Posts Tagged ‘certification’

OLP eDiscovery and LitSupport Certification Exams‏

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

I am on the Advisory Council for the Organization of Legal Professionals, although they get along quite well without much advice from me as evidenced by this from a LinkedIn article by Damian A. Durant, J.D., Rise of standards & certifications key to e-discovery partner selection – Part 1:

We are finally seeing the emergence of industry standards and professional certifications as the e-discovery industry continues to mature. The recent California Bar advisory opinion on e-discovery competency drew much attention and is the most recent example of the trend.

“A corporation or law firm selecting an e-Discovery or Discovery Management partner should determine if the partner has enough qualified, certified personnel and implements industry standards into their practice.”

….

Any would-be client should require independently certified individuals across the staff of the prospective partner and in the service delivery teams assigned to their work.

  • The Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP) also offers a widely respected certification called CeDP (Certified E-Discovery Professional) and the CLSS (Certified Legal Support Specialist) certificate. OLP also now offers an E-Discovery Project Management certificate. The Association of Litigation Support Professionals (ALSP) in lieu of developing its own certification, recommends the OLP certification to its members.
  • The Association of Certified E-discovery Specialists (ACEDS) offers perhaps the most widely known e-discovery competency certification known as CEDS (Certified E-Discovery Specialist). Public sources suggest over three hundred people have the CEDS qualification.

Both OLP and ALSP in their mission statements emphasize standards and certifications, but ACEDS only secondarily. Of course establishing standards and certifications is challenging for even much larger professional organizations.

OLP and ACEDS reportedly utilized teams of experts to develop bar-like multiple choice exams that try to cover the complete Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM), from information identification through document production. As such, ACEDS and OLP are the leading providers of e-discovery certifications, but expect other non-profit organizations to enter the certification arena soon.

NALA Receives Accreditation of the Certified Paralegal Program

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Vicki Voisin, The Paralegal Mentor, posts:

The NCCA has accredited the NALA Certified Paralegal certification program for a five-year period, expiring April 30, 2019.

Founded in 1975, NALA is a professional association providing continuing education and professional certification to paralegals. Currently, over 8,900 paralegals may use the Certified Paralegal (CP) designation. The CP credential has been awarded to over 17,822 paralegals in its span of almost 40 years. The Certified Paralegal (CP) program is the first certification program accredited by NCCA which serves the legal community.

NALA has received accreditation of the Certified Paralegal program from the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA)

NALA received NCCA accreditation of the Certified Paralegal program by submitting an application demonstrating the program’s compliance with standards outlined in NCCA’s Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs.  NCCA is the accrediting body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE). Since 1987, the NCCA has been accrediting certifying programs based on the highest quality standards in professional certification to ensure the programs adhere to modern standards of practice in the certification industry.

Follow the link for more on this.

New Year, Old Issues

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

It’s always nice to start out the new year with new stuff, but, alas ( a very old word but it works here  – besides I also am old), the first item that has caught my attention this year is (1) left-over from a Paralegal Jobs & Continuing Education group LinkedIn Discussion Board, and (2) about an issue that seems to re-occur on a regular basis despite efforts from Marianna Fradman of the NYCPA, myself, and many others at clarification.

The discussion starts when a prospective paralegal student asks, “I am looking to go back to school to be a paralegal. Can anyone give me some inexpensive school names? … Also interested in schools that do payment plans. Thank you in advance.” The first response states, “Depending on where you live, it is best to check the American Bar Association, and the section that shows ABA Accredited, meaning that they approved that school and you will be hired once out of school. These days that’s important…” and another adds, “Accrediatation is everything. if if isn’t approved by the ABA its NOT worth the money.” These comments are incorrect on several levels.

First, the ABA does not provide accreditation of paralegal schools. Accreditation is provided by regional accreditation organizations. For example, the University of Mississippi and other SEC schools are accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The ABA approval is obtained by some paralegals on a voluntary basis. If a school claims to by accredited by ABA or that graduates are ABA certified, the school is, at best, misleading its students.

The ABA does not even provide certification. Here’s Marianna Fradman on that topic:

I’m on my soapbox today with a pet peeve. I noticed that some paralegals are putting “ABA Certified Paralegal” on their resumes, social media or announcing it to friends and employers. Here’s a suggestion: Stop now while you still can! Save yourself some embarrassment or even keep yourself from getting rejected from a job!

The ABA does not offer certification. Certification is a process of taking a very rigorous exam that is based upon work experience and knowledge. It is not your final exam in paralegal school. Generally, you need to meet certain educational and work experience requirements, submit an application for approval, pay a fee and take the exam in a secured environment.

For example, The Organization of Legal Professionals, OLP, offers a certification exam in eDiscovery.

Second, as I’ve stated here before, many ardent discussions occur on the internet as to whether ABA approval is beneficial to programs as a marketing device or to graduates as a tool for gaining employment. I suspect that the answer depends on more on geography than anything else.  This is not to say that there should not be some firm criteria for assessing a good paralegal program. Indeed, I argue in many posts here for the need for uniform educational standards.  However, it is not at all clear that the ABA should be the organization making these determinations, at least not in isolation. AAfPE does have representatives on ABA committees and does provide members for site review committees, but has little to no control over final decisions by ABA regarding its conception of the proper way to educate paralegals. Within AAfPE (American Association for Paralegal Education) there is some ongoing discussion about whether the ABA is the correct institution to be “approving” paralegal programs: does it make sense to have lawyers rather than educators determining what makes a good educational program, even if the topic being taught it law? (AAfPE has some good information on choosing a paralegal education program and a list of its members here.)

Third, the fact of the matter is that ABA can often be out of step with advances in education. For example, the Masters Degree program at George Washington University – one of our country’s most prestigious institutions (and I think at last count the most expensive to attend) cannot obtain ABA approval because it relies on online education. Yet, it would seem that if online education was in itself bad, GWU would know about it. Many other institutions meet all of the ABA requirements for approval but do not seek it because it is a tremendous drain on resources, both in terms of money and personnel. The costs of obtaining ABA approval are substantial and must be either passed on to students or deducted from other parts of the budget.

This is confusion is just one of the many problems arise from the current state of the paralegal profession’s development. As I previously noted here, and more extensively in The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional, even attorneys can be confused leading to must frustration for both paralegals and attorneys on the legal team.

Those interested in paralegal professional identity, regulation, certification, and education should check out the fine articles included in The Empowered Paralegal Professionalism Anthology.

Paralegal Certification and the ABA

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

As usual I am behind in my reading. I am just now noticing that 29 days ago Marianna Fradman of the NYCPA posted a link on the NYCPA LinkedIn discussion board entitled, “A Warning to All of the ‘ABA Certified Paralegals” on Law.com Legal Blog Watch, which itself was a synopsis of Chere Estrin’s article entitled, “Are you a “Certified Paralegal”? Maybe not.” The gist of the article is this:

I’m on my soapbox today with a pet peeve. I noticed that some paralegals are putting “ABA Certified Paralegal” on their resumes, social media or announcing it to friends and employers. Here’s a suggestion: Stop now while you still can! Save yourself some embarrassment or even keep yourself from getting rejected from a job!

The ABA does not offer certification. Certification is a process of taking a very rigorous exam that is based upon work experience and knowledge. It is not your final exam in paralegal school. Generally, you need to meet certain educational and work experience requirements, submit an application for approval, pay a fee and take the exam in a secured environment.

For example, The Organization of Legal Professionals, OLP, offers a certification exam in eDiscovery.

The full article is worth the read, especially since it includes the correct way to reference graduating from an ABA approved program.

This is just one of the many problems arise from the current state of the paralegal profession. As I previously noted here, and more extensively in The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional, even attorneys can be confused leading to must frustration for both paralegals and attorneys on the legal team.

Those interested in paralegal regulation and certification should check out the fine articles included in The Empowered Paralegal Professionalism Anthology.

Paralegal Certification Colorado

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

There is proliferation of website proporting to give information about paralegal careers, educational opportunities, and the like. Unfortunately some, even if well-intentioned, ought not to be relied upon by anyone. For example, one such site (no, I will not give a name or link) states, “Obtaining paralegal certification in Colorado is relatively simple witih some excellent community college and degree programs available to those seeking a paralegal qualification.” Aside from the poor proofreading and editing (yes, I expect more from this type of website than I do of a blog), this is quite misleading and contributes to the general confusion regarding the distinction between obtaining a paralegal certificate and getting paralegal certification.

I do not believe that Colorado as a state requires or provides for certification of paralegals. (Please feel free to forward me the information if I am wrong on this.) In any case, this website provides no information on paralegal certification either as it pertains to Colorado or to certification exams offered by NFPA or NALA. Rather they offer some, not really helpful information regarding some paralegal programs that provide paralegal certificates and degrees.

Bottom line – if you want to know about paralegal education go to a well-established, respected source such as the American Association for Paralegal Education. (Disclosure: I am on the Board of Directors) Likewise for paralegal certification: check the websites for NFPA, NALA, and comparable professional associations. FMI: Check out The Paralegal Professionalism Anthology.

NFPA PCC Exam

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Among the exhibitors at the recent AAfPE Conference was Tracy Young, President of NFPA. NFPA has long been a leader in paralegal certification programs focusing primarily on the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE) and RP certification. It now offers an exam to certify the competency of entry-level paralegals in core competencies. Not surprisingly the exam is entitled the Paralegal Core Competency Exam (PCC Exam).

NFPA materials state:

The PCC Exam is designed to test the core competencies in early-career and entry-lebel paralegals and takes into account coursework in paralegal programs as well as actual skills considered essential to basic competency in the profession. [I like to think that those two categories are not mutually exclusive – indeed, that they go together.] The exam also covers law office technology and ethics.

This credential would presumably look very good on a resume for someone trying to break into the first-job market dominated by ads citing “at least two years of experience” requirements, since he two years of experience requirement is often inserted to ensure that the applicants have certain core competencies. For more information check out the PCC Exam Candidate Handbook.

To Regulate or Not to Regulate – a Wisconsin Question

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Back in April I used the state of affairs regarding UPL in Wisconsin to launch a discussion of the possibility of licensing and regulating paralegals as a means of addressing the access to justice problem in the United States. As discussed in previous posts UPL laws and regulations of legal professionals exist amid tension between the need to provide the public with access to justice and the need to protect the public from snake-oil salesmen posing as legal professionals. I noted that what I read on the bar website does not deal at all with the access to justice issue.  I do not favor unregulated snake-oils salesman practicing law – as attorneys or as paralegals. However, it does seem clear we must do more to allow if not provide access to legal services than we do now. A well educated, well trained, well regulated paralegal profession may just be the answer.

Today a paralegal from Wisconsin posted on the Paralegal Today Forum stating,

I’m in Wisconsin, a state which doesn’t license (or register, or certify) its paralegals.  Anyone can call themselves a paralegal here, regardless of whether they’ve worked as one, or studied to be one (I’m getting a post-college certificate).  In recent years, paralegals here have asked the state for permission to be licensed.  The state courts declined the request.  I’ve noticed lots of UPL articles and legislative proposals on our state bar website.  I agree that UPL needs to be prevented, of course, but anyone who attends paralegal school knows how to avoid UPL.  My questions to the list-serv are these:
1) Do you live in a state that doesn’t regulate paralegals?
2) How do you deal with this in your work as a paralegal?

This led to several interesting responses including these:

Ditto for Louisiana. We do have a state certifying exam administered by NALA, but a lot of paralegals do not avail themselves of this certification, because (1) it doesn’t automatically increase their salary, (2) you have to study to take the exam and pass, and then have to pass the CLA exam within 2 years to get the certification, (3) why bother when you can call yourself a paralegal even if you mostly do secretarial work.

Until paralegals across the nation realize that education and continuing education is what puts them above the run of the mill employee, anyone and everyone is going to apply for a paralegal job and give the rest of us a lot of disrespect when they can’t do the job.

AND before we get into that age-old debate about education vs. experience, ALL JOBS, including paralegal jobs include OTJ training and always will. Education only enhances skills.

and

I often see a lot of misunderstanding, misperception, and misinformation about ‘regulation’ of paralegals.  There is only one state that has any sort of mandatory regulation of paralegals and that is California.  Interestingly enough, the California regulatory scheme doesn’t have any kind of agency, board, or other such entity to administer or oversee the regulatory scheme.    There is not one single state that requires paralegals to be licensed, certified, or ‘registered’ in order to function as a paralegal.

NFPA has a section of their website devoted to the regulation issue: http://www.paralegals.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=795 Scroll down the page and check out their comprehensive chart that details the efforts towards regulation for each state.  Some states offer a voluntary certification program through the state Bar, e.g. TX, OH, and NC.  Florida offers a voluntary registration program.  The WI Supreme Court recently rejected a proposal for mandatory regulation and suggested the proponents look at the Florida FRP scheme as a possible alternative.

Personally, I believe that the UPL issue and regulation of paralegals are two separate and distinct issues.  Most every state has UPL laws, statutes or Bar rules prohibiting UPL by anyone.  Florida has an aggressive Bar and UPL Committee that investigates and prosecutes UPL claims.  The Florida Bar Rules specifically state that non-lawyers offering services directly to the public cannot use the title of ‘paralegal’.  Mandatory regulation of paralegals (who by definition work under the supervision of a licensed attorney) will not prevent ‘John Doe’ from setting up his own shop and offering his services directly to the public.

Whether one agrees with mandatory regulation or not, it would be helpful if we all spoke knowledgeably on this issue.  I think the dissemination of inaccurate information clouds the issue and distorts the message.

Elona M. Jouben, FRP
NWFPA Parliamentarian/Membership-Student Liaison Chair
Litigation Paralegal
Wilson, Harrell, Farrington, Ford
Pensacola, FL 32502

Several months ago I posted a Call for Papers for an anthology on paralegal professionalism. One article submitted is a very good statement of the current status of regulation in the United States and two articles argue in favor of regulation. No one submitted an article opposing regulation – which means I’ll probably have to do that one myself!

I do agree with the last paragraph of Elona’s response above: Whether one agrees with mandatory regulation or not, it would be helpful if we all spoke knowledgeably on this issue.  I think the dissemination of inaccurate information clouds the issue and distorts the message.

Beating an Incarcerated Horse

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Regular readers will have noticed, I hope, that I have not been posting at my regular rate over the last couple of weeks. The reduced postings relate to publishing deadlines and preparations for travel. As I note in The Empowered Paralegalthere are times when we simply need to establish priorities.

In this brief break from attempting to meet other deadlines I came across the reports on Bonnie Sweeten. She was previously sentenced to prison for identity theft and filing a false police report and is just one of several who are part of a trend the paralegal profession does not need. It is no secret that she now faces 23 new charges in alleged $700K law firm thefts. This is not a simple case of a paralegal’s attorney failing to properly supervise the paralegal, as it appears the attorney may have been involved in the illicit activities.

What really caught my attention and brought me back to the blog was an indication that this may be another case of just anyone calling themselves a paralegal. PhillyBurb.com is carrying a report entitled, “A closer look at Bonnie Sweeten’s life” which begins, “1993: Bonnie Anne Rakoczy takes a job as paralegal and office manager with Feasterville law firm of attorney Debbie Carlitz.”

Regular readers will also be mindful that this is the type of report that drives me crazy. While Bonnie is constantly characterized as a “paralegal” in news reports, this story, apparently accurately, simply states that she took a job as a paralegal. As I have noted frequently here these two are not the same. Apparently just about anyone can call themselves a paralegal and become a paralegal“take a job as a paralegal. That does not make them a paralegal despite John Stossel.

I realize the profession continues to be hampered in establishing an identity by the lack of uniform certification, registration, or licensing requirements, an obstacle that could (and I hope will be) removed through cooperative efforts by all interested groups. In the meantime, it continues to be aggravating that anyone-regardless of training, education, or experience can taint the profession simply by “taking” a job as a paralegal.

Paralegal Supervisor Certification?

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Lynne DeVenny at Practical Paralegalism has a full report on a story that also caught my eye regarding an investigation into credentials held by a woman for the job of “Paralegal Supervisor” for a Louisiana Parish (equivalent of a county in most other jurisdictions). The parish is unable to find any records relating to the employment of the woman, an ex-spouse of a former parish president, although she supposedly performed the job and was paid for that performance for 18 years – $64,000 in at least the last of those 18 years.

The story itself is another interesting example of (alleged) corruption in American politicians, I suppose. However, my interest focuses on the statement, “However, the parish was unable to provide proof she has the required certification to hold that position.” My question is what would be the “required certification” to hold the position given the lack of any uniformity within the paralegal profession regarding certification requirements for paralegals, much less a “paralegal supervisor.”

The investigation story is not clear on this point. A Fox8live.com news story states:

Last month, FOX 8 asked the parish for Parker-Broussard’s resume and paralegal certification information.
According to a job description, the certification is a parish requirement for all paralegals.

But the parish doesn’t have one on file for Parker-Broussard. We didn’t get a resume either and the Human Resources department claims it has no personnel records relating to her 18 years of employment.

This is an apparent reference to Louisiana’s voluntary paralegal certification program  reported by Legal Assistant Today website “, The Louisiana State Paralegal Association established a voluntary certification exam in 1996 to set professional standards and promote recognition of the profession.”  According to one source,

To be eligible for these state certifications, the paralegal typically must first get a national credential. The Certified Legal Assistant/Paralegal program established by the National  Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam offered by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) are well recognized national professional certification programs.

However, at the Louisiana State Paralegal Association website all I found was this:

Louisiana Certified Paralegal Exam

SPRING Examination Date: April 2-3, 2010
(Application Deadline: February 17, 2009)

For information related to administrative matters relative to applications or continuing legal education, contact:
National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc.
Administrator, Louisiana Certified Paralegal Examination
1516 South Boston, Suite 200
Tulsa, OK 74119
Phone: (918) 587-6828
FAX: (918) 582-6772

You may also contact Gail Seale, CLA, LCP for additional information related to the LCP Exam at: Gail Seale, CLA, LCP (with an email address)

Followed by a list of fourteen paralegals who received the LCP certification between 1996 and 2005.

There is probably more to this than I am seeing here with a brief Saturday morning tour of the internet, but it appears a government organization established criteria for hiring a paralegal supervisor that required a certification from a voluntary program run by a state membership organization administered by a national membership organization – a certification held by fewer that 14 persons – and yet could not determine whether the person holding the job held the required certification!

Frankly, it seems there must be a better way to handle this whole matter of paralegal qualifications!

Paralegals Stepping Up Professionally

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Somewhat overwhelmed by unexpected Thanksgiving break guests and end of semester grading I, like most attorneys in such circumstances, look to paralegals to take up the slack. Fortunately, Patty Deitz-Selkie on Paralegal Gateway with an assist by Melissa H. at Paralegalese, has stepped up to the plate with a post entitled, “Paralegals Are Professionals.” It’s a long and very good post. Here’s the meat closest to the bone:

It starts on the individual or personal level with how each of us are perceived and what each of us does to promote the “professionalism” of the Paralegal occupation. 

 Next, it goes to the national level and how Paralegals as a group and, in particular, how our national organizations work in cohesion….in unity!…..to promote our profession. Do we speak with one voice, with one mission/purpose, for the common good of our profession? In that endeavor, the Paralegal profession needs to stop abrogating responsibility for itself – we have to stop relinquishing control to Attorneys, the ABA, and other organizations or professionals!

Paralegals need to step up. We may work for and with Attorneys, but we need to take ownership of our profession starting with the education of our new/prospective members (Paralegal education/certification).  We need to determine our own destiny, set our own course and resolve to approach the legal business/environment from the standpoint of being valuable and significant contributors. When that happens, I believe we will not have this discussion on professionalism again. As ParaMel stated, “stepping off the soap box now” and closing my comments.

Those of you who are regular readers here know that this blog revolves around establishing paralegals as the professionals they are through many of the steps mentioned by Patty. Ultimately paralegals will be treated as professionals when they uniformly present themselves as professionals, take control of their profession and educate both the bar and the public.

So take a few minutes and read Patty’s post. Then ask yourself, “What can I do?”