Smith Debnam Proudly Salutes Its Certified Paralegals
May 1, 2007
You may not see them giving dramatic courtroom arguments, but the work of paralegals is no less important than that of a seasoned attorney to the outcome of a successful legal case. While lawyers bear the ultimate responsibility for representing clients’ legal interests, many of the behind-the-scenes tasks are accomplished by paralegals. Recognizing the critical role that paralegals play in our legal system, in 2005 the North Carolina State Bar, responsible for regulating the practice of law, established a program for the certification of paralegals.
The North Carolina paralegal certification model was developed by attorneys and paralegals as a voluntary program designed to ensure paralegal competency, and thereby elevate and provide consistency in the quality of the legal services they provide. The program assists in the development of paralegal professional standards, raises the overall profile of the paralegal profession, and sets a performance expectation that both the general public and legal professionals can refer to and rely upon. If a paralegal is a North Carolina Certified Paralegal, all involved in a case can be assured that he/she has met or exceeded the skill and knowledge requirements established by the NC State Bar.
Under the provisions of this program, currently practicing paralegals may qualify for certification based on a combination of education and prior work experience – however, this qualification opportunity is only available to applicants until June 30, 2007. Effective July 3, 2007, all applicants will be required to have a paralegal degree from a qualified paralegal studies program, and will also be required to successfully pass the North Carolina Bar’s paralegal certification exam. Qualified paralegals must meet certain minimum education levels in order to become certified, and are required to undergo a minimum level of annual continuing education in order to maintain their certification.
Once a paralegal has become certified, he or she may use the following titles: North Carolina Certified Paralegal, North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal, Paralegal Certified by the North Carolina State Board of Paralegal Certification and/or NCCP.
Smith Debnam currently has twelve North Carolina Certified Paralegals, and expects this number to increase in the coming months as others complete the certification process. Smith Debnam is proud of the quality and professionalism exhibited by our paralegals, and salutes those paralegals that have exerted the effort to validate their expertise by obtaining their certification.
Article prepared by Joann Cotten, a North Carolina Certified Paralegal with the firm’s Construction and Equipment Leasing & Finance practice group.