Becoming a paralegal is an exciting step that can greatly improve your career and earning potential.
The state of Delaware does not require specialized training or certification to become a paralegal. However, paralegal education through approved institutions and certification through state and national licensing programs can greatly improve your chances of finding employment as a paralegal. There are several different types of paralegal credentials in Delaware and it is important to distinguish between them when considering your professional goals.
Certificated vs. Certified vs. Delaware Certified Paralegal
A certificated paralegal is a paralegal that has completed an educational program that offers a paralegal certificate upon graduation. Generally, these are educational programs approved by the American Bar Association. In Delaware, American Bar Association approved paralegal programs are offered at the following institutions:
• Delaware Technical and Community College
• Wesley College
• Widener University Delaware Law School
• Wilmington University
A certified paralegal is a paralegal that has passed a national licensing exam offered by one of three nationally recognized professional organizations: the National Federal of Paralegal Associations, the National Association of Legal Assistants or the Association for Legal Professionals.
The National Federal of Paralegal Associations offers two credentialing exams:
• The Paralegal CORE Competency Exam, which certifies preparation for a variety of paralegal work, and
• The Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam, which requires a bachelor degree and at least two years of paralegal work experience and certifies superior experience.
The National Association of Legal Assistants offers the Certified Paralegal Examination, which any person who is a graduate of a paralegal program, holds a bachelor degree with coursework in paralegal studies, or has at least seven years of paralegal experience may sit for.
The Association for Legal Professionals offers the Paralegal Professional Exam, which requires a degree from an approved paralegal program, a bachelor degree, or at least five years of paralegal experience to sit for.
Delaware Certified Paralegal
A Delaware certified paralegal is a paralegal that has met the requirements of a state sponsored paralegal certification program. A Delaware Certified Paralegal must meet similar eligibility requirements as those certified under the national certification programs.
Requirements for Delaware Paralegal Association Certification
While Delaware law only requires that a legal paraprofessional work under the supervision of a licensed attorney who assumes responsibility for the paralegal’s professional conduct, voluntary state paralegal certification began in 2005. The Delaware Paralegal Association created the Delaware Certified Paralegal Program to promote knowledge and professionalism in the field. To become a Delaware Certified Paralegal, an applicant must meet one of the following five criteria:
• Hold a bachelor degree in paralegal studies OR a bachelor degree in any discipline from an accredited institution AND a certificate from and American Bar Association approved paralegal program AND one year of substantive paralegal experience.
• Hold a bachelor degree in any discipline from any accredited institution AND two years of substantive paralegal experience.
• Hold an associate degree in paralegal studies OR a certificate from an ABA approved paralegal program AND three years of substantive paralegal experience.
• Hold an associate degree in any discipline from an accredited institution OR a certificate from a non-ABA approved paralegal program AND four years of substantive paralegal experience.
• Have five years of substantive paralegal experience.
Maintaining Paralegal Certification
To maintain status as a Delaware Certified Paralegal, each paralegal must renew his or her certification status every two years and complete eight hours of Continuing Legal Education, with at least one hour being on the subject of ethics.
Regardless of your experience or educational background, based on the many options for paralegal studies and certification in Delaware, there is a path to becoming a paralegal and enhancing career prospects for everyone.