Top 10 professional organizations for California paralegals

Top Professional Organizations For California Paralegals
There's no shortage of excellent paralegal associations for California paralegals. I've compiled the most essential ones for you (and a few more).

There are many paralegal associations that exist solely to enhance the legal careers of professionals in the legal field.

As a former California trial attorney, I know how hard paralegals work, how smart they have to be to do their jobs, how little thanks they get, and how important the paralegal community is to many of them.

Indeed, there’s almost a shocking number of organizations offering education, certification, advocacy, and resources, especially for paralegals.

In today’s blog, we’ve compiled a list of the best of the top 10 professional organizations for California paralegals, but there are many more that we didn’t have space to include.

We hope you’re able to find your professional niche among this list, but if not, don’t worry. There’s almost certainly an organization that suits you perfectly.

Why should you join a paralegal association?

Joining a paralegal association offers numerous advantages for professionals in the legal field.

These organizations provide valuable networking opportunities, allowing members to connect with peers, attorneys, educators, and students. Through networking, members can access job opportunities, mentorship relationships, and valuable industry connections.

Paralegal associations also facilitate professional development through continuing education programs, workshops, and conferences, enabling members to stay updated on legal trends and advancements.

Many associations offer certification programs that validate expertise and demonstrate commitment to excellence, and members gain access to resources such as research materials, legal publications, and online forums, enhancing their research capabilities and career advancement opportunities.

Additionally, paralegal associations advocate for the interests of their members, promoting recognition within the legal profession and advocating for fair treatment and employment opportunities.

By joining a paralegal association, you will benefit from a supportive community, career development resources, and advocacy efforts tailored to your needs in the legal industry. I would strongly recommend joining an association to further your network and career.

1. California Alliance of Paralegal Associations

The California Alliance of Paralegal Associations (“CAPA”) is like a clearinghouse of all things paralegal in California.

CAPA is a state-wide organization that incorporates 10 separate regional paralegal associations. According to CAPA’s website, the organization’s mission is “strength through statewide alliance – providing a voice of leadership in promoting education, voluntary examination, and advancement of the paralegal profession.”

CAPA provides education, certification programs, and a resource library, all of which are critical for California paralegals who want to excel in their profession.

Their website is also a good place to look for jobs and network with other professionals.

If you’re looking for a general career development resource, CAPA is a great starting point.

2. NALA: The paralegal association

NALA was founded in 1975 as the “National Association of Legal Assistants.” While the organization retains that acronym, it now describes itself as “the paralegal association.”

NALA provides education, certification, and resources on a national scale.

The organization also hosts yearly conferences that include speakers, exhibits, sponsors, and as much information as you can absorb about the profession.

Importantly, NALA also publishes a Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility for Paralegals, which is akin to the ABA’s model rules for attorneys.

3. National Federation of Paralegal Associations

The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (“NFPA”) was the first national organization created solely for paralegals.

NFPA does a lot of work around policy and legislation that impacts paralegals including the expanding substantive legal roles of paralegals, monitoring ethics rules and regulations, and employment/wage issues pertaining to paralegals.

Like the other top organizations, NFPA also provides education, training, employment, and certification resources.

Interestingly, however, NFPA also offers the opportunity to do pro bono work for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Operation Gratitude, and other charitable organizations.

So, if you’re feeling like you want to use your legal training to make a difference in the world, why not apply to help out? These opportunities can help you connect with others who have similar values.

4. American Bar Association

The American Bar Association (ABA) has a “Standing Committee on Paralegals,” the mission of which is to “improve the American system of justice by establishing ABA standards for the education of paralegals and by promoting attorneys’ professional, effective and ethical utilization of paralegal services.”

The relationship between attorneys and paralegals is unique and, quite frankly, it can be fraught with problems.

The Standing Committee is a good place for paralegals to voice their thoughts, concerns, and ideas regarding the ethical and ongoing relationships between these two types of professionals.

5. American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc.

Founded in 2003, the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. (“AAPI”) is one of the newer paralegal organizations on the national scene.

According to its website, AAPI was formed for paralegals who didn’t necessarily feel like they fit in with some of the other organizations. Perhaps fittingly then, the group’s mission is to “advance the paralegal profession by focusing on the individual paralegal.”

AAPI offers the American Alliance Certified Paralegal program for those who are seeking an additional level of certification.

Like the other national organizations, it also offers education and job seeking resources. You can never have too many of those, right?

6. National Association for Legal Support Professionals

Of all the national paralegal organizations, NALS seems particularly interested in providing members with the latest news and headlines that impact the paralegal community.

NALS also offers a large networking component and has membership affiliates at the state and local levels for those of you who want hands-on participation without leaving town.

You’ll find extensive training and certification programs including web-based CLEs and other training materials for those who want to learn from their desktop. One of their values is to engage on your terms, so you’ll find more flexibility here than some other organizations offer.

7. American Association for Justice – Paralegal Affiliates

The American Association for Justice is actually an association for trial lawyers.

So, why do we mention it here?

Well, among other reasons, each year AAJ allows attorneys to nominate a paralegal to win the “National Paralegal of the Year” award to an outstanding member of the profession. AAJ also maintains a database of past winners in case you’re interested in studying the careers of those who are deemed to be exceptional within the profession.

In case you’re wondering, this year’s winner is Olga A. Patterson of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley of West Palm Beach, Florida. Congratulations, Olga!

8. International Practice Management Association

IPMA is vastly different from the other organizations on this list, but it is no less important.

The International Practice Management Association exists for legal professionals who are in the position of leading other legal professionals. In other words, it is a professional development organization that seeks to enhance your career as a manager.

If your duties at your firm include managing law clerks, legal secretaries, or other paralegals, this might be a great organization for you.

IPMA offers written resources, webinars, an annual conference/expo, and — importantly — a yearly salary survey for legal professionals.

9. American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants

AALNC is our most specialized organization on the list.

As the name implies, AALNC exists as a professional community for those ultra-smart individuals who are trained as both nurses and legal nurse consultants (many hold paralegal certificates).

Among other things, AALNC offers training and peer-to-peer communications on topics including providing expert witness testimony, writing reports, and navigating personal injury cases.

This organization is a great resource for the established medical professional who is just diving into the medical-legal world.

10. Regional paralegal associations in California

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention California’s numerous local and regional paralegal associations, which provide invaluable resources to paralegals.

Sacramento Valley Paralegal Association

The Sacramento Valley Paralegal Association, established in 1978 and incorporated in 1981 under California Nonprofit Mutual Benefit Corporation laws, serves as a professional and educational organization for paralegals.

Its membership primarily comprises paralegals, educators, students, and individuals interested in the profession. SVPA hosts monthly luncheons with CLE speakers, organizes annual events, and publishes a newsletter to inform its members.

San Francisco Paralegal Association

Established in 1972, the San Francisco Paralegal Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for the paralegal profession’s independence and professional development.

Its primary objectives include fostering self-direction among paralegals, facilitating their professional growth, and promoting the efficient expansion of legal services.

Through its initiatives, the association aims to empower paralegals, enhance their skills, and contribute to the effective delivery of legal services in an economical manner.

Orange County Paralegal Association

The Orange County Paralegal Association (OCPA) originated in 1977 to address the growing demand for a structured professional body for paralegals.

Initially, it operated under the Orange County Bar Association and transitioned into an independent, voluntary, non-profit entity in 1986, focusing on advancing paralegal professional development.

In 1995, OCPA affiliated with NALA (The Paralegal Association), aligning with NALA’s mission to uphold ethical standards in the profession and administer the nationally recognized Certified Paralegal (CP) program.

Accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies and endorsed by the American Bar Association, NALA’s CP program ensures high standards in paralegal competency.

Los Angeles Paralegal Association

Formed in 1972, the Los Angeles Paralegal Association (LAPA) emerged to address the increasing demand for a structured professional body in the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area.

Incorporated as a California non-profit corporation in 1977, LAPA is governed by an Executive Committee and Board of Directors.

It offers networking opportunities, continuing legal education programs, and pro bono activities for paralegals and legal professionals. LAPA fosters communication with other paralegal associations, maintains ties with local and state bar associations, educational institutions, and legal service providers. Additionally, LAPA actively engages with the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and is affiliated with the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations.

Paralegal Association of Santa Clara County

Established in 1978, the Paralegal Association of Santa Clara County (PASCCO) serves as a professional and educational organization for individuals in the paralegal profession.

While its primary membership comprises paralegals from Santa Clara County, it also extends its reach to San Mateo and Alameda Counties. Members include professionals from law firms, corporations, governmental agencies, as well as students, educators, and other enthusiasts of the paralegal field.

PASCCO’s mission involves advocating for the paralegal profession, fostering community within the legal sphere, promoting ethical standards and professional competence, facilitating ongoing education, collaborating with bar associations, and supporting the initiatives of NALA and CAPA.

If you don’t see your local chapter on the list, try a quick Google search.

Indeed, if there’s one thing we learned from writing this blog, it’s that there is no shortage of resources for paralegals. All you have to do is look for them.


The plethora of organizations and associations dedicated to advancing the legal careers of paralegals reflects the vital role they play within the legal community.

As a former trial attorney, I recognize the dedication, intelligence, and often underappreciated contributions of paralegals.

The comprehensive list of professional organizations outlined in this blog demonstrates the vast array of resources available for paralegals in California and beyond.

Whether it’s education, certification, advocacy, or networking opportunities, these organizations strive to empower paralegals and elevate the standards of the profession.

With such a wealth of resources at their disposal, paralegals can find the support and community they need to thrive in their careers.

A free, detailed guide on all the basics of eFiling

Learn all the basics about eFiling with this eBook guide. If you have a workflow that needs improving, are new to eFiling, or just want a handy companion guide to share with your colleagues, then this is for you. Download this free eBook now.

    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    More to explore

    What is One Legal?

    We’re California’s leading litigation services platform, offering eFiling, process serving, and courtesy copy delivery in all 58 California counties. Our simple, dependable platform is trusted by over 20,000 law firms to file and serve over a million cases each year.

    One Legal Dashboard

    Legal Up Virtual Conference

    Register now to get actionable strategies and inspiration to level up your legal career.