Employers establish the hiring standards for paralegals. Generally, a paralegal should meet certain minimum qualifications for employment, and for law firms to use in establishing billing rates. The following standards may be used to determine an individual’s qualifications:
- Successful completion of the Certified Paralegal certifying (CP) examination of the NALA;
- Graduation from an ABA approved program of study for paralegals;
- Graduation from a course of study for paralegals which is institutionally accredited but not ABA approved, and which requires not less than the equivalent of 60 semester hours of classroom study;
- Graduation from a course of study for paralegals, other than those set forth in (2) and (3) above, plus not less than six months of in-house training as a paralegal;
- A baccalaureate degree in any field, plus not less than six months in-house training as a paralegal;
- A minimum of three years of law-related experience under the supervision of an attorney, including at least six months of in-house training as a paralegal; or
- Two years of in-house training as a paralegal.
In addition, NALA members and Certified Paralegals are bound by the NALA Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility. Violation of this Code may result in suspension of NALA membership, or suspension of the certification credential.
NALA’s study of the professional responsibility and ethical considerations of paralegals is ongoing. This research led to the development of the NALA Model Standards and Guidelines for Utilization of Paralegal. This guide summarizes case law, guidelines and ethical opinions of the various states affecting paralegals. It provides an outline of minimum qualifications and standards necessary for paralegal professionals to assure the public and the legal profession that they are, indeed, qualified.