APC Frequently Asked Questions - Answers
Q1: What are the benefits of advanced certification for paralegals?
  Since its inception in 1982, there has been little doubt that paralegal specialty certification has had a positive impact on employers and paralegals.  Surveys have shown consistently that those with specialty certification are billed at higher rates by firms and receive higher compensation.  Those with the certification are also those with more experience and expertise.

Firms and corporations may use specialty certification to enhance their HR and employee development programs. Through this program, firms are provided an economical way to:

 . . . support and provide professional development efforts of paralegals 
 . . . support identification and pursuit of professional goals for nonlawyer staff
 . . . enhance duties and responsibilities of nonlawyer staff

Those with the advanced certification have already achieved the CLA/CP credential. They have already demonstrated mastery of skills and knowledge tested by the two-day CLA/CP written examination. The subjects tested are:

  • written communications
  • legal research
  • ethics
  • judgment and legal analysis
  • the American legal system and general knowledge on the subjects of the American Legal System, Civil Litigation, Contracts, and Business Organizations.  

In addition, those who have the CLA/CP certification have had their education and experience verified by NALA headquarters prior to participating in the program.

Advanced certification enhances professional development. The new design of the advanced certification programs will also provide employers with detailed descriptions of the requirements of the advanced certification course - employers will have a clear understanding of the knowledge and skills required to achieve the specialty credential.

Q2: How long is the certification valid?
  Paralegals with the advanced certification credential from NALA have already achieved the CLA/CP certification credential.  To maintain the CLA/CP, certified paralegals must participate in a minimum of 50 hours of continuing legal education programs every five years.  If a certified paralegal fails to maintain the CLA/CP credential, the paralegal will also lose the advanced certification.
Q3: How can I verify a paralegal's certification status?
  It is very important to verify one's credentials during the hiring process.  To verify a paralegal's certification status, employers may contact NALA by telephone (918-587-6828), e-mail nalanet@nala.org or visit the Certified Paralegal directory on the NALA web site. Our staff is not permitted to release scores or names of those in the testing process; however, we are able to confirm certification status and expiration dates.
Q4: Do I have to be a NALA a member?
  Membership in NALA is not required for those seeking certification through the association. NALA members receive benefits that are helpful to them in achieving certification. Those benefits include discounts off educational material and examination preparation material.  Members also receive discounts off the certification course fee.
Q5 What if I do not have a CLA/CP credential and want to participate in the advanced program?
  The Advanced Paralegal Certification Board has determined that if one successfully completes a course and subsequently takes and completes the CLA/CP examination within one year, NALA may award the ACP credential.  The time period is limited to a year because the certification courses may change with some frequency.

This rule will permit someone to participate in the advanced certification program while waiting for the results of the CLA/CP examination.

Among the goals of this program is education for paralegals in specialty areas of practice.  Because of the nature of the courses, a paralegal can benefit  from taking a course even though the person will not be certified.  This is similar to auditing a college course and applies only to those who are not CLAs.

Q6: What if I need special accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act?
  Requests for special accommodations under the ADA must be submitted in writing and will be handled on an individual basis. However, the course design should permit ease of access for those with sight and hearing challenges.
Q7: How long do I have to wait for results?
  There are a minimum of three parts to the APC certification process:  1) registering for a course and submitting the learning contract; 2) completing each module and module test (with a score of at least 90%); and, 3) submitting the statement of completion.

Upon submitting the statement of completion, the APC board will review the statement and the learning contract submitted when you registered for the course.  The board will verify that your CLA/CP credential is in good standing. If all is in order, you will receive the ACP certificate within the next few weeks.  Paralegals are not authorized to use the ACP credential until the certificate is awarded by the board and received.

The advanced certification program includes assessments that are graded immediately upon completion. Candidates for ACP certification will receive immediate feedback regarding their performance on the course assessments.

Q8: Is there a limit to the number of certifications I can have?
  In a word, no. Advanced certification programs are based on fairly narrow subjects and encourage multiple certifications.  In addition to assisting one who is working in the specialty area, the programs are also helpful to those who wish to work in different areas.
Q9: I already have a CLAS.  How does the new program affect my specialty certification? Do I have to take the certification program again?
  Although the CLA specialty program is undergoing a significant change,  this does not diminish or the value of the current CLAS credential.  We will continue to use the credential CLA Specialist with the specialty area noted, and association will continue to impress upon employers and others of the value of the specialty credential.

However, with the introduction of the new program, all CLA/CPs with the CLAS credential will receive new certificates awarding the ACP credential. The thought is that because no more CLAS credentials were awarded after July 2005, those with this credential may choose to use the new designation.

Q10: What computer equipment will I need?
   For optimal performance, users should use the following:
  • Netscape Navigator 4.0 or Microsoft Explorer 6.0 (or higher). Screen Resolution Setting: 800 X 600.  32 bit color
     
  • NALA Campus courses make extensive use of cookies. Be sure this option is enabled in your browser.
     
  • A high speed modem connection is recommended.
     
  • The NALA Campus audio files are in .wav or MP3 format. Internet Explorer users may play the files on Windows Media Player.  Netscape browsers have their own built in .wav files. If you do not have Windows Media Player, click here to download this - it's free.
     
  • The advanced courses may have supplemental material that will be helpful to you.  This is available through the individual course library page.  The handouts are in pdf format for you to download.  If you do not already have a copy of the Adobe reader, chick this link to download your free copy. Adobe Reader.
     
  • If you are using the VISTA operating system, you may have difficulty with the audio files. Click here to download and install a program that will fix this problem.  Be sure your security settings are set to download an exe file.

Customizing your screen. Users  may refine how they want the course presentations to appear on the computer by visiting "Edit My Profile" from the Main Menu.  This is fun to experiment with - the slide size and location on the screen in relation to text may be varied. The course will be set for the optimum resolution.

Q11: What is the course structure?
 

The courses are designed as a presentation of text, slides and interactive tests.  The course text is also available in audio format.  Each course is divided into 10-20 modules with about 15 pages  each.  In addition, each course offers module tests, and exercises.

A module consists of a slide presentation and a test. The slide presentation consists of written and audio text, and a slide showing examples or additional information related to the lecture. There are approximately 15 pages for each module. Within a slide presentation, you may move through the pages by selecting previous or next pages, or you may select a page by its number. 

Once you have completed the slide presentation of a module, you may work through the module test. The test consists of multiple choice or true/false questions covering the subject matter of the module. When you complete all questions on a module test, you may view the results.  In some instances, the test details will inform you why an answer is correct or incorrect, and will include a link back to a page in the module for more study and review.

Module descriptions are provided as part of the course description.  Modules do not have to be completed in sequential order but several courses assume users will work through the modules in order.

Q12: Who do I contact with questions about either the course content or technical questions?
  You may contact NALA Headquarters with questions regarding equipment or course content.  Headquarters will either assist you directly or put you in touch with the proper person.

(918) 587-6828; nalanet@nala.org

Q13: What's a passing score?
  For advanced certification, one must achieve at least a 90% correct score on all modules, complete all exercises, and complete and submit a statement of completion form.

For persons with the requisite knowledge, the programs are designed to encourage learning. Certification will be the likely result if the person is also qualified with a CLA/CP credential. If one does not reach a 90% correct score on any module, the modules should be reviewed and completed again until the score is achieved.

Q14: What are the requirements for maintaining the advanced certification?
  Paralegals with the advanced certification credential from NALA have already achieved the CLA/CP certification credential.  To maintain the CLA/CP, certified paralegals must participate in a minimum of 50 hours of continuing legal education programs every five years.  If a certified paralegal fails to maintain the CLA/CP credential, the paralegal will also lose the advanced certification.

Successful completion of an advanced certification program will entitle one to receive CLE credit toward maintaining the CLA/CP credential.

Q15: May I just take a course and not seek certification?
  Yes. The advanced certification process is for those who are currently working in a particular area of practice, as well as those seeking CLE and training in specific practice areas. With a valid CLA/CP certification, and completion of a specialty course, one may seek advanced certification within one year after completion of a specialty course.

Once a paralegal goes through the rigors of the advanced certification program, and has the CLA/CP credential, he or she will want to complete the paperwork required for advanced certification. The courses are rigorous and the certification benefit is great.
Q16: Do you offer refunds?
  It is presumed participants will have the prerequisite knowledge necessary for successful completion of an advanced certification course. If this is not the case and the paralegal chooses not to pursue the course, a refund is available for 30 days after person has enrolled, less a $25 processing fee.
Q17: What if I cannot complete the certification program in 90 days?
  You may request a 30-day extension of time to access the course for those who are unable to completed it within 90 days. After the 30 day extension, one will need to re-enroll and submit another registration fee to gain access to the course.  Participants may enroll as often as they wish. To request the extension please contact NALA Headquarters nalanet@nala.org or 918-587-6828.
Q18: Describe the concept behind course prerequisite knowledge.
  Each course description will include a list of prerequisite knowledge. This list consists of items that the Advanced Paralegal Certification Board has determined are important to certification in the subject area. The APC Board has written the course presuming a candidate for the advanced certification already has mastered this knowledge.  Lacking this knowledge, one will find it difficult to understand the course content, successfully complete the tests, and successfully complete the exercises.

The list of prerequisite knowledge provides registrants with information about the demands of the advanced certification course, and allows for more efficient completion of the courses.

Q19: What is a learning contract?
  The advanced certification program requires  participants to complete a learning contract as part of the registration process.  This contract serves as an agreement between the Advanced Paralegal Certification Board and the participant regarding issues related to self directed learning, individual goals and learning objectives, program requirements, and ethical guidelines of online study.

The learning contract is an integral part of the certification process.

Q20: The program is web based - how does the Advanced Paralegal Certification Board know the person who completed the course is the person who will receive the certification credential?
  As a practical matter, the courses are designed so that one person must complete the course - it would be difficult for more than one participant because the information builds on itself and because of the nature of the exercises.

The Advanced Paralegal Certification Board gave much consideration to this issue and kept focusing on the fact that the programs are designed for those who have the CLA/CP credential. These individuals have already signed statements that they would follow the NALA Code of Ethics and ethical requirements of paralegals within their state. Falsification of any of this information could result in loss of the CLA/CP credential.

In addition, course registrants will be required to complete a learning contract.  This contract includes an agreement to abide by the code of ethics of NALA, and lists activities expected of the course participants.

Finally, upon completion of a course, a paralegal will be required to submit a statement of completion.  The statement is an attestation that the candidate for certification is the person who worked through the course and completed the course requirements.

Q21: How much is the examination registration fee?
  The registration fee for an Advanced Paralegal Certification course is $250 for members and $300 for non-members of NALA.

For the Personal Injury program, the Core Course is $300 for members and $350 for non-members. This includes a registration for practice area course.

Personal Injury practice area courses are individually priced at $150 for members; $200 for non-members.

Q22: How long does it take to finish a course?
  The NALA Certifying Board has determined that successful completion of an APC course qualifies for 20 hours of credit toward maintaining the CLA/CP credential. The Personal Injury Core Course is 20 hours; Personal Injury practice area courses qualify for 10 hours of continuing education credit.

Because the program is web based, length of course work will vary for each individual.

Q23: I am a CLA/CP. Do I get CLE credit for completion of an APC course? How much?
  Yes! NALA Certified Paralegals may receive 20 hours of credit upon successful completion of an APC Course. The Personal Injury Core Course is 20 hours; Personal Injury practice area courses qualify for 10 hours of continuing education credit.

To maintain the CLA/CP credential, paralegals must show completion of 50 hours of CLE for each five year period. In addition . . .

Under section 9 of the MCLE Rules and Regulations, NALA is a State Bar of California approved MCLE provider (Number 10856) for paralegals and attorneys.

The North Carolina State Bar Board of Paralegal Certification has approved all APC courses for CPE credit for 20.0 credits, general.