Most people are familiar with the Bar Association, often reduced to simply “the Bar” though formerly referred to as the American Bar Association, or the ABA. As such, the ABA is recognized as the national representative of the legal profession. In this function, the ABA delivers justice and defends liberty by working for just laws in a fair legal process. The number one goal of the ABA is to provide service to its members by providing programs and services designed to promote professional growth. This includes those pursuing or a career in the legal profession very often starting as paralegals.
What is a Paralegal?
The concept for the position of a paralegal goes as far back as the 1960s with an official definition provided by the ABA 26 years later. The most recent clarification was established in 1997 and reads as follows:
“A legal assistant or paralegal is a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.”
The ABA as a Resource for Paralegals
The ABA offers a wealth of support and knowledge regarding certification for paralegals from ABA approved programs to eLearning. Certification is the process by which organizations that provide approved education are able to grant formal recognition to individuals completing the requirements. Even though this remains a voluntary step in the process of advancing one’s skills, it demonstrates a candidate’s level of commitment and seriousness toward their career aspirations.
Entry Level Experience
Entering the legal profession as a paralegal is the best foot in the door especially for those who may already be pre-law, although this is not a requirement. Most firms or companies are more inclined to look for certification or work experience. Some programs offer a post-baccalaureate paralegal certificate, which takes into account specialty courses as the general education requirements have already been completed. The student completing successful educational requirements through an approved institution is issued a certification of completion, not to be confused with a certificate. The certified paralegal has successfully completed the certification exam.
Recognition from Legal Firms
Legal firms looking to hire paralegals appreciate students who have completed their certification as it represents a number of competencies for which they can expect performance, such as:
- Communication Skills
- Organizational Skills
- Computer Skills
- Critical Thinking Skills
- Understanding of Ethics
- American History, Business and Political Systems
Further, many firms will pay for a student to obtain their certification. It only makes sense when they reap the benefits considering the fact that it typically means they have this candidate for a minimum amount of time at least and may even be more inclined to advance the candidate as part of their initial investment.
Ongoing Commitment Since 1878
The practical resources provided by the ABA are intended to support the legal profession. When you consider the American Bar Assocaition is among the world’s largest professional organizations comprised of nearly 400,000 members, it is even more impressive to know it is strictly all volunteer. In a profession that often gets scrutinized for it self-serving tendencies, the ABA is uniqely representative of an altruistic approach rarely seen these days. It is a great resource for all members of the legal profession in addition to paralegals making the effort to get started on a fulfilling and promising career.