The 2016 US Bureau of Labor Statistics employment survey found that more than 3,000 paralegals were working in Oregon. Many of these paralegals were working in Oregon’s larger cities such as Portland, Eugene and Salem.
Oregon paralegals are not subject to state regulations for training or education. Aspiring paralegals may pursue a direct entry into the field through on-the-job training or they may obtain education in paralegal studies.
The paralegal-attorney relationship is defined in Oregon’s Rule 5.3. As in other states, attorneys in Oregon must provide direct supervision of paralegals, instruct them in matters of ethics and confidentiality, and assume responsibility for their professional conduct. Paralegals may perform substantive legal work but may not perform tasks that could be considered the unauthorized practice of law.
Is There Paralegal Certification in Oregon?
As the paralegal profession continues to grow, many aspiring paralegals are choosing to enter the field through education. Education can help set job candidates apart in a competitive job market in addition to preparing entry level paralegals for a work environment that assumes a high level of competence. Education can also help qualify paralegals to take one of the voluntary national certification exams to become certified paralegals. Employers as well as the professional organizations that offer national certification may require that the educational programs be accredited, American Bar Association (ABA) approved or both. These are important criteria to investigate when considering a school or program.
Oregon Job Statistics
In addition to associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in paralegal studies, aspiring paralegals can also earn certificates in paralegal studies. Certificate programs offer focused coursework in paralegal studies without many general education requirements. Many are designed to supplement a bachelor’s degree, offering a focus in paralegal studies to students with a preexisting degree in another field. Other certificate programs will admit students who do not hold degrees. A graduate from a certificate program is a certificated paralegal.
National certification is provided by the national paralegal professional associations to paralegals who meet eligibility requirements and who pass one of the national certification exams. Upon successfully completing the exam, paralegals become certified paralegals. 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.
The Oregon Paralegal Association (OPA) provides support, socialization, continuing education and information to paralegals throughout the state.
OPA has committees working on everything from pro bono opportunities to a mentoring program to specialization areas like intellectual property.
As an affiliate of the NFPA, the OPA works to promote high levels of professionalism and ethics among its members and encourages them to take the PACE/PCC exams for national certification. While OPA has many members in the Portland area, it also has a group that meets regionally called South of Portland Paralegals.
Law firms are the largest employers of paralegals and can be good entry points into the paralegal profession. Large law firms often hire paralegals to assist with their workload. In Oregon, Portland is home to many large law firms, including: