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An Overview of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations

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The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) was founded in 1974. Since then, it’s become one of the most well-respected non-profit professional organizations for the paralegal industry. In fact, the NFPA is a compilation of over 50 member associations, which represents over 9,000 individual paralegals spanning all industries and specialties. Due to its wide scope of members, this dynamic professional organization offers above-average training opportunities as well as industry-leading certification examinations.

Paralegal-professionalIf you’re a professional paralegal wishing to enhance your standing in this dynamic field, then obtaining a membership and/or certification by the NFPA greatly enhances your career options. Since its beginnings, the NFPA has a strong placement within the various arms of the legal system; specifically within the realm of the paralegal profession. With its guidance, you’ll be on the cutting edge regarding legislation and changes to the paralegal industry.

NFPA Certification

Perhaps one of the most common reasons why a paralegal is interested in the National Federation of Paralegal Associations is to become certified. Because every state features unique regulations regarding employment and scope of practice for paralegals, standing out amongst the crowd can be a difficult task. One of the most effective ways to differentiate yourself from other paralegals is to become certified by the NFPA.

There are two primary credentials a paralegal may obtain through this professional organization. Each of these certifications are designed based upon your work and education history. If you’re first starting out within this profession, then you’ll likely be interested in the NFPA Paralegal CORE Competency Examination. This unique exam tests your working knowledge gained from your training. Upon graduation, taking and passing this examination earns you the CRP designation, which greatly enhances your marketability to employers. If you have little work experience, this certification is ideal to get your feet in the door with prospective employers.

Those who have not only completed a thorough training program in paralegal studies, but also have several years of work experience within this field will want a higher-level certification. The National Federation of Paralegal Associations offers the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam; also referred to as PACE. This unique advanced-level examination demonstrates your above-average understanding of the United States legal system and the roles/responsibilities a paralegal has within this field. Upon passing this advanced certification examination, you’ll feature the coveted RP designation. This credential clearly demonstrates you’re a top performer within the industry. Generally, those seeking promotion or advancement within their career go after this challenging certification.

In addition to the NFPA certification, there are many options for obtaining paralegal certification online through university programs across the nation. These online education options offer flexibility, convenience, and a pace of study at which most schedules and obligations can accommodate. The options range from online paralegal certificate programs to Associates in paralegal studies, to even a Bachelors in paralegal studies. Regardless of your situation there is often an educational option available to help meet your goals of becoming a paralegal and beginning your legal career.

National Federation of Paralegal Associations Certificate Eligibility Requirements

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While obtaining a nationally recognized paralegal certificate may not be a requirement in your state to work within this profession, it’s an excellent way to stand out from the crowd. The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) offers one of the most respected and thorough paralegal certificate. Known as the Paralegal Core Competencies (PCC) examination, this certificate clearly demonstrates your working knowledge as a paralegal.

If you’re interested in taking the NFPA Paralegal Core Competencies certification examination, it’s essential to uncover its eligibility requirements. There are many different educational and experience pathways you can take to sit for the examination. Continue reading to uncover whether or not you’re eligible and how to meet eligibility requirements.

The various requirements to sit for the Paralegal Core Competencies examination include:

Paralegal-Law-Jeffersonian1.) A bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. This degree may be in any any field; however, if you don’t have work experience as a paralegal then a certificate in paralegal studies is required. This certificate is often obtained by completing a course at community colleges, vocational schools or your university.

2.) A bachelor’s degree within the paralegal studies field. With this designation, you don’t need a certificate in paralegal studies or any work experience.

3.) A completed bachelor’s degree within any field of study along with a minimum of six months of work experience. You must also have completed a minimum of one hour of continuing education in legal ethics.

4.) An associate degree in any field of study as well as a certificate in paralegal studies. If you have this additional certificate, you aren’t required to have any work experience.

5.) An associate degree in paralegal studies – if you have this designation then you aren’t required to hold an additional certificate in paralegal studies or any work experience.

6.) One year of work experience as a paralegal or within the legal system as well as a an associate degree in any field of study. You will also be required to hold a minimum of six hours of continuing education, which must include at least one hour of legal ethics.

7.) You may qualify for this examination if you have a paralegal certificate that meets the program requirements set forth by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations. You must also have a minimum of one year work experience within the paralegal profession as well as a minimum of six hours of continuing education within the realm of paralegal studies.

8.) If you only have a high school diploma or a GED, you may quality for the NFPA certification examination by undertaking a minimum of five years of work experience within the paralegal profession as well as a minimum of 12 hours of continuing education.

The ABA Approval Process for Paralegal Programs

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As with many other professional training programs, the most well-respected paralegal training programs must be approved/accredited by a nationally-recognized organization. While many paralegal training programs are approved by state and federal educational organizations, if you truly wish to obtain the highest-quality education then you should strive to attend a program approved by the American Bar Association, or the ABA.

How Programs Are Approved by the ABA

ABA-Approval-Process-for-Paralegal-ProgramsThe American Bar Association features a unique panel known as the Standing Committee on Paralegals. Within this committee is an Approval Commission, which is primarily responsible for the setting the various standards and regulating the curriculum for paralegal training programs. If a school wishes to have its paralegal training program approved by the American Bar Association, they must complete a highly detailed approval process. This detailed process involves various self-evaluation reports as well as various on-site evaluations by members of the ABA Approval Committee.

Along with these investigations into the school, no training program is able to be approved by the American Bar Association if it’s been in place for less than two years. Training programs must also be able to demonstrate students have successfully graduated from the program. Along with the aforementioned information, a school who wishes to be accredited by the American Bar Association must be prepared to demonstrate the following:

1.) Student Enrollment Detailed by Year and Degree
2.) Number of Graduates from the Training Program by Year
3.) Names and Detailed Professional History of Its Advisory Committee
4.) Faculty Information
5.) Detailed Information Regarding Its Curriculum for All Paralegal Training Programs
6.) Detailed List of Legal Specialty Coursework

Of course, the aforementioned is only a small sampling of what a school must go through in order to be approved by the American Bar Association. Once the school has provided all of the necessary components of the application process, the American Bar Association Approval Committee reviews the materials to determine if the school initially qualifies.

If so, then the ABA Approval Committee schedules an on-site evaluation of not only the paralegal training department, but also the entire institution. The on-site evaluation generally consists of a two-person team either from the ABA Approval Committee or their official representatives.

After the on-site evaluation, the reviewing team then creates and submits their findings to the Approval Commission, which is then reviewed. Should the committee find that the school satisfies the various requirements in order to be accredited, the school is then issued a certificate of approval. This certificate is only valid for seven years. Afterward, the entire process must be started over to ensure the training institution is offering the latest curriculum and teaching capabilities to enhance the education of students.

The Importance of an ABA-Approved Educational Program

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In the most generalized sense, a paralegal training program which has been approved by the American Bar Association has undergone extra work within their curriculum offerings. A school that is approved by the American Bar Association has clearly demonstrated a consistently high standard of learning within the paralegal industry. Not only is the training institution compliant with the various guidelines established by this organization, but the faculty and overall training quality exceeds that of non-approved training institutions.

While an American Bar Association approval clearly demonstrates the training programs high standards, an aspiring paralegal doesn’t have to attend an ABA-approved training program in order to work within this field. However, there are several real-world benefits applicable to all students wishing to enter any paralegal field. We encourage anyone who is researching paralegal schools to consider ABA approval as one of the criteria that may influence their choice of paralegal program to pursue.

We encourage our readers to visit the Paralegal Approved Program Directory to research this further.

Benefit #1 – Relevance Within the Industry

When you attend an American Bar Association approved paralegal training program, it means that the overall educational experience exceeds the various guidelines established by this national organizations. In other words, the training program is well-qualified to train paralegals and prepare them for a dynamic career as a paralegal. Because the training quality meets or exceeds the requirements for a variety of industries, when you obtain a degree or certificate from an American Bar Association approved training institution, you’re setting yourself up to truly succeed within this industry as you’ll be distilled with the most relevant and up-to-date information within the paralegal industry.

Benefit #2 – High-Quality Education

A training program that’s been approved by the American bar Association has met the highly-specific need requirements for not only classroom hours, but also curriculum offerings. Therefore, when you attend such a program you’re guaranteeing a solid, well-rounded education. When a training institution requests accreditation by the American Bar Association, they must satisfy strict requirements regarding:

1.) Faculty qualifications and real-world experience
2.) Curriculum relevancy to the modern paralegal industry
3.) Textbook offerings
4.) Library resources to enhance the overall educational experience
5.) Exceptional student resources to maximize the entire training experience
6.) Centralized location of classes
7.) Powerful job placement and career counseling student services
8.) Above-average classroom facilities with the latest technological advancements

As you can tell, when you enroll in an training program that’s been approved by the American Bar Association, you’re engaging with a training education that takes training paralegals seriously.

Benefit #3 – Wide Array of Institutions

Because of the strict requirements to become approved by the American Bar Association, you may think that these training institutions are only available at expensive law schools or Ivy league institutions. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The American Bar Association features approved educational programs at all levels. For example, there are technical certificates, associate degree and bachelor’s degree programs that have all been approved by the ABA.