There's no such thing as an ABA Certified Paralegal.....

Soapbox 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. National Association of Legal Assistants, NALA, and The National Federation of Paralegal Associations, NFPA ,both offer paralegal certification exams. In the case of NALA, paralegals sit for the exam for two and a half days taking a test. It's also very hard to pass this exam. If the paralegal does pass, they can use the letters CLA (Certified Legal Assistant) or CP (Certified Paralegal) after their name. The ABA does not issue any designation or letters that you can use after your name. That's because they don't offer certification and you did not sit for a certification exam.

Generally, what paralegals mistakenly refer to as "ABA Certified Paralegal" is the certificate that they were given upon completion of paralegal school. This is entirely different from certification. A certificate from paralegal school is a Certificate of Completion. The paralegal school these paralegals attended has been approved by the ABA. Out of approximately 1500 or so paralegal schools in the U.S., only about 280 have been approved by the ABA. The school must meet certain qualifications set down by the ABA in order to gain approval. When a student completes the 4 month, 2 year or 4 year program, they are given a certificate of completion. They are not certified.

The reason I am pointing this out is that I just witnessed a paralegal who was passed up for a very good job because she wrote "ABA Certified Paralegal" on her resume. The firm decided that if this paralegal did not know the difference between "certified" and "certificated", she wasn't smart enough to join the firm. Ouch! It was a shame because the message to the paralegal was not only did she not know the difference, she hadn't take the time to find out. Make that 0 points in her job hunting file. Resumes are often reviewed by hiring paralegals who do know the difference and it's offensive to some when they see otherwise good paralegals make this common mistake.

So, those of you who are adding "ABA Certified Paralegal" to your resume, LinkedIn profile, Facebook, or telling people verbally, STOP! The best way to write it is:

Acme & Acme Paralegal School
An ABA approved paralegal program or
Approved by the American Bar Association

So, paralegals unite! Help yourself and your colleagues. Stamp out ignorance! Educate others and spread the word! (Oops, almost slipped off my soapbox there.....)


If You License, Will They Come? Licensing issue debuts in New York

Dreamstimecomp_19500966The other day, a paralegal sent me a panic email.  OMG!  Licensing of paralegals had been introduced as a bill in the state of New York.  Her reaction about the bill was pretty standard.  In a nutshell, she was saying, "What?????"

In short the bill:

    a) Requires mandatory licensing
    b) States that paralegals "practiced" (an ethical question, to be sure)
    c)  States that mandatory minimum standards for qualification into the field are required (but does not state what standards)
    d)  Establishes licensing fees not to exceed $100.00
    e)  Creates an independent board to adopt rules and regulations 
    f)  Is an amendment to the education law
    g)  Offers this justification:  "Every year more and more attorneys are allowing their paralegals to work extensively on important and complex cases: Cases that impact the life of their clients and other people involved. Some of these paralegals tend to commit errors that could lead to nightmares for the clients. This legislation would require paralegal[s] to have the qualification[s] necessary in order to provide improved and more professional services to clients of attorneys."

Taking a look at the bill, my response was:

If this particular document represents the ability of those who would a) pass such a bill and b) draft such a bill, we're all in trouble. It appears to have little thought, research or understanding of the paralegal profession. Further, it is drafted as a punitive action (or reactions) rather than progression of a 40 year old field. 

Generally, certification, licensing or mandatory education of paralegals comes about because too many misinformed and under-educated paralegals deliver markedly poor services directly to the public and consequently, steps are taken for protection. 

This document in particular references those paralegals who work under the supervision of attorneys. It sidesteps the consumer issue completely.

Licensing is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it is putting the cart before the horse. Before licensing any profession, educational standards must first be created. Not establishing mandatory education is the same as handing the keys to a brand new car to a 16 year old and saying, "Here are the keys to the car.  Please, don't take driving lessons, don't wear a seat belt, don't study the drivers rulebook and handbook and laws, don't get tested on your skills and bonus!  No one is looking as to whether you drink while you're driving." What happens? Hate to imagine.

The paralegal profession is one of the few professions where, in most states, anyone who wants to, can become a paralegal. It is to the credit of 13 states that so far, have created mandatory education, that the paralegal "job" has any chance whatsoever of rightfully being called a profession.  But mind you, that means 37 or 74% of all states say that anyone who wants to can become a professional (i.e., paralegal) without any training or educational standards whatsoever including the necessity of having a high school diploma.

In 1986 (yes - before some of you were born), I was asked to address CAPA (California Association of Paralegal Associations) on the issue of licensing paralegals. I took the same position then as I do now: There's nothing wrong with licensing as long as there is a solid foundation leading up to a sound, sensible and well-thought out program. Licensing cannot be accomplished successfully as a punitive reaction to a few complaints.

Regulation for mandatory continuing legal education originally came about in California as a result of continuous mishandling of services directly to the public by what was then called a paralegal. The resulting legislation, AB 1760 that became Business and Professions Code section 6450, took 10 years to pass. That bill sets forth regulation of education for paralegals and is not licensing. (Originally, when licensing was first proposed in California, the Consumer Board of Affairs was set to govern. That agency also governed dog grooming licenses, manicurists, even morticians. It didn't exactly appeal to too many people.)

Licensing or any other type of regulation such as certification starts with first setting down mandatory legal education. There are no other "helping occupation" professions I am aware of handling important criteria affecting the client's life that do not require mandatory education such as nursing, accounting, financial, even dental assisting.

I hope that New York paralegals step in and rally for a better situation than what appears to be careless and random actions by their state government.  Come New York!!!  Let's step up to the issue!

 


ABA Reapproves Penn College's Legal Assistant Majors

This good news is reported in PC Today about the Pennsylvania College of Technology:

"The American Bar Association has granted reapproval to Pennsylvania College of Technology’s legal assistant majors, one of only 14 programs in Pennsylvania to be recognized in that fashion.

"The college’s School of Business and Computer Technologies recently was notified of the action by the ABA’s House of Delegates, which follows a successful site visit early last fall and a recommendation by the association’s Standing Committee on Paralegals.

“'This notification reaffirms the high quality of the instruction, advising, work-based experiences and job placement provided by our paralegal studies faculty and college for our certificate and associate- and bachelor-degree-seeking students,' said Edward A. Henninger, dean of the school."


"EDD-ucating Yourself About Electronic Discovery"

Not a new article  (Oct. 2006) from the ABA's Law Practice Today, but someone just pointed out that it says something nice about this blog. (How did I miss that!?)

"It was back in July 2004 (http://www.abanet.org/lpm/lpt/articles/slc07041.html) when Tom published the first Strongest Links article on the subject of electronic discovery as part of an influential EDD-themed issue of Law Practice Today.  Since that time, the electronic evidence landscape has changed considerably, and EDD is more important that ever.  With December 1 -- the date the amended Federal Rules of Civil Procedure will take effect -- fast approaching, we thought it would be a good idea to revisit those links, and provide an update to those of you who are still learning about the intricacies of e-discovery.  Which, really, is probably all of us.

[snip]

"Weblogs -- Surprisingly, there have not been a lot of weblogs on the subject of EDD.  However, those weblogs that do discuss the topic are terrific

[snip]

"The Estrin Report is a group blog created for professional paralegals that often covers electronic discovery topics."

If you're a litigation paralegal, be sure to read the complete article -- it's chock-full of very helpful links!

As as regular readers know, The Estrin Report is all about finding & posting news & other items of interest to you! Your comments, suggestions, even complaints, are appreciated.


"A Paralegal's View of The ABA Techshow"

Excellent review of the ABA Legal Techshow posted on the Indiana Paralegal Association blog:

"As I write this article, I am on the train heading back from Chicago after four (4) days of legal tech submersion at the annual the America Bar Association Legal Techshow. The ABA Techshow is an annual gathering of the most prominent legal techies from across the country and some say in the entire world. It includes; lawyers, paralegals, IT professionals, litigation support specialists, law librarians, office managers, etc . I was very impressed with the turn-out of Indiana Paralegals during the convention, but somewhat surprised at the lack of CLE courses directed towards paralegals. However; overall, I believe the conference was a success, and I am already looking forward to next year’s conference. Below are some of the highlights of the conference....."

Author Courtney David Mills is the IPA Technology Director & Litigation Paralegal at Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman, P.C.


"ABA to Continue Fight Over Detainee Rights"

Excellent news for supporters of habeas corpus:

"The American Bar Association [PDF link] said last week it will continue to challenge key provisions of a federal bill authorizing military tribunals to try terrorism suspects, even though the legislation ultimately passed by a lopsided margin in the Senate.

"ABA members say they are most concerned about sections of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that deny judicial review of habeas corpus claims filed on behalf of 'enemy combatants' being held at facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other locations.

"'It's a sweeping denial of habeas, so that any alien who is detained by the U.S. can be detained forever without any hope of ever getting to a court. That's just wrong,' said Neal Sonnett, a Miami attorney who chairs the ABA's Task Force on Treatment of Enemy Combatants [PDF link]."


"ABA Sees Surfing Lawyers as Lawsuits on Longboards"

This news is just too, too funny!

"The nation's lawyers are coming to Hawaii, and some of them apparently have no fear of sharks -- unless they're the kind that file lawsuits.

"About 40 lawyers have signed up so far for the National Lawyers on Longboards Surfing Contest scheduled during the Aug. 3-8 American Bar Association convention in Honolulu.

"But the ABA has pulled out of sponsoring the surfing competition. The event organizer says the lawyers are afraid of being sued.

"'It's really funny -- the ABA won't officially sponsor it for liability reasons' said Lea Hong, a Honolulu environmental lawyer and surfer."


Legal Research Guide: Elder Law

The Virtual Chase points to elder law info from the ABA:

"Legal Guide for Older Americans: The American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging makes available a legal information guide for seniors. It provides an overview of 10 topics, including age discrimination, retirement rights and benefits [PDF link], Medicare, housing and long-term care [PDF link]. Each chapter consists of a separate PDF document."