Becoming a Paralegal in Ohio - OH

paralegal ohioNearly 6,500 paralegals work in Ohio according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2011 employment survey. The largest concentrations of paralegals in Ohio work in the metropolitan areas of Cincinnati and Cleveland.

Ohio’s Supreme Court Rule 5.3, Professional Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants, directs that attorneys must supervise paralegals and assume responsibility for their professional conduct. Ohio does not require that any minimum educational standards be met before a person can work as a paralegal. Thus aspiring paralegal can enter the profession through on-the-job training or by obtaining education.


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However, the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) does offer a voluntary certification program that assists potential employers in identifying job candidates who meet standards of proficiency in legal knowledge. In order to become an OSBA Certified Paralegal, paralegals must have sufficient education, work experience or a combination of the two, and they must pass a certification exam. The requirements to sit for the exam are:

  • A bachelor’s degree in any field, at least twenty additional semester hours of substantive paralegal coursework, and minimum paralegal work experience of one year full-time (or its equivalent 2,000 hours)
  • A bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies consisting of a minimum of 124 semester hours and paralegal work experience of at least one year full-time (or its equivalent 2,000 hours)
  • An associate degree in paralegal studies with at least sixty semester hours and paralegal work experience of at least five years full-time (or its equivalent of 10,000 hours)
  • A high school diploma or equivalent and at least seven years full-time work experience as a practicing paralegal (or its equivalent of 14,000 hours)

Increasing numbers of paralegals are pursuing education as a means of qualifying for entry level jobs. In Ohio, this becomes even more important if a paralegal wishes to become certified. Potential employers may prefer to hire those who could begin their job already possessing legal knowledge and who would be eligible for certification within a few years. Employers may also prefer that a job candidate’s paralegal education either meet American Bar Association (ABA) standards or be offered by an accredited educational institution.

Ohio Job Statistics

  • 2011 mean income for paralegals in Ohio: $44,910
  • July 2012, State Bar recognized 26 paralegals who earned OSBA Certified Paralegal designation
  • Ohio attorneys reported 45% more pro bono hours in 2010 than in 2009 (nearly 140,000 hours)
  • 2011, Supreme Court case disposal rate increased by 16% with 2,263 cases disposed

Is There Paralegal Certification in Ohio?

Confusingly, certificated paralegals are not the same as certified paralegals, though the two terms are often used interchangeably. Certificated paralegals have earned an educational certificate whereas certified paralegals have passed an exam which certifies that they have mastered a set level of knowledge.

Certificate programs offer focused coursework in paralegal studies. While there are some certificate programs that admit students who have not previously earned a bachelor’s degree, many schools require that applicants already have graduated with a bachelor’s degree in any field. By supplementing previous education with specialized paralegal coursework, these post-baccalaureate certificate programs can help paralegals both prepare for their career and become eligible for OSBA certification. Students who complete a certificate program become certificated paralegals.

In addition to earning OSBA certification, paralegals may choose to become nationally certified. National certification, through which paralegals become certified paralegals, is offered by three national professional paralegal associations.  Currently there are four exams from which to choose:

As with the OSBA Paralegal Certification process, paralegals interested in becoming nationally certified must meet requirements for education, work experience or a combination of the two.  Requirements for the national exams differ between the three national paralegal organizations and can be found here.

Paralegal Associations

Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) – This association offers an optional OSBA Certified Paralegal credential for paralegals who pass an exam, have had 12 hours of paralegal education in the past three years, have three professional references, and meet one of these requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in any subject, completion of a paralegal program that is at least 20 semester credits, and one year of full-time paralegal experience
  • Bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies that is at least 124 semester credits and one year of full-time paralegal experience
  • Associate’s degree in paralegal studies that consists of at least sixty semester credits and five years of full-time paralegal experience

High school diploma or equivalent plus seven years of full-time paralegal experience

NALS of Northeast Ohio – An affiliate of NALS, this organization offers the following levels of membership with NALS and promotes NALS certifications:

  • 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
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Ohio Statewide Alliance (OSA) – There are also five regional NFPA-affiliated professional paralegal associations serving Ohio. Each one has statewide representatives who meet periodically, forming the Ohio Statewide Alliance (OSA). The OSA exchanges regional information and collaborates to address matters affecting paralegals throughout the state.

Regionally, each of the five professional organizations support their members through networking, developing relationships with other organizations in the legal field, offering continuing education and professional development, and many other services. All of Ohio’s professional associations affiliated with the NFPA encourage their members to become nationally certified through the PACE/PCC exams. Ohio’s regional professional organizations are: the Cincinnati Paralegal Association (CPA), the Cleveland Association of Paralegals, Inc. (CAP), the Greater Dayton Paralegal Association, Inc. (GDPA), the Paralegal Association of Central Ohio (PACO), and the Paralegal Association of Northwest Ohio (PANO).

Paralegal Association of Northwest Ohio (PANO) – Affiliated with the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), PANO offers four levels of membership:

  • Active – Open to employed paralegals who meet one of the following:
    • NALA’s Certified Legal Assistant (CLA)/Certified Paralegal (CP) credential
    • Passed the Ohio State Bar Association’s Certified Paralegal exam
    • Degree or certificate from an ABA-approved paralegal program
    • Graduate of an institutionally-accredited paralegal program that includes at least 60 semester credits of classroom study
    • Bachelor’s degree in any field plus one year of in-house paralegal training
  • Student – Open to anyone enrolled in a paralegal school who is in good standing and does not qualify for another type of membership
  • Associate – Open to individuals who are not employers, attorneys, or educators, and who meet one of the following:
    • Graduate of an ABA-approved paralegal program that included at least 16 semester credits related to paralegal studies, who does not qualify for Student membership
    • Eligible for Active membership except for being employed as a paralegal or meeting continuing legal education requirements
    • Three years of law-related experience that includes at least one year of in-house paralegal training

Paralegal Association of Central Ohio (PACO) – An affiliate of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), PACO offers four levels of membership:

  • Active – Open to employed paralegals
  • Associate – Open to those not currently employed as paralegals
  • Student – Open to those currently enrolled in a paralegal course of study
  • Sustaining Affiliate Membership – Open to those not employed as paralegals who support the goals of PACO

Cincinnati Paralegal Association (CPA) – This association offers five levels of membership:

  • Active – Open to anyone who meets at least one of the following:
    • Currently employed as a paralegal
    • Graduate of a paralegal certificate or degree program, who is not currently employed as a paralegal
    • Previously employed as a paralegal but not currently
  • Associate – Open to those employed in the legal field who are not currently employed as a paralegal
  • Student – Open to students enrolled full or part-time in a paralegal studies program
  • Emeritus – Open to those not currently employed as paralegals, but who have been Active members for at least three years
  • Sustaining – Open to any person or entity that wants to support the CPA

Cleveland Association of Paralegals (CAP) – An affiliate of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), CAP offers five levels of membership:

  • Voting Member – Open to currently employed paralegals who have one of the following:
    • Associate’s or bachelor’s degree with a paralegal studies component
    • Three years of paralegal work experience
  • Student Member – Open to students who are enrolled in an institutionally-accredited paralegal program
  • Sustaining Member – Open to legal services organizations or any other individual who supports CAP
  • Educator Member – Open to individuals who are currently teaching or directing courses in paralegal studies at an institutionally-accredited program

Large Law Firms

Ohio’s metropolitan areas boast many large law firms. These law firms often hire many paralegals and can be good sources of employment for new paralegals. Ohio’s largest law firms include:

  • Frost Brown Todd
  • Taft Stettinius and Hollister
  • Roetzel and Andress
  • Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease
  • Porter Wright Morris and Arthur
  • Dinsmore and Shohl
  • Ulmer and Berne
  • Baker Hostetler
  • Thompson Hine
  • Squire, Sanders and Dempsey
  • Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan and Aronoff
  • Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick

 

Important Contacts for Paralegals

 

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