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I just read a great blog at The Estrin Report, written by fellow paralegal, Chere Estrin, called “Still Thinking about Licensing Paralegals? Hogwash.  Old School Thinking.”

I am still on the fence about licensing paralegals.  There are many good reasons to do so but there are almost as many bad reasons.  In Ms. Estrin’s blog, (you can read the entire blog here) she makes the point that: “Licensing may establish minimum qualifications, but that won’t necessarily help you land the job. Attorneys will still rely on your resume to identify specific skills and work experience when they’re considering you for a position.”

Ms. Estrin believes the paralegal field will “follow similar suit to nursing practitioners and physician assistants, as shown below:

  • The Attorney Practitioner: BA/BS degree; graduate school; 1 or 2 years of law school; able to perform previous attorney assignments: perhaps take a deposition; assess a case; prepare certain documents; appear in front of a judge;  (in King County, Seattle, this has been done with paralegals for years on default judgments and more).
  • The Certified Paralegal: BA/BS; paralegal certificate; required number of years in the field; plus sits for certification exam.
  • The Paralegal: BA/BS degree plus paralegal certificate.
  • The Paralegal Assistant: An AA degree plus paralegal certificate.
  • The Paralegal Clerk: Either an AA degree, no paralegal certificate or paralegal certificate and no college degree. Cannot move up unless an AA degree and paralegal certificate are reached.”

She further believes the “field will stratify according to entry requirements, education, years of experience and expertise which will in turn limit the types of duties a paralegal of certain ranks will be allowed to do. Right now, there is only entry-level, mid-level, senior level and paralegal manager in most firms. Paralegals are paid according to years in the field, modeled after the associate program. They are not paid for performance. Right now, a 10 year paralegal can be performing at the two-year level but paid at the 10 year market level.” I don’t entirely agree with this last sentence, but I do agree that the majority of paralegals are paid based on their years of experience, (but in the area I work in, their knowledge is also considered for their salary.)

I do agree that paralegals should be required to attain more education, sophisticated assignments and years in the field before they can even be considered for certification, let alone licensing.

So, to license or not license paralegals. Who will pay for this licensing, the paralegal or the attorney they work with/for and who will monitor the licensing?  The State Bar? I wonder how my fellow paralegals and even the attorneys we work for feel about licensing paralegals.  Please let me know by completing the quick survey below.  It will only take a second or two and then back to work you go!  Many thanks.


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