Looking for a place to network with other paralegals? Want to further your education and keep on top of the paralegal profession? Membership in one or more paralegal associations is a great addition to your resume. Look into joining one – or all – of these professional associations for a boost to your career!
NALA is probably the most well-known organization in the paralegal profession because it administers the nationally recognized Certified Paralegal (CP) and Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP) examinations. Currently, you are under no obligation to obtain a certification in order to hold a job as a paralegal, however the CP credential is quickly becoming a requirement for many prospective employers.
Once pass the CP exam, you’ll need to submit continuing legal education (CLE) credits to maintain it. Fortunately, NALA also offers many CLE courses on an extensive variety of topics, both online and in person at NALA’s annual paralegal convention taking place in a different city each year (this year is Scottsdale, Arizona).
Presently NALA is the leading paralegal association in the United States boasting more than 18,000 paralegals members. NALA even publishes occupational survey reports, so you can make sure your job sizes up.
NFPA was the first national paralegal association and currently represents more than 9,000 individual members. NFPA also offers certification examinations: the Paralegal CORE Competency Exam (PCCE) and the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE). The PACE exam actually has stricter eligibility requirements than NALA’s CP Exam, requiring education AND work experience in order to sit for the exam.
You won’t go unemployed for long as an NFPA member if you make use of their career center which features jobs and offers employment assistance for its members. The career center also includes an extensive resume bank for employers looking for the best talent.
This association was renamed “NALS…the association for legal professionals” in 1999 to encompass all areas of the legal support profession, not exclusively legal secretaries. They offer three certification programs: Accredited Legal Professional (ALP, Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) and Professional Paralegal (PP). NALS is the parent association of NALA, which became its own association in 1975. They also promote an annual “Court Observance Week.”
Another leading paralegal association, AAP was the first association to host a webinar and set educational requirements for members. AAP provides their own certification – the AACP (American Alliance Certified Paralegal), but you have to be a member of AAP to qualify to sit for the exam. They also require CLE to maintain the credential.
Your Local Association
Here’s where networking will really pay off – you can now connect with other paralegals that work in your city. You can find a mentor in a member that is more experienced or share your knowledge with a newcomer. Who knows? You might meet a lifelong friend!
Many local associations have a job bank and members are the first to know about a local job opening. Additionally, the cost of membership is typically lower for your local association than it would be for a national association. Your employer may even cover the cost of membership for you! It doesn’t hurt to ask!
Some local associations provide local seminars for CLE credit (at a discounted rate to members) so you can maintain your national certification and network with your local colleagues at the same time. Bonus - many seminars are offered in a luncheon or dinner setting so you’ll get some great food!
If you haven’t obtained a certification yet, see if your association offers review courses and local study groups. They may even have a scholarship available to cover the cost of the test and study materials.
Your State Association
A state association will have many of the same benefits that a local association has. Your state association will also be the one to lobby for the profession with state (or federal) government when proposed laws are introduced that could affect the profession.
Many state associations also offer a paralegal certification exam that is state-specific. This credential combined with a national certification will really boost your resume so you can find that perfect job!
Membership will also likely give you exclusive access to association resources, publications and a statewide job bank.