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Extreme Makeover for Advanced Certification

National Association of
Legal Assistants
1516 South Boston Avenue
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74119
(918) 587-6828

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The need for this new program has intensified over the years as the paralegal work environment has become increasingly specialized.
Marge Dover, CAE
[email protected]

The face of advanced paralegal professional certification is changing, and it is an extreme makeover.

The National Association of Legal Assistants is launching its new curriculum based Advanced Paralegal Certification (APC) program this year with Internet courses on Contracts Administration/ Management and Business Organizations. A full array of advanced certification courses will follow as the program matures, replacing the venerable Certified Legal Assistant Specialty (CLAS) program.

Changing to the curriculum-based Internet learning and assessment process is a dramatic change from
the onsite testing process that has characterized the CLAS program since 1982. The new program remains true to high educational standards set by the CLAS while providing a more “user friendly” means of qualifying for advanced certification.

The need for this new program has intensified over the years as the paralegal work environment has become increasingly specialized. Both employers and paralegals have expressed a desire for more narrowly focused specialty certification to meet real-world demands. The new program has come from concept to fruition in slightly more than three years to meet these requirements.

Development of the new program has included input from a Ph.D. consultant in testing and evaluation as well as from certified paralegals and educators across the nation. The process of determining the direction of the program, identifying procedures and changes to be made, and developing the curricula has been an exhaustive effort.

Successful completion of the CLA/CP examination is prerequisite to enrolling in the APC program. The curricula are written with the understanding that candidates have a command of written communications, legal research, ethics, judgment and legal analysis, a general knowledge of the American legal system, and four areas of substantive law. Each APC course lists knowledge that paralegals need before enrolling.

Enrollment also requires participants to enter into a “Learning Contract” between the program and the participant. This contract assists candidates by establishing a self-directed plan of study and learning, by focusing on individual goals and learning objectives, and by helping them stay on track for successfully completing the program.

Candidates are expected to actively engage with course content by working with a representative of the APC Board or knowledgeable colleagues, and by relating course concepts to actual job activities by talking with others who work in the specialty area. All online exercises must be completed and all module tests must be passed with scores of at least 90 points.

The new program relies heavily on integrity and honesty, and all candidates agree to abide by the NALA Code of Ethics. The credentialing process includes a notarized “Statement of Completion” addressing how the self-directed study enhanced and supported the goals set forth in the “Learning Contract.”

Each candidate must also attest that work submitted as part of the program is his or her own — although it is accepted that seeking information from colleagues or a member of the APC Board is perfectly acceptable within the context of the program’s emphasis on learning. This emphasis is highlighted upon fulfillment of the program when NALA notifies candidates’ employers of courses completed, subjects studied, and the scrupulous learning discipline involved in achieving ACP certification.

Bringing advanced paralegal certification into the world of Internet communication is a major addition to NALA’s established suite of successful online educational programs such as NALA Campus and NALA Campus LIVE! The APC program is expected to follow in this tradition of success.


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Updated 07/16/07
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