A paralegal meeting the minimum criteria for the exam should be able to use logical thought processes, elimination of incorrect answers and their expertise in the basic legal principles to correctly answer the test questions.
NFPA has developed many study tools to assist candidates preparing for the exam. Even an experienced candidate should thoroughly review the PACE Study Manual published by NFPA (available at www.paralegals.org) prior to taking the exam. Each chapter includes sample test questions with detailed explanations of the logical process to deduce the correct response.
Examinees also should review other sources, including paralegal textbooks, seminar materials, flash cards and bar charts for law students, and paraпїЅlegal journals such as The National Paralegal Reporter and Legal Assistant Today. In addition, NFPA offers a 50-question online practice exam that simulates test conditions.
NFPA encourages candidates to participate in a study group if possible. Study groups are organized at the local level, although NFPA can assist by providing sample guidelines, a sample syllabus and other information to help the study groups prepare for the exam. Study groups can be as formal or informal as the participants want. NFPA recommends that study groups meet at least once a week and follow the suggested syllabus over a seven- to eight-week period, although they can meet more often or less often. The group can be taught by members taking turns on the various study areas, or the group leader can solicit speakers from the legal community.
Study groups donпїЅt work for all paralegals. Many find it impossible to study any other way but individually. Recognizing that study groups are not an option for many paralegals, NFPA partnered with the American Institute for Paralegal Studies to offer a seven-week, online study course for PACE. This review course includes mentoring, discussions, homework assignments and online lectures, and ultimately provides a structured form of study. It also encourages a disciplined approach to study that many paralegals find difficult to maintain if they study on their own. The online course is available to anyone with an Internet connection and can be accessed any time. Many RPs credit the course for their success on the exam. The review course is offered several times a year, and more information is available at www.paralegals.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1 subarticlenbr=125.
RPs must meet CLE requirements, which include ethics training, to maintain their certification. RPs must renew their certification every two years and provide evidence of at least 12 hours of CLE (approved by the CLE coordinator on a case-by-case basis unless the CLE credits were obtained from a previously approved provider, e.g. bar associations, colleges and universities, etc.). At least one hour of CLE must be in ethics.
Making the Commitment
The single most important resource a PACE candidate can take into the test facility is the desire to become an RP. Making the commitment to take PACE is not something to be taken lightly or forced on anyone. The exam is voluntary, and candidates must be in the proper frame of mind to succeed. They must be confident of their skills and knowledge, but shouldnпїЅt approach the exam in an overconfident manner either.
Why should a paralegal take PACE? The reasons are as varied as the 500 plus RPs who have passed the exam to date, but they generally fall into the following categories:
Career paralegals want to validate their expertise by taking a nationally recognized certification exam;
In the absence of regulation, or with regulation on the horizon, paralegals want to establish their own identifiable standards of professional excellence;
National certification provides a sense of professional accomplishment;
Certified paralegals can gain recogпїЅnition and respect from peers;
Certified paralegals can enhance their marketability and stand apart from the rest of the uncertified paralegal workforce; and
Some employers offer higher salary levels or bonuses for certification.
Paralegals who face their fears and pass the exam gain a huge sense of professional pride and accomplishment. They are authorized to use the trademarked phrase пїЅPACE Registered
ParalegalпїЅ or пїЅRP.пїЅ Some RPs enjoy increased pay, promotions or new job opportunities. Some find themselves in positions of additional responsibility within their place of employment and take on leadership roles within the paralegal community. At a minimum, many new RPs note the increased peer recognition that comes almost instantly with the announcement of their certification.
One of the most important reasons to become an RP is that you want to become certified. Having a positive attitude is as critical to passing this exam as work experience and study. There are many resources to help prepare for the exam. With proper preparation and the right motivation, itпїЅs possible to pass PACE. For more information about PACE, please visit the NFPA Web site at www.paralegals.org and click on пїЅPACE/RP.пїЅ
By Stacey Hunt, CLA, CAS
When it comes to test time, if possible, find a place to stay near the exam site the night before the exam so you donпїЅt have to rush in on the morning of the test. Allow yourself the luxury of being able to do some last minute review the night before without staying up late.
Here are some additional recommendations:
Take vacation time the week before the test to prepare.
Transcribe handwritten notes from study group classes and create flash cards for quick and easy review.
Study a little at a time and donпїЅt focus on the whole exam.
Be prepared physically as well as mentally by getting plenty of sleep before the exam and eating well.
Stacey Hunt. CLA, CAS, is a freelance paralegal in the San Luis Obispo. Calif. area. She is the co-author of пїЅHot Docs and Smoking Guns: Managing Document Production and Document OrganizationпїЅ (Clark, BoardпїЅman, Callaghan, 1994) and пїЅThe Successful Paralegal Job Search GuideпїЅ (West, 2000). Hunt taught legal writing and ethics for the paraпїЅlegal studies program at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. and is a past president of the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations. She is working on a new book for Delmar Publishing on evidence management for paralegals, due out in July 2007.
Ann W. Price. RP, is the vice president and director of PACE and serves on the board of directors for the National Federation of Paralegal Associations. She is employed as a litigation case manager in the Washington. D.C. office of Patton Boggs. Prior to election to the national board, Price served as the assistant coordinator for PACE Ambassadors for three years and was the National Capital Area Paralegal AssociationпїЅs PACE Ambassador for six years. She is a member of the International Paralegal Management Association, serving on the IPMA Task Force on Paralegal Utilization. Price received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Old Dominion University in Norfolk. Va. and her paraпїЅlegal certificate from Merritt College in Oakland. Calif.