How to Become a Certified Paralegal in New York

paralegal new yorkThere are over 22,000 paralegals working in New York State according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2011 employment survey. Over 17,000 of these paralegals are employed in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan division that includes New York City. New York has the second highest employment level of paralegals in the country, following California. Additonally, the average paralegal salary in New York is the third-highest in the nation.

New York state follows the American Bar Association (ABA) model that guides lawyers’ responsibilities to nonlawyer assistants. Under New York’s Rule 5.3, lawyers must provide supervision of all legal paraprofessionals, including instruction in ethics and confidentiality. The professional conduct of paralegals is considered the responsibility of the supervising attorney.

Paralegals in New York state are not required by law to meet any standardized educational or training requirements before entering the profession. However, the Empire State Alliance of Paralegal Associations (ESAPA) articulates in its Position Statement on Paralegal Education in New York State its belief in standardized educational requirements. ESAPA outlines educational guidelines and encourages their adoption by both paralegals and the attorneys who employ them. There are a number of paralegal schools in New York. The suggested educational standards are: an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, a post-baccalaureate certificate in paralegal studies or a bachelor’s degree with a major, minor or concentration in paralegal studies.


FIND SCHOOLS
Sponsored Content

Is There Paralegal Certification in New York?

According to ESAPA, many hiring lawyers, particularly in locations with large concentrations of paralegals, prefer to hire entry-level paralegals that have earned degrees in paralegal studies.

Associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees and post-baccalaureate certificates are recommended, but other important criteria are whether or not the program has ABA approval and whether the educational institution is accredited. ESAPA discourages paralegals from selecting programs that are online-only or that don’t contain academic standards similar to the ABA guidelines.

New York Job Statistics

  • 2011 mean income for paralegals in New York: $54,840
  • In 2009, 80% of paralegals in New York worked for private law firms
  • In 2009, 75.2% of paralegals in New York reported that they receive a raise once per year
  • In 2009, 72% of paralegals in New York reported that they work 31-40 hours per week
  • In 2009, 43.5% of paralegals in New York held a bachelor’s degree

Sometimes the terms “certificated” and “certified” paralegals are used incorrectly. Earning a post-baccalaureate certificate is different from earning national certification. Post-baccalaureate certificate programs are offered to aspiring paralegals who have previously earned a degree in another field. Certificate programs offer coursework specific to paralegals without many general education requirements, presumably because the students have already fulfilled those while earning their bachelor’s degree. Graduates of such programs earn certificates of completion and thus become certificated paralegals.

National Certification

The member associations of the Empire State Alliance of Paralegal Associations (ESAPA) support the credentialing of paralegals through national certification, through which paralegals become certified paralegals.  Certified paralegals demonstrate that they are proficient in their profession by both meeting educational and training requirements and by passing one of the national certification exams that are offered by three national professional paralegal associations. Currently there are four exams from which to choose:

Requirements for the national exams differ between the three national paralegal organizations and can be found here. In New York, most paralegals take the PACE orPCCEas the ESAPA member organizations are affiliated with the NFPA.

Paralegal Associations

New York is home to several regional NFPA affiliate associations that also work together as the Empire State Alliance of Paralegal Association (ESAPA). ESAPA unites paralegals on statewide and national matters, ensures that all New York paralegals are informed of legislation and other issues concerning the paralegal profession, and provides networking opportunities. ESAPA currently has five local chapters:

  • Capital District Paralegal Association (CDPA)
  • New York City Paralegal Association (NYCPA)
  • Western New York Paralegal Association (WNYPA)
  • Paralegal Association of Rochester (PAR)
  • Onondaga County Bar Association, Paralegals Section

The member associations that belong to ESAPA offer support, education, advocacy and networking that is tailored to the regions that they serve. Continuing education and professional development are top priorities, as well as supporting members that are seeking national certification. The regional paralegal associations also cultivate working relationships with the local bar associations and others in the legal field to help promote the growth of the paralegal profession.

FIND SCHOOLS
Sponsored Content

Capital District Paralegal Association (CDPA) – An affiliate of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), the CDPA offers three levels of membership:

  • Affiliate – Open to anyone who is a legal educator, who is a former paralegal, or who has completed a paralegal program but is not currently employed as a paralegal
  • Student – Open to anyone enrolled in a paralegal program
  • Voting – Open to anyone who is a practicing paralegal

New York City Paralegal Association (NYCPA) – An affiliate of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), the NYCPA offers six levels of membership:

  • Active – Open to anyone who lives in the NYCPA area, who works as a paralegal, and who meets one of the following:
    • Bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies
    • Bachelor’s degree in any subject plus a certificate from a paralegal training program
    • Bachelor’s degree in any subject plus one year of paralegal work experience
    • Associate’s degree in paralegal studies and one year of paralegal work experience
    • Associate’s degree in any subject plus two years of paralegal work experience
    • High school diploma, a paralegal certificate, and three years of paralegal work experience
    • High school diploma and four years of paralegal work experience
  • Associate – Open to those who live or work in the NYCPA area who are paralegals or related to paralegals who do not qualify for Active membership
  • Student – Open to those currently enrolled in a paralegal program who do not meet the requirements for Active or Associate membership
  • Sustaining – Open to individuals and entities that support the goals of the NYCPA
  • Observer – Open to anyone who meets one of the following:
    • Works in the legal field outside of the NYCPA area
    • Does not work in the legal field but lives in the NYCPA area
  • International Affiliate – Open to anyone doing legal work anywhere outside the United States

Paralegal Association of Rochester (PAR) – An affiliate of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), PAR has three membership levels:

  • Voting – Open to anyone employed as a paralegal
  • Student – Open to anyone enrolled in a paralegal program
  • Affiliate – Open to anyone

Western New York Paralegal Association (WNYPA) – An affiliate of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), WNYPA has three levels of membership:

  • Active – Open to employed paralegals
  • Associate – Open to those formerly employed as paralegals, and those who completed a course of paralegal studies, but who are not currently employed as paralegals
  • Student – Open to students taking classes to enter the paralegal field

Onondaga County Bar Association, Paralegal Division – Offers affiliate membership open to paralegals.

NALS of New York – The state-level affiliate of NALS, this association and its local chapters encourage membership in NALS and promote NALS certifications. The local chapters of NALS of New York are:

  • Central NY Chapter of NALS
  • NALS of Nassau County
  • NALS of New York City
  • NALS of Suffolk County
  • NALS of Lower Hudson Valley

NALS membership is offered by these organizations at these 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

Greater New York Paralegal Association (GNYPA) – An affiliate of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), this association offers four classes of membership:

  • Student Members – Open to those enrolled full or part-time in a paralegal program who are in good standing
  • Associate Members – Open to individuals who meet one of the following:
    • Members of the bar association who endorse the paralegal concept
    • Members of the education profession who endorse the paralegal concept
    • Persons directly involved in the supervision of paralegals
  • Sustaining Members – Open to individuals, law firms, corporations, and paralegal program representatives that support the paralegal concept
  • Active Members – Open to anyone who meets any of the following:
    • NALA’s Certified Paralegal (CP)/Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) credential
    • Graduate of an ABA-approved paralegal program
    • Graduate of an institutionally approved paralegal program that includes at least 60 semester credits
    • Graduate of a paralegal program plus six months of in-house paralegal training
    • Bachelor’s degree in any field 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

Large Law Firms

New York is home to many private law firms, which can be great sources of jobs for paralegals. New York’s largest law firms include:

  • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom
  • Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
  • Simpson, Thatcher & Bartlett
  • Davis Polk & Wardwell
  • Weil, Gotshal & Manges
  • Sullivan & Cromwell
  • Clearly Gottleib Steen & Hamilton
  • Cravath Swaine & Moore
  • Debevoise & Plimpton

Important Contacts for Paralegals

Back to Top