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Paralegal Certification, Credentialing, Licensing and Having a Paralegal Certificate – What’s the Difference?

The National Federation of Paralegal Associations, or NFPA, states the following:

If you have completed a paralegal education program for which you have a certificate hanging on your wall, you could say you are certificated. This is different from being certified.

Licensing is how a governmental authority controls certain professions. There is no single authority in the United States which oversees the paralegal profession. The State of Washington has starting to issue licenses under its Rule 28 – Limited License Legal Technician Legislation – see www.courts.wa.gov for more information on this topic.

If you have successfully passed a paralegal certification exam, such as NFPA’s PCCE or PACE, or have been approved under a local jurisdiction's voluntary certification program, you are certified. This confers a credential which you put after your name, such as Jane Doe, RP®. Maintaining that credential requires ongoing Continuing Legal Education (CLE) and keeping your address current with the organization that issued the credential. These credentials can be verified by prospective employers by contacting the issuing organization. Note that being a certified paralegal (generic term) and being a Certified Paralegal (a specific credential by NALA) are not the same, although if you are the latter you are also the former.

Additionally, there is no such thing as an ABA Approved Paralegal. The ABA does not offer certification. Some paralegals mistakenly refer to themselves as an “ABA Certified Paralegal.” The paralegal program offered through a school can be approved by the ABA, but a paralegal can only be certificated through that paralegal program. This can be really confusing…so is there only one voluntary certification available? No. There are a number of different voluntary certification programs out there, but it is really hard for many in our profession to decide which certification is right for them. NFPA has put together a Comparison of the National Level Paralegal Certification Exams and Credentials to help those interested in furthering their professional careers decide which certification is right for them. This comparison can be found at: Comparison of National Level Paralegal Certification Exams

The Chart below summarizes the Certification Programs by Jurisdiction:

Through State Bar

Through State Statute or Administrative Rules

Through Local Paralegal Association

Florida Registered Paralegal Program (FRP)

Arizona Legal Document Preparer (LDP)  *Note – through AZ Codes of Judicial Administration

Delaware Certified Paralegal Program (DCP)

Indiana Registered Paralegal Program (IRP)

California Legal Document Assistant (LDA)

Florida Certified Paralegal Program (FCP) *Note – must be NALA CP to sit for exam

North Carolina Certified Paralegal Program (NCCP)


Certified Kentucky Paralegal Program (CKP)

Ohio State Bar Association Paralegal Certification Program (OSBA Certified Paralegal)


Louisiana Certified Paralegal Program (LCP) *Note – must be NALA CP to sit for exam

South Carolina Supreme Court approves Rules 429, SCACR creating voluntary certification of paralegals (to be administered by state bar)


Minnesota Certified Paralegal Program (MnCP)

Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization program (TBLS)


New Jersey Certified Paralegal Program (NJCP)

Washington State Limited License Legal Technician Program (LLLT)


Pennsylvania Certified Paralegal Program (Pa.C.P.)

Washington State Limited Practice Officer (LPO) (through the state Bar)


Virginia Registered Paralegal (VARP™) Program

Wisconsin State Bar Board of Governors approves Voluntary Certified Paralegal credential (on June 15, 2016)



Utah Supreme Court approved the creation of a Limited Paralegal Practitioner and appoints a Steering Committee to develop the regulatory infrastructure in 2016     

What are the certification options through NFPA?

The Paralegal CORE Competency Exam™, or PCCE™ establishes that your education has prepared you for many types of paralegal work and helps you stand out from others whose schooling and experience are otherwise similar. Those who have passed the PCCE™ may proudly display the CRP™ designation after their name.

The Paralegal CORE Competency Exam™

The Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam® is for those with not only have a comprehensive education in paralegal studies but also years of practical experience. Earning the RP® designation by passing the PACE Exam shows that you are one of the best in the field! If you are interested in taking the PACE practice exam, click on this link: https://www.paralegals.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageID=3298

The Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam®

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Disclaimer: Paralegals are not permitted to practice law in the State of Oregon and may not provide legal services to the public except as permitted by law. Read more from the Oregon State Bar here

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