National Federation of Paralegal Associations

Registered Paralegal Certification

The National Federation of Paralegal Associations, (“NFPA”) claiming the honor of being the first national paralegal association, was founded in 1974.  The NFPA is a member directed, issues-driven, policy-oriented, non-profit professional association comprised of more than 50 member associations representing in excess of 11,000 individual members reflecting broad professional experience, education, and diversity based in Edmonds, Washington.  Each NFPA member association is entitled to one vote in matters coming before the membership.

The official Mission Statement of the NFPA declares “The National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. promotes a global presence for the paralegal profession and leadership in the legal community.”

The core purpose of the NFPA is “to advance the paralegal profession”. Its core values are to (1) be responsive to member needs, (2) be committed to honesty and integrity, (3) support unity within the profession, (4) provide visionary leadership, (5) be open to the exchange of ideas, (6) embrace diversity, (7) be committed to the profession’s Code of Ethics, (8) practice transparency, and (9) be dedicated to life-long learning.

The National Federation of Paralegal Association subscribes to the definition of a paralegal as “a person, qualified through education, training or work experience to perform substantive legal work that requires knowledge of legal concepts and is customarily, but not exclusively, performed by a lawyer. This person may be retained or employed by a lawyer, law office, governmental agency, or other entity or may be authorized by administrative, statutory or court authority to perform this work. Substantive shall mean work requiring recognition, evaluation, organization, analysis, and communication of relevant facts and legal concepts.”

NFPA recognizes the critical importance of strong strategic alliances in successfully carrying out its mission and supports unity within the paralegal profession. Monitoring proposed legislation, efforts to initiate proposed legislation, appellate decisions establishing, or impacting existing, case law, proposed and adopted changes to professional responsibility rules, and ethics opinions that affect the paralegal profession are routine NFPA activities and facilitate both identifying and strengthening strategic alliances.  However, being a federation of associations, the NFPA will not undertake action to initiate any legislative, or other, action to establish regulation of paralegals.  The NFPA does officially support the adoption of state-by-state paralegal regulation as long as it meets NFPA’s criteria, such as its preference of a four-year degree requirement, and fosters expanded use of paralegals as a cost efficient means for the delivery of legal services.  NFPA is expressly prohibited from supporting or assisting any opposition to paralegal regulation that is consistent with NFPA criteria.

NFPA prides itself on the professionalism of its members and has worked consistently since 1986 towards developing a consensus among paralegal professional associations, paralegal educational associations, and bar associations, including the American Bar Association.

In 1994 the NFPA membership decided, by an overwhelmingly favorable vote, to develop a standardized exam for testing the competency level of experienced paralegals in a uniform manner.  As a result the Paralegal Advanced Competency Examination (“PACE”), commonly abbreviated to and known as “PACE”, was born and has developed into a nationally recognized exam for experienced paralegals.

PACE is a two-tiered exam that may be taken at more than 200 Sylvan Technology Centers throughout the U.S.  Tier I covers general legal issues and ethics. Tier II covers specialty sections.  NFPA foresees the likelihood as future needs develop through enactment of regulatory legislation or otherwise, that a state-law specific section may be developed. To be eligible to take either tier of PACE a paralegal must meet both work experience and education requirements established by the NFPA.

The NFPA credentials are for a paralegal passing the two-tiered Paralegal Advanced Competency Examination as a “PACE – Registered Paralegal” or simply “RP”. The two designations are interchangeable and each is a proprietary registered mark of the NFPA.

Once credentialed, paralegals are required to complete 12 hours of continuing legal education, including at least one hour in ethics every two years to maintain their “PACE –Registered Paralegal” and “RP” credentials.

NFPA endorses the implementation of paralegal regulation to establish standards for all paralegals on a state-by-state basis provided implementation is consistent with NFPA’s mission statement and expands the utilization of paralegals for delivery of cost-efficient legal services.  NFPA will actively promote regulation of the paralegal profession in a general manner by providing information as to NFPA’s preferred form of regulation, its preferred form of mandatory and specialty licensure, and its preference of a four-year degree being a requirement for entry into the paralegal profession.  NFPA and its board of directors will not initiate any proposal for paralegal regulation in any jurisdiction, but may educate and inform others regarding the NFPA, its regulation policy, and resources.

Female paralegals

Two paralegals (Photo credit: Jerry Bunkers)

Strategic alliances are essential and integral aspects of the NFPA mission to advance the paralegal profession.  The NFPA maintains and promotes interaction with numerous paralegal associations and members of the legal community to support unity within the paralegal profession.  Since 1986, the NFPA has worked closely with the American Bar Association (ABA), the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAPE), and many others to develop a consensus on the issue of paralegal education and to discuss other issues affecting the paralegal profession.

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