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A Warning to All of the 'ABA Certified Paralegals'

You went to paralegal school. Your school was one of about 280 paralegal schools in the U.S. (out of approximately 1,500) that has been approved by the American Bar Association. You graduated. Your school gave you a certificate when you graduated. You now head boldly into the world as an "ABA Certified Paralegal" seeking a job.

Not so fast, says Chere Estrin.

According to Estrin, the co-founder and chairperson of the Organization of Legal Professionals, fledgling paralegals are embarrassing themselves and, in some cases, disqualifying themselves from consideration for jobs because they fail to understand that the ABA does not offer certification for paralegals.  In short, receiving a certificate for something does not necessarily mean that you are certified for something. 

Let's break this down. Certification, as the ABA itself notes, is "a process by which a non-governmental agency or association grants recognition to an individual who has met certain predetermined qualifications specified by that agency or association. It usually involves passing an examination drawn up by the sponsoring organization and meeting specified educational and/or experiential requirements. The American Bar Association does not certify Paralegals. ..."  

A certificate on the other hand is, well, a piece of paper that someone hands you when you complete paralegal school -- or finish the "fun run" charity mile, come in third in the 4th grade Spelling Bee, or blow the biggest bubble at the state fair. Possessing such a certificate does not by itself make you a certified paralegal, runner, speller or bubble-blower.

Estrin cites an example that she recently witnessed of a 

paralegal who was passed up for a very good job because she wrote "ABA Certified Paralegal" on her resume. The firm decided that if this paralegal did not know the difference between "certified" and "certificated", she wasn't smart enough to join the firm. Ouch! It was a shame because the message to the paralegal was not only did she not know the difference, she hadn't take the time to find out. Make that 0 points in her job hunting file. Resumes are often reviewed by hiring paralegals who do know the difference and it's offensive to some when they see otherwise good paralegals make this common mistake. 

Estrin says that paralegals who want to demonstrate they attended one of the schools approved by the ABA can accurately do so by stating something like the following on their resumes:

Acme & Acme Paralegal School
An ABA approved paralegal program or
Approved by the American Bar Association

Posted by Bruce Carton on May 29, 2012 at 03:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

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