Monday, September 29, 2008

Yes to Creating an Entry Level Paralegal Exam

At the 2008 National Federation of Paralegal Associations' (NFPA) Annual Convention, being held next week in Rogers, Arkansas, several agenda topics that will shape the future of the paralegal profession are being discussed. One topic, submitted by the Arkansas Paralegal Association (ArPA), is the creation of an entry-level exam for paralegals.

Currently, there is no entry level examination for paralegals -- from either NFPA or the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). However, NALA does have their Certified Legal Assistant/Certified Paralegal exam, which can be taken directly out of school. NFPA only has its Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE), which requires experience in addition to the completion of a degree. ArPA proposes the creation of a committee to devise a plan, including costs, questions, and as many details as possible, for such an exam.

The committee would be composed of Registered Paralegals in good standing, and it would meet, mine test banks, and make this entry level exam a reality for the profession, which is one of the many things paralegals need. Many entry level paralegals are being steered by their schools to the NALA exam, which is a grueling two days. NFPA would seek to create a much shorter exam, more in line with PACE, that would truly test the skills and knowledge of paralegals with their newly-minted certificates and degrees. It would also give employers a way to measure the readiness of their new paralegals.

Let's face it, we don't always learn everything we need to know in school, but if we can demonstrate a basic level of competency, it will be that much easier for skilled, serious paralegals to land the challenging jobs they want.

If you are a member of NFPA and your Primary Representative is attending the convention, be sure to tell her (or him) that you do want NFPA to create an entry level exam. It has the potential to go a long way toward changing the profession and furthering the image of paralegals as actual professionals, and I strongly support this agenda item.

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