Over 4,000 people are employed as paralegals in Minnesota according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2011 survey. The majority of Minnesota’s paralegals work in the twin cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Minnesota defines paralegals as part of a class of “legal paraprofessionals” under its Rule 5.3. According to this rule, paraprofessionals must be supervised by an attorney who instructs them in ethics and confidentiality. The attorney must also accept responsibility for the paraprofessionals’ professional conduct.
Minnesota has no regulations in place that require standardized training or education for paralegals. Thus, aspiring paralegals may choose to pursue careers through on-the-job training or education in paralegal studies.
Is There Paralegal Certification in Minnesota?
As professional opportunities increase for paralegals, education can help set entry-level job applicants apart from their peers. Certificates and degrees in paralegal studies can also prepare paralegals to meet the requirements for the voluntary national certification exams. Whether or not a paralegal education program is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) or is offered by an accredited institution can be important considerations.
Certificate programs in paralegal studies are generally shorter than degree programs as they do not have many general education requirements. Instead, they offer specialized coursework in paralegal studies. Upon completing such a program, graduates receive certificates of completion to become certificated paralegals.
|Minnesota Job Statistics|
Certificate programs have different entry requirements. Some may require that the applicant previously have earned a degree in a different field. Other offer paralegal studies certificates to those with no previous higher education.
Degrees in paralegal studies are also available to aspiring paralegals who desire both in depth paralegal coursework and the fundamentals of higher education. Students may earn associate, bachelor’s or master’s degrees in paralegal studies.
Although Minnesota does not require national certification, paralegals may choose to become certified paralegals in order to demonstrate their competence in their professional field.
Paralegals that meet requirements for education, work experience or a combination of the two may take one of the four national certification exams offered by the three national professional paralegal associations. Requirements for the national exams differ between the three national paralegal organizations. A comparison can be found here.
Currently the three professional organizations offer four national exams from which to select. Many paralegals in Minnesota take the PCC/PACE as the Minnesota Paralegal Association is an affiliate of the NFPA. The four exams are:
- 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)
The Minnesota Paralegal Association (MPA), an affiliate of the NFPA, has members throughout the state as well as regional chapters to represent its members’ diverse needs and interests. The MPA provides resources to aspiring paralegals, including a mentoring program and career center. The MPA also encourages the continuing education and professional development of all of its members through meetings, seminars, continuing legal education (CLE) and sectional work that focuses on different aspects of the law. To assist the growth of a paralegal profession with high standards of ethics and professionalism, the MPA is involved in pro bono work and networks with related organizations.
This association sponsors the voluntary credential Minnesota Certified Paralegal (MnCP). To be eligible for this you must meet one of the following:
- Associate’s degree in paralegal studies from a program that is ABA-approved or institutionally accredited, plus four years of paralegal work experience
- Bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies from a program that is ABA-approved or institutionally accredited, plus two years of paralegal work experience
- Bachelor’s degree in any subject, a post-bac paralegal certificate from a program that is ABA-approved or institutionally accredited, and two years of paralegal work experience
- Bachelor’s degree in any subject plus four years of paralegal work experience
- High school diploma or equivalent, 10 years of paralegal work experience, and 10 continuing legal education (CLE) credits completed within the past two years
- Law school graduate plus two years of paralegal work experience
In addition to the MnCP credential, the MPA offers different levels of membership:
- Voting – Open to paralegals employed in Minnesota
- Greater Minnesota Voting – Open to paralegals employed in Minnesota who live outside the Seven County Twin Cities Metro Area
- Associate – Open to those who meet any of the following:
- Not employed in the legal field and seeking first-time employment as a paralegal
- Have previously been employed as a paralegal but are not currently
- Are employed as a paralegal outside the state
- Paralegal Educator – Open to anyone employed or previously employed as a paralegal educator
- Student – Open to any student enrolled in a paralegal program or internship
- Greater Minnesota Student – Open to any student enrolled in a paralegal program or internship that is located outside the Seven County Twin Cities Metro Area
- Sustaining – Open to any entity that supports the MPA
- Individual Sustaining – Open to any employee of an entity that does not wish to, or cannot, be a sustaining member
NALS Twin Cities – A NALS affiliate, this organization offers these membership levels:
- Individual – Open to those engaged in work of a legal nature
- Associate – Open to those engaged in work of a legal nature such as educators, judges, and attorneys
- Students – Open to students taking at least nine semester credits from a legal-related program offered by an accredited school
- Retired – Open to those who have been a NALS-affiliated member for at least five years prior to retirement
- Life – Open to qualified individual members
- International – Open to those engaged in work of a legal nature who reside outside the US
Paralegals working in western Minnesota may choose to join the Red River Valley Paralegal Association (RRVPA). The RRVPA, an affiliate of NALA, includes paralegals who work in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota. In addition to regular meetings and networking opportunities, the RRVPA hosts twice yearly seminars that offer CLE for attendees as well as credits needed to maintain a CLA/CP certification.
Large law firms can employ many paralegals as part of their team. Large law firms in Minnesota include:
- Fredrikson and Byron
- Briggs and Morgan
- Lindquist and Vennum
- Leonard, Street and Deinard
- Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi
- Dorsey and Whitney
- Faegre and Benson
Important Contacts for Paralegals
- Minnesota Paralegal Association (MPA), affiliated with NFPA
- Minnesota State Bar Association
- Minnesota Secretary of State
- Minnesota Judicial Branch
- Red River Valley Paralegal Association (RRVPA), affiliated with NALA