Paralegal Exam Guide

Paralegal Exam Summary
What: Tests paralegal knowledge.
Who: Those that have graduated from a legal assistant program or have completed any bachelor degree program.
Where: Schools and universities act as CLA/CP testing centers in the Virgin Islands, Washington, D.C. and all states excluding Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
When: Exams are offered starting on Fridays in March/April or December.
How: Paper and pencil.
Type: Written booklets involving objective (true/false, multiple choice and matching) questions and essay questions.
Why: Certification sets individuals apart as competent paralegals and Legal Assistants.
Time: A two-day exam that takes 10 hours.
Language: English
Preparation: Examinees should bring their admission ticket, #2 pencils (pens may be used for the essays) and a photo ID. Individuals may bring highlighters and wear a watch. Dress is preferably business casual.
Cost: NALA members pay $250, and non-members pay $275. Retake fees are $60 per section. The Veterans Administration covers the fees for qualified veterans.

By Kara Arnold, Tests.com Contributing Writer

Titles of Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) or Certificate Paralegal (CLP) designate individuals as competent paralegals. These identifications are preferential – those who prefer to be called paralegals choose CP since the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) registered the mark in 2004. Those who prefer to be called legal assistants may use the CLA designation.

To become a certified legal assistant or paralegal, an individual must take the Certified Legal Assistant/Certified Paralegal exam.

According to NALA, candidates for the exam must have either:

  • Graduated from a legal assistant program, OR
  • Obtained a bachelor’s degree in any field and have a year of legal assistant experience (15 semester hours of legal assistant courses acts as an equivalent for one year of experience), OR
  • Received a high school diploma and have a minimum of 20 hours of legal education within two year’s time, as well as seven years of legal assistant experience under the supervision of a member of the bar

The two-day exam always begins on a Friday. The exam is based on federal law and procedure and covers the following:

Day One:

  • Communications, human relations and interview techniques (75-80 questions and one essay to be completed in one and a half hours)
  • Judgment and analysis (45-55 questions and one essay to be completed in two and a half hours)

Day Two:

  • Ethics (80-90 questions to be completed in one hour)
  • Legal research (90-100 questions to be completed in one and a half hours)
  • Substantive law (two hours), which includes 80-100 questions as well as five subsections of 40-45 questions that cover the American legal system and four sections from:
    • Administrative law
    • Bankruptcy
    • Business organizations/corporations
    • Contracts
    • Family law
    • Criminal law and procedure
    • Litigation
    • Probate and estate planning
    • Real estate

Breaks are offered between each section, and lunch breaks are offered on both days.

Exam results are mailed to individuals six to eight weeks following the exam. To pass, a score of 70% is required on each of the five sections. If candidates do not pass the first time, they are allowed five retake sessions within three years.

Application and Testing Dates

Applications and fees must be received by January 15 for exams offered in March or April, by May 15 for exams offered in July, and by October 1 for the December exam session. Qualified applicants will receive an admission ticket by mail 15-20 days prior to their exam date.

Many schools, universities and junior colleges work with NALA to serve as CLA/CP testing centers. There are centers in the Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia and all US states except for Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. If 10 or more legal assistants apply to test in an area where no testing center is offered, the certifying board may establish one, depending on the availability of administrators.

NALA members are assessed a $250 exam fee, while non-members pay $275. The retake fee is $60 per section. The Veterans Administration will pay for the examination fee for qualified veterans.

Test takers should bring their admission ticket, several No. 2 pencils for the computerized answer sheets and a photo ID to the test center. Pens may be used for the essay questions if the test taker prefers. Also, individuals may use highlighters on the examination booklet if helpful.

Getting ready for the CLA/CP exam? Take a look at our Paralegal and Legal Assistant Test Directory.