Q: What is the difference between a paralegal and a legal assistant?

A: It would seem to most that the terms are interchangeable, however the Ohio Supreme Court has articulated that a person is a paralegal based on his or her education while a legal assistant is based on experience. See Columbus Bar Assoc. v. Flanagan (1997), 77 Ohio St.3d 381.

Q: I’ve seen some paralegals with initials RP or CLA after their name. What do they stand for?

A: Registered Paralegal and Certified Legal Assistant. Individuals with these credentials after their names have taken and passed specific examinations and been awarded the credential by a national paralegal organization (the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and the National Association of Legal Assistants, respectively).

Q: Is it difficult to become a member of PACO?

A: No. If you are a paralegal student or a paralegal graduate, whether working in the paralegal field or not, simply complete the application.  If you are a student, you may have your instructor sponsor you. If you are a paralegal graduate and do not know a Columbus Bar Association member attorney, simply enclose your check for the fee and forward to the Columbus Bar. The Columbus Bar Liaison can sponsor you for membership.

Q: Everyone keeps asking members to become more involved. Isn't it just a select group of people that get picked for the Board and committees?

A: No. What you are seeing are those that are willing to step up to the plate and serve our association. Come forward and get involved, it's that easy.

Q: What is PACE?

A: PACE stands for the Paralegal Advanced Competency Examination. It is a four hour, computer-generated test and is offered by the NFPA at more than 200 Sylvan Technology Centers across the U.S. In order to be eligible to take the PACE, you must have:

  • An associates degree in paralegal studies obtained from an institutionally accredited and/or ABA approved paralegal education program; and six (6) years substantive paralegal experience; OR
  • A bachelor's degree in any course of study obtained from an institutionally accredited school and three (3) years of substantive paralegal experience; OR
  • A bachelor's degree and completion of a paralegal program with an institutionally accredited school, said paralegal program may be embodied in a bachelor's degree; and two (2) years substantive paralegal experience; OR
  • Four (4) years substantive paralegal experience on or before December 31, 2000.

For more information about the PACE, please visit the National Federation of Paralegal Association Web site.

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