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The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) began sponsoring a certification examination called the Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) exam in 1976. The CLA examination is a two day comprehensive examination based on federal law and procedure. Successful completion of the exam entitles a paralegal to use the credential “CLA” (Certified Legal Assistant) or “CP” (Certified Paralegal) after his or her name. To be eligible for the CLA examination, a legal assistant must meet one of the following alternate requirements:
  • Graduation from a legal assistant program that is:
    • Approved by the ABA; or
    • Associate degree program; or
    • A post-baccalaureate certificate program in legal assistant studies; or
    • A bachelors’ degree program in legal assistant studies; or
    • A legal assistant program which consists of a minimum of sixty semester hours of which at least fifteen semester hours are substantive legal courses.
  • A bachelors’ degree in any field plus one-year experience as a legal assistant.
  • A high school diploma or equivalent plus seven year’s experience as a legal assistant under the supervision of a member of the Bar, plus evidence of a minimum of twenty hours of continuing legal education credit to have been completed within a two year period prior to the examination date.

NALA also offers advanced specialty exams and recently announced a major overhaul of the specialty certification process and the end of the “CLAS” (CLA Specialist) designation. The Certified Paralegal exam is computer based and available in all ACT testing center locations - over 250 universities, community colleges and private testing centers. To obtain a specialty credential, participants must first hold the CLA/CP credential.

NALA introduced an internet based certification program as well as a new specialty designation, the “APC” - Advanced Paralegal Certification. The specialty certification format is an online, learn as you go curriculum and assessment process designed to meet the demands of employers of specializing paralegals: to train paralegals to learn/enter a new area of practice, and to solve logistical issues surrounding examination sites and times by delivering the program online.

For information on the exam, test dates, eligibility requirements and more, please visit NALA’s website at



Amy Hamilton, CLA

Elizabeth A. Toschlog, CLA/CP

Thompson Hine LLP

Henny Penny Corp.