Obtain a high school diploma or equivalent plus seven years of experience as a legal assistant under the supervision of a member of the bar, plus evidence of a minimum of 20 hours of continuing legal education credit to have been completed within a two-year period prior to the examination date. NALA has a two-day testing schedule, always starting on Friday, and you should know it ahead of time so you can be mentally prepared.
On Friday from 9: After a minute lunch break, the judgment and analytical ability portion of the test will be given from After a lunch break on Saturday, you will sit for the final section, substantive law, from 1: One of the most difficult sections is the judgment and analytical ability portion, which requires you to write not type a research memo. Each chapter covers a different section of the examination with sample questions and practice tests.
The second guide, the NALA Manual for Paralegals and Legal Assistants, covers general skills on which you will be tested during the examination, including the American legal system, research, ethics, judgment and analytical ability, interview techniques and other topics such as pretrial litigation skills, discovery and assisting at trial.
This guide is useful to help you find out where your strengths lie in the four substantive legal areas so you can sign up for those you are best in. NALA also offers online self-study programs for eight different test areas. These are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be taken at your own pace.
If you would rather study with others, many state and local paralegal associations offer review programs for their members, or you also can form your own study group. Study groups usually meet once a week for three to four months before the examination, and they are a great way to keep up your enthusiasm and commitment. Twice a year, NALA provides examination review programs. The October Short Course was taught in Denver.
The Short Course is a two and a half day program focusing on topics that you will be tested on during the examination. The programs are interactive and participants are able to ask the instructors questions and discuss matters with other students. A telephone and a computer with high-speed Internet access are required. You can find more information at www.
To maintain your certification, you are required to complete 50 hours of CLE every five years. This must include at least five hours of legal ethics. There are many ways to earn these hours, including attending conferences, seminars and workshops, taking NALA Campus Live courses, researching and writing articles in legal publications, and teaching or passing a NALA Advanced Specialty course. Will all this time and effort be worth it?
The results are mixed on compensation. For some, the CLA designation has translated into additional compensation, but money alone is not the major draw for a lot of CLAs. Many report feelings of personal satisfaction and accomplishment after successful completion of the examination.
Others find it provides a tremendous boost to their self-esteem and added prestige at their jobs. Recognizing Excellence in the Paralegal Profession. A relative newcomer, PACE was created when delegates from the member associations of NFPA voted to develop a voluntary, advanced-level competency exam.
PACE was designed to establish a national standard of paralegal excellence for experienced paralegals and to test critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The resulting exam is neither state- nor practice-specific. The most recent scoring run indicates a 63 percent pass rate.
PACE was created to provide a means for the general public and the legal community to evaluate paralegal expertise. PACE is not an entry-level certification exam.
Candidates must submit applications, supported by college transcripts and affidavits attesting to the nature and duration of substantive paralegal work experience. Candidates also must meet character requirements. An independent testing agency reviews applications to ensure eligibility. Approved candidates can schedule the location, date and time for their exam at their convenience, at any one of the more than Prometric formerly Thomsen Prometric and Sylvan Learning Centers testing facilities.
Most of the exam fee covers the costs to administer the exam. NFPA procedures require that half of any profits are directed to the Foundation for the Advancement of the Paralegal Profession, an independent nonprofit foundation created to promote the paralegal profession.
PACE consists of multiple-choice questions. Candidates have up to four hours to complete the exam, although most finish within two hours. PACE is computer based and taken under controlled testing conditions at a Prometric testing facility. Prometric centers are located in most major cities in the United States. They are accessible, and many large cities have multiple locations. Preliminary test results are provided within minutes of completing the exam, although they will not be official until the test scores are validated in June and December of each year.
The validation process includes a detailed review to analyze trends and identify potentially troublesome questions. One must know legal principles and have experience to succeed on PACE. A paralegal meeting the minimum criteria for the exam should be able to use logical thought processes, elimination of incorrect answers and their expertise in the basic legal principles to correctly answer the test questions.
NFPA has developed many study tools to assist candidates preparing for the exam. Each chapter includes sample test questions with detailed explanations of the logical process to deduce the correct response.
In addition, NFPA offers a question online practice exam that simulates test conditions. NFPA encourages candidates to participate in a study group if possible. Study groups are organized at the local level, although NFPA can assist by providing sample guidelines, a sample syllabus and other information to help the study groups prepare for the exam. Study groups can be as formal or informal as the participants want. NFPA recommends that study groups meet at least once a week and follow the suggested syllabus over a seven- to eight-week period, although they can meet more often or less often.
The group can be taught by members taking turns on the various study areas, or the group leader can solicit speakers from the legal community. The local PACE Ambassador can be an invaluable resource in linking candidates to RPs in their local areas, mentoring candidates, offering review courses and facilitating study groups. Each association maintains its own resource materials in addition to the Study Manual. If you are not a member of a local paralegal association and would like to contact a PACE Ambassador in your area, you can contact NFPA headquarters at info paralegals.
Many find it impossible to study any other way but individually. This review course includes mentoring, discussions, homework assignments and online lectures, and ultimately provides a structured form of study.
It also encourages a disciplined approach to study that many paralegals find difficult to maintain if they study on their own. In the event of the latter two, you will be going back to the courts to secure a show cause order or be held in contempt or just a contempt of court order.
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