Working with a paralegal or know someone who is one and want to confirm that they are certified to work in that role? Or maybe you want to verify that others can check your license to be a paralegal. In either case, a California paralegal license search can be a great tool. Before you use the search, learn a bit more about paralegal licensing and certifications in California. The certification and licensing are likely different than you expect them to be. The regulations on paralegals in the state are fairly lax.
No, California does not need a license for paralegals to work in the state. Instead, there are other requirements, including a certificate. This means that a paralegal license search in California will display certifications and additional relevant information about paralegals, not licensing.
To be a paralegal in California, you need to have a high school diploma or equivalent or a bachelor’s degree with any major. You must also be at least 18 years old and either a United States citizen or a legal alien.
Although there is no license, you must have a certification to be a paralegal in California. Specifically, you must get a certificate from an American Bar Association-approved program or an institution with regional accreditation. The certification must have required you to complete 24 credit hours or more on legal courses.
Certified paralegals must also have experience. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you need to have one year of experience. This must be with a State Board of California licensed attorney. The requirements increase to three years to those without a B.A. In either case, your supervising attorney will have to certify your paralegal abilities.
Although they are not required, you can find even more employment opportunities as a paralegal if you choose to complete a relevant degree. An example would be a four-year degree or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. There are also two- and four-year degrees (Associates and Bachelor’s, respectively) in paralegal studies.
After you become a certified paralegal, you will have to meet continuing education requirements to maintain the certification. This includes eight hours every other year. Four of those hours are in a specific legal field or general law, and the other four are on ethics.
Although it is not a legal need, many jobs for paralegals require you to pass a background check.
Most paralegals choose to get their certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). This involves completing a two-day exam, which is the Certified Legal Assistant/Paralegal Examination. Another alternative is to complete the Registered Paralegal Examination, which the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) offers.
Interestingly, California does not regulate paralegals. The state did not create any agency to regulate paralegals with Business and Professions Code §6450.
That being said, most paralegals and their employers make efforts to ensure that they have sufficient education, training, and experience. This commonly includes copies of educational certificates in personnel files.
Essentially, employers are responsible for ensuring that their paralegals are capable of completing or finishing the assigned tasks.
There are no state agencies that regulate paralegals in California. Yet, there are some organizations that help to some degree. One of these is the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations (CAPA), which is non-profit and statewide. CAPA, for example, works to ensure that all members have the latest information regarding the profession of paralegals. It also supports formal education and provides one route to certification.
Some of the other organizations that serve similar roles and work together include NFPA, NALA, and American Association for Paralegal Education.
Yes, it is possible to be a paralegal in California without a certificate. However, it may be harder to find a job without certification. You may also not make as much in the jobs you do find as you would if you have a certificate.
One important distinction is that completing the certificates mentioned above means you are a certified paralegal. By contrast, if you complete a program, you get a certification. Additionally, you are unlikely to appear in a California paralegal license search if you are not certified. These searches will typically only display paralegals who are both certified and registered. Neither of these is required in California.