What is the PACE?
The Paralegal Advanced Competency Examination (PACE) is an examination offered by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NPFA). The PACE exam tests for competency in various areas of paralegal law, work, and experience. Currently, the exam consists of 200 multiple choice questions, and typically takes testers from two to four hours. In the future, when applicable for certain cases, the exam may be tailored to suit state-specific laws and needs as well, which makes it a relevant examination no matter what state potential examinees are residing in or where they plan to work.
The PACE is a two-tiered examination. Each tier of the PACE exam addresses different areas that are relevant to the work of a paralegal. The first tier of the PACE exam, or Tier I, addresses general legal issues and ethics that a well-experienced paralegal should be familiar with. The second tier of the PACE exam, or Tier II, addresses specialty sections of paralegal law and is currently still under development. A section for state specific laws may also be developed for the PACE exam, should the need arise.
Why take the PACE?
Paralegals who pass PACE and maintain the required continuing education requirement may use the designations of “PACE-Registered Paralegal” or “RP.”
Passing the PACE and getting certification will provide paralegals, employers and other legal institutions with a clearer look at the competency level of anyone who has taken the exam. It is much more beneficial for employers and other workers in the legal industry to see the results of a well respected and monitored examination when they are determining the experience and skill of a prospective paralegal hire.
You will want to take the PACE to greatly increase your chances of being hired and being taken seriously in the paralegal field. When you are credited through the PACE, it will show prospective employers and clients that you have not only experience but a competent paralegal skill level. The PACE will also help you establish your credentials in the paralegal field, which is an important aspect of maintaining a positive reputation among potential clients and employers. A paralegal without PACE certification will typically not have an outside certification showing prospective employers that their skill level can be certified. Passing the PACE and becoming PACE certified will then greatly help to boost your reputation, credentials, and keep you in higher standing in the legal industry.
Because of the high level of relevancy of the exam, all experienced paralegals are suggested to submit themselves for examination.
Requirements for the PACE
What are the requirements to take the PACE?
The PACE is intended to be taken by experienced paralegals to further their credentials and confirm their competency in the paralegal field. Because of this, there are requirements you must meet before being eligible to take the examination.
In order to be eligible to take the PACE, you must fit at least one of the following requirements:
- You have an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, which must have been obtained from an institutionally accredited school and/or ABA approved paralegal education program; AND six years of substantive paralegal experience
- You have a bachelor’s degree in any course of study, which must have been obtained from an institutionally accredited school AND three years of substantive paralegal experience
- You have a bachelor’s degree and completion of a paralegal program, which must have been obtained from an institutionally accredited school (this program may be embodied within the bachelor’s degree); AND two years substantive paralegal experience
- You have four years of substantive paralegal experience on or before December 31st, 2000.
PACE Study Aids
Because the PACE covers many areas of law, it is highly suggested that the PACE Study Manual be ordered and used prior to taking the examination. The PACE Study Manual can be ordered from the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NPFA) website, under the PACE/RP section.
You can also take courses to help prepare yourself for the PACE. The AIP’s online review course, which can be accessed through the NFPA website, is a 7 week online course intended to help prepare paralegals for the exam. Like many other online courses, the AIP online review course for the PACE includes homework assignments, an online ‘study hall,’ and discussion questions that are all intended to help you study for the PACE. The course ends with a mock PACE exam, and an instructor will work with you personally in order to determine what areas are your weaknesses that need to be improved upon.
An online practice test separate from the online course can also be taken at the NFPA website. This practice test consists of 100 practice questions, covering the same areas as the actual PACE.
Taking practice tests can be a very helpful tool in determining your weaknesses and strengths. For example, if you do poorly in the terminology section of the practice test, you now know ahead of time that you need to focus more study time on terminology. know ahead of time that you have trouble with paralegal related terminology
Renewing the PACE
Although you need only take the PACE one time, to retain your PACE-certified status, you must go through a renewal process every two years in order to maintain your PACE credentials.
You must obtain at least 12 hours of continuing legal education, including one hour in ethics, every two years. You will need to keep records of this continuing education in order to submit the information to the NFPA. Renewal forms and vital information can be found in the NFPA website.
The renewal of your credentials is due on the anniversary date of your initial examination. Ideally, the information will be submitted 60 to 90 days prior to the anniversary date, which will allow for a much smoother and easier verification process. However, should you be late in submitting your renewal, the NFPA will typically accept late submissions for up to 60 days after the anniversary date—within reason, and only if there is an acceptable reason for the submission to be late.
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