In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that out of 1600 legal professionals working in Wyoming, more than one-quarter were paralegals. Paralegals in Wyoming primarily work in law offices, for corporations or in government agencies.
The Wyoming Supreme Court’s Rule of Professional Conduct 5.3 governs the employer-employee relationship between attorneys and paralegals. As paralegals are not legally allowed to practice law, they must be directly supervised by a lawyer who accepts professional responsibility for the paralegal’s workplace conduct. The lawyer must also instruct any nonlawyer assistants in matters of ethics and confidentiality.
In Wyoming, aspiring paralegals can choose education or on-the-job training as entry-points into the profession. Wyoming does not regulate paralegals or otherwise require that they meet standards of training and education.
Is There Paralegal Certification in Wyoming?
Increasing numbers of aspiring paralegals are pursuing education as a means of distinguishing themselves from other entry-level job candidates and to demonstrate to employers their commitment to the profession. Those interested in education may select from certificate programs and degree programs. Prospective students should familiarize themselves with American Bar Association (ABA) standards for paralegal education and should investigate whether their desired programs are offered through accredited educational institutions. These factors can be important to future employers and may also affect eligibility to take one of the national certification exams.
Degree programs in paralegal studies, which include associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, offer students a combination of focused coursework in paralegal studies and general education courses. Such programs can usually be completed in two to five years.
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As they do not include many general education courses, most certificate programs can be completed more quickly than degree programs. Some are designed to complement a previously-earned bachelor’s degree with courses specific to the paralegal field. Other certificate programs are designed for those with no previous higher education. Graduates from certificate programs are called certificated paralegals.
After paralegals have worked in the field for a number of years or have earned a certificate or degree in combination with work experience, they can apply to take a national certification exam to become certified paralegals. National certification demonstrates paralegals’ command of their field and helps advance the paralegal profession. 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 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)
Requirements for the national exams differ between the three national paralegal organizations. A comparison can be found here.
The Legal Assistants of Wyoming (LAW) is an NALA-affiliated paralegal association that is open to students, practicing paralegals and other individuals interested in promoting the paralegal profession. Since 1990, LAW has offered continuing education and professional development to its members, networked with others within the legal community to increase utilization of paralegals, and supported paralegals seeking to earn national certification. LAW also organizes social, fundraising and pro bono events.
LAW offers three levels of membership:
- Active – Open to any individual who meets one of the following:
- Passed the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA)/Certified Paralegal (CP) exam from NALA
- Graduate of an ABA-approved paralegal program
- Graduate of an institutionally-accredited paralegal program that includes at least 60 semester credits of classroom study
- Graduate of a paralegal program and at least 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 at least six months of in-house paralegal training
- Two year of in-house paralegal training
- Student – Open to any individual who meets one of the following:
- Full-time student in good standing enrolled in a school’s paralegal program
- Part-time student in good standing enrolled in a school’s paralegal program while working part-time as a paralegal
- Associate – Open to bar association members and members of the educational field who endorse the paralegal concept
The Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association (RMPA), headquartered in Colorado, has a chapter in Wyoming and works to represent the interests of all Rocky Mountain paralegals in regional discussions about the profession. As an NFPA affiliate, the RMPA support paralegals who are pursuing national certification, offers continuing legal education hours, and promotes the profession throughout the region.
NFPA our membership levels:
- Voting Member – Must be an employed paralegal
- Associate Member – Open to individuals who support the RMPA
- Sustaining Member – Open to firms, organizations, and businesses that support the RMPA
- Student Member – Open to students enrolled in a paralegal program
Law firms can offer an entry-point into the paralegal profession as law firms are top employers of paralegals. Some of Wyoming’s top law firms include:
- Holland & Hart LLP
- Brown, Drew & Massey, LLP
- Williams, Porter, Day & Neville, P.C.
- Robert P. Schuster, P.C.
- Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine PC
- Davis & Cannon, LLP
Important Contacts for Paralegals
- Legal Assistants of Wyoming (LAW), affiliated with NALA
- Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association (RMPA), affiliated with the NFPA
- Wyoming State Bar
- Wyoming Secretary of State
- Wyoming Judicial Branch