegals. However, paralegals can voluntarily choose to demonstrate their command of the field by becoming certified paralegals. A certified paralegal must possess education, work experience or a combination of the two, and then must pass a national certification exam. 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 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)
Requirements for the national exams differ between the three national paralegal organizations. A comparison can be found here.
Paralegals working in the Washington, D.C. area may choose to join the National Capitola Area Paralegal Association (NCAPA), an affiliate of the NFPA.
Since 1974, NCAPA has worked to develop and expand the paralegal profession by representing the interests of private and public sector paralegals in within the broader legal field, encouraging education and voluntary certification for paralegals, and providing networking, support and resources for its members. NCAPA also offers regular meetings, continuing legal education opportunities, and conferences for its members.
The Maryland Association of Paralegals (MAP) offers membership to students and professional paralegals living or working in Maryland. An affiliate of the NFPA, MAP encourages its members to seek voluntary certification through the PCCE/PACE exams, and provides support for paralegals in preparing for those exams. With six regional committees, MAP also works to address the issues of interest to and affecting paralegals throughout the state. MAP members also have access to a job bank, networking opportunities and continuing legal education.
Paralegals in Maryland find many job opportunities in both the public and private sector. Washington, D.C. and Maryland’s larger cities such as Baltimore are home to many large law firms that employ paralegals, including: