One of the problems the paralegal profession has always faced is the seemingly unending struggle to be accepted as a legal professional. This concern affects each paralegal differently in their career. Some may not be affected at all. Others continue to be forced to “prove” their worth through experience, education, involvement in local or national professional organizations, through speaking engagements, teaching classes, or perhaps through constant and frustrating negotiations within the workplace. I certainly experienced this early in my career.
At a recent IPA Board Retreat, one of the Board members insightfully commented that one of the best ways we, as paralegals, can hope to be more professionally respected in the workplace is to become a credentialed paralegal through a national exam. Another Board member, who is currently making plans to begin studying for PACE, also told me recently that she has noticed increased respect from her employer simply by virtue of showing an interest in sitting for the examination. She also saw a noticeable difference in her employer’s professional respect for her through her involvement on the IPA Board. Two other PACE Registered Paralegals recently pondered whether employers even understand what an “RP” or “CP” means to the legal profession. There seems to be little question as to the meaning, for example, when someone writes “RN” after his or her name. All of these points are very well taken.
Earlier this year, Stacey Hunt, CLA, CAS, and Ann Price, RP wrote an article in Legal Assistant Today discussing the two most widely taken examinations to become a credentialed paralegal ~ NALA’s Certified Legal Assistant exam (“the CLA exam”), created in 1976, and NFPA’s Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (“PACE”), created in 1994. NALA also recently began offering Advanced Specialty Certification exams which is also a part of NFPA’s two-tiered, long range plan.
Interestingly, the very first sentence in the LAT article meets this issue head on ~ “Professional certification lends credibility to any profession, and the paralegal profession is no exception.” [Emphasis added].
Paralegals who pass the CLA exam earn the CLA/CP designation and/or other specialty certifications, while paralegals who pass PACE, are authorized to use the trademarked phrase “PACE Registered Paralegal” or “RP.” Indiana currently has 44 PACE Registered Paralegals, 28 of whom are members of IPA. Quite likely, some of the remaining Indiana RP’s are members of the other two paralegal associations in Indiana, also affiliated with NFPA ~ Michiana Paralegal Association and the Northeast Indiana Paralegal Association. According to NALA’s website, there are also 49 CLA/CP’s in Indiana; 3 of those are members of IPA. IPA, as a member of NFPA, promotes PACE to its membership; however, IPA respectfully acknowledges with pride all of its members who are credentialed paralegals through national testing, whether RP or CP, as well as one distinguished member, Kim Richardson, RP, CP of Ice Miller, who has taken and successfully passed both examinations. If you haven’t looked at the updated list on the PACE website, I invite you to do so.
Dianna Noyes, RP, NFPA PACE Ambassador Coordinator, recently compiled a chart that compared PACE, the CLA exam and a paralegal examination offered by NALS.
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