North Carolina’s Program for Paralegal Certification

Patti’s Paralegal Page today posted the link to the  new The North Carolina State Bar Handbook noting that the rules governing the certification of paralegals can be found in Subchapter G.

The stated purpose of the rules is certainly laudable:

The purpose of this plan for certification of paralegals (plan) is to assist in
the delivery of legal services to the public by identifying individuals who are
qualified by education and training and have demonstrated knowledge, skill,
and proficiency to perform substantive legal work under the direction and
supervision of a licensed lawyer, and including any individual who may be
otherwise authorized by applicable state or federal law to provide legal services
directly to the public; and to improve the competency of those individuals
by establishing mandatory continuing legal education and other requirements
of certification.

And the powers and duties of the certification board are quite formidable:

Subject to the general jurisdiction of the council and the North Carolina

Supreme Court, the board shall have jurisdiction of all matters pertaining to certification

of paralegals and shall have the power and duty

(1) to administer the plan of certification for paralegals;

(2) to appoint, supervise, act on the recommendations of, and consult with

committees as appointed by the board or the chairperson;

(3) to certify paralegals or deny, suspend or revoke the certification of paralegals;

(4) to establish and publish procedures, rules, regulations, and bylaws to

implement this plan;

(5) to propose and request the council to make amendments to this plan

whenever appropriate;

(6) to cooperate with other boards or agencies in enforcing standards of professional


(7) to evaluate and approve continuing legal education courses for the purpose

of meeting the continuing legal education requirements established by the

board for the certification of paralegals;

(8) to cooperate with other organizations, boards and agencies engaged in the

recognition, education or regulation of paralegals; and

(9) to set fees, with the approval of the council, and to, in appropriate circumstances,

waive such fees.

Here are the “Privileges and Limiations” of certification under the program:

Privileges Conferred and Limitations Imposed

The board in the implementation of this plan shall not alter the following

privileges and responsibilities of lawyers and their non-lawyer assistants.

(1) No rule shall be adopted which shall in any way limit the right of a lawyer

to delegate tasks to a non-lawyer assistant or to employ any person to assist him

or her in the practice of law.

(2) No person shall be required to be certified as a paralegal to be employed

by a lawyer to assist the lawyer in the practice of law.

(3) All requirements for and all benefits to be derived from certification as a

paralegal are individual and may not be fulfilled by nor attributed to the law firm

or other organization or entity employing the paralegal.

(4) Any person certified as a paralegal under this plan shall be entitled to represent

that he or she is a “North Carolina Certified Paralegal (NCCP)”, a “North

Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal (NCSB/CP)” or a “Paralegal Certified by

the North Carolina State Bar Board of Paralegal Certification.”

Of course, the real nuts and bolts of the program are in the Standards for Certification which are too long to post here. However, the issue of certification and regulation of paralegals is important enough that it is worthwhile reading through the requirements of North Carolina’s program. 

I do note that the educational requirements can be satisfied by obtaining a J.D. While I understand the reasoning behind this, we do need to keep in mind that there are significant differences between the roles of attorneys and those of paralegals. A J. D.  does not necessarily (and most likely does not) provide a person with the skills necessary to be a professional paralegal. The hope, I suppose is that the other standards for certification compensate for this, thus ensuring that those certified are qualified to do paralegal work.

In any case, I’d like to here from North Carolina paralegals and attorney with their impressions of the program and how it is working.

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  • Meeghan says:

    I am a non-certified paralegal that arrived in North Carolina in 2009 after working at Big Law in Washington, DC. Since I was not in the state during the grandfathering process, I am required to go back to school for two years to obtain an associates degree, despite the fact that I already have a masters degree. Alternatively I can pay $5000+ for a “certification” course. These educational requirements are a prerequisite for sitting for the exam.

    While I am not opposed to the educational requirements, they do pose a challenge for those of us who worked in other jurisdictions where certification was offered.

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  • Alicia Mitchell says:

    Meeghan, If you see this message…please contact me. I have exactly the same issue with the NCCP certification.

  • Alicia Mitchell says:

    I guess I should have provided contact info…

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