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Certification requirements and CLE for paralegals

Certification Requirements Cle For Paralegals
Do paralegals need to earn CLE credits? Understanding paralegal continuing education requirements can be hard, so we're here to help.

​If you want to know about paralegal continuing education and mandatory CLE requirements for them in California, then you’ve come to the right place.

No matter how much experience they have, paralegals can no more consider themselves “experts” in the law than attorneys can. Changes happen every day, and the law is a moving target, so there will always be more to learn about statutes and legal precedents in the nation and in your individual city and state.

That’s what continuing legal education (CLE) can do: help those in the legal industry stay on top of changes and new issues that arise in the industry. While licensing or certification may not be required for paralegals and legal support staff, CLE courses can help advance their careers and increase their value to employers.

Let’s take a look at exactly what CLE is and what’s required of paralegals in California.

CLE for paralegals

CLE stands for Continuing Legal Education, which refers to educational programs and courses that legal professionals, including paralegals, undertake to maintain and enhance their knowledge and skills.

CLE courses are typically designed to cover updates in law, recent legal developments, and emerging trends in the legal field.

It’s important to note that the availability and content of CLE courses may vary depending on your jurisdiction and the organizations providing the education.

It’s best to consult with local paralegal associations, bar associations, or legal education providers for the most up-to-date and relevant CLE options.

Paralegal continuing education requirements in California

All states require mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) for licensed attorneys. But while many legal professionals support the pursuit of continuing legal education for paralegals, there is still a lack of consensus on mandatory CLE, with a few exceptions.

Every two years, California requires paralegals to complete four hours of continuing education in legal ethics and four hours in either general law or a specialized area of law.

All CLE courses must meet state requirements, and the paralegal is responsible for keeping a record of their own certifications.

It’s recommended to consult the State Bar of California or their Paralegal Program website for the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding CLE requirements for paralegals in California.

They can provide the specific details, approved providers, and any recent changes to the CLE requirements for paralegals.

One example of a differing approach is that active and associate members of the Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas are required to obtain six hours of CLE per year.

The division accepts substantive law CLE presented or approved by the relevant state or federal legal associations.

New requirement from 2019 for attorneys

A new mandate on implicit bias education has been introduced. In January 2019, the Board of Trustees incorporated an objective into the State Bar’s 2017–2022 Strategic Plan, aiming to modify the existing elimination of bias MCLE curriculum and increase the number of hours dedicated to the topic.

Simultaneously, the California State Legislature advanced AB 242, which added Business and Professions Code section 6070.5, compelling the State Bar to establish rules integrating implicit bias and bias-reducing strategies into its MCLE curriculum for all attorneys.

Consequently, Rule 2.72 of the Rules of the State Bar of California, pertaining to attorney MCLE requirements, was amended, effective September 24, 2020, to incorporate this new implicit bias education requirement.

Thus, starting from January 1, 2022, while attorneys still need to complete 25 hours of MCLE every three years, a minimum of seven hours must now be allocated as follows:

This new implicit bias education requirement specifically applies to attorneys in MCLE compliance group 3, who must report compliance for the period ending on January 31, 2023.

Of course, this applies to licensed attorneys, specifically, but it’s a good example of how CLE requirements can change from year to year and serves as a reminder that paralegals should be aware of any changes insofar as their mandatory education is concerned.

Certification and CLE for paralegals

No state currently requires licensure for paralegals, so while mandatory certification of paralegals has been a subject of debate for many years, it remains voluntary in all states.

The American Bar Association approves paralegal education programs but does not certify paralegals. Some State Bar Associations, like Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas, offer certification programs for paralegals, but most do not.

There are several independent paralegal organizations, however, that offer programs to help paralegals obtain voluntary certification, including:

  • NALA: Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) or Certified Paralegal (CP) or Paralegal (RP)
  • NFPA: (National Federation of Paralegal Associations) Core Competency and Advanced Competency Exams (PCCE and PACE®)
  • NALS: (Association for Legal Professionals) two paralegal certifications
  • AAPI: (American Alliance of Paralegals) American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP)

When paralegals join the American Bar Association (ABA), they get access to both distance learning and in-person events, at discounted pricing.

Courses often include topics like taxation, trial practice, criminal law, litigation, ethics, copyright, and bankruptcy.

Maintaining certification

Once certified, paralegals are required to meet certain continuing education legal requirements to maintain whatever certification they have earned.

Credit for continuing legal education is awarded through most CLE programs where the subject matter is related to paralegal work.

Participation in the following types of programs may qualify:

  • Conferences, seminars, or webinars offered by paralegal organizations or bar associations
  • Providing instruction in a paralegal program, or teaching a session at a CLE seminar
  • Completion of an online educational program or class at an accredited college
  • Achievement of an advanced paralegal certification through a credentialed program

One Legal webinars, which cover core topics for eFiling and eService, also meet the requirements for MCLE. Contact our training team to obtain more information.

There’s also Legal Up, InfoTrack’s annual virtual conference. This year’s event took place in April and we will be hosting it again in 2024. The event serves as a platform to unite legal professionals, including paralegals, administrators, and attorneys. With thousands of attendees in the past, an overwhelming 99% of participants have expressed their willingness to attend again and would recommend to others.

The greatest advantage? Attendance to Legal Up is absolutely free, and numerous seminars offered during the conference qualify for Continuing Legal Education (CLE) hours. If you’re interested in staying in touch in the meantime, be sure to join our blog digest, where you’ll receive weekly updates and articles from legal professionals. When Legal Up 2024 is ready for registration, we’ll be sure to let you know so you can join us for this incredible event next time.

Conclusion

Summing up, paralegal continuing education in California requirements stipulate that they fulfill Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs to maintain their professional certification or registration.

These CLE requirements ensure that paralegals stay updated on changes in the legal field, enhance their skills, and uphold ethical standards.

Paralegals in California must, every two years, complete a minimum of four hours of mandatory CLE in legal ethics and four hours of mandatory CLE in general law or specialized law.

These may change over time, as we’ve seen with amendments to CLE curriculums for attorneys in recent years, though it’s worth noting the current guidelines have been in place since 2007.

Engaging in CLE courses and activities designed specifically for paralegals allows them to deepen their understanding of legal principles, sharpen their research and writing skills, and stay informed about the latest developments in their practice areas.

To ensure compliance with CLE requirements, paralegals should consult the State Bar of California for the most up-to-date information.

These resources can provide specific details on approved providers and any recent changes to the CLE requirements for paralegals.

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