California Paralegals

Bordwell & Associates

Paralegals are energy cells
They work until the job is done

California Paralegal Regulations

California is the only state that regulates paralegals, requiring those who use the title "paralegal," to meet specific educational and/or experience qualifications and continuing education requirements.

California Business and Professions Code 6450 makes it unlawful for persons to identify themselves as paralegals unless they possess one of the following four requirements:

1.  A certificate of completion from a paralegal program approved by the American Bar Association.

2.  A certificate of completion from a paralegal program at, or a degree from, a post secondary institution that requires the successful completion of a minimum of 24 semester, or equivalent, units in law-related courses and that has been accredited by a national or regional accrediting organization or approved by the Bureau for Private Post Secondary and Vocational Education.

3.  A baccalaureate degree or an advanced degree in any subject, a minimum of one year of law-related experience under the supervision of an attorney who has been an active member of the State Bar of California for at least the preceding three years or who has practiced in the federal courts of this state for at least the preceding three years, and a written declaration from this attorney stating that the person is qualified to perform paralegal tasks.

4.  Note: This option was available to "grandfather" existing paralegals into the system.
A high school diploma or general equivalency diploma, a minimum of three years of law-related experience under the supervision of an attorney who has been an active member of the State Bar of California for at least the preceding three years or who has practiced in the federal courts of this state for at least the preceding three years, and a written declaration from this attorney stating that the person is qualified to perform paralegal tasks. This experience and training shall be completed no later than December 31, 2003.

Continuing Legal Education Requirement

Every two years, commencing January 1, 2007, any person that is working as a paralegal shall be required to certify completion of:

1. Four hours of mandatory continuing legal education in legal ethics.

2. Four hours of mandatory continuing legal education in either general law or in a specialized area of law.

All continuing legal education courses shall meet the requirements of Section 6070.  Certification of these continuing education requirements shall be made with the paralegal's supervising attorney. The paralegal shall be responsible for keeping a record of the paralegal's certifications. If the educational criteria are not met, the individual is in violation of the Business & Professions Code Section 6450(d).


Frequent Questions About California Paralegals 


Wave Button Who do I have to be registered with to call myself a paralegal?
California does not require paralegals to be registered. Only Legal Document Assistants (LDAs) are required to register. LDAs are those who work directly for the public  and are governed by Business & Professions Code Chapter 5.5.

Wave Button To whom should I certify that I have met the initial educational requirements of Business & Professions Code 6450?
California does not expressly require a paralegal to certify their education with a state entity. However, it does require paralegals to keep a record of their certifications and certify their education with their supervising attorney since the attorney is held liable by the paralegal's actions. In addition, paralegals should be prepared to certify their qualifications to clients, in case the question ever arises.


Wave Button What if I come from another state to work in California? Can I qualify under the code?
Yes, a paralegal from another state can qualify to work in California, but they must meet specific requirements as outlined in the California Business and Professions Code, sections 6450 through 6456

Wave Button What if I work for a national law firm in another state other than California, can my firm send me to California to work on specific cases with them? Will I have to certify continuing education?
It would be acceptable if the paralegal is temporarily working on a case for its law firm which is located out of California. For example, if the firm is in both California and Arizona, and the California firm has a need for additional help on a specified case, the firm may send an Arizona paralegal to work on the case, as long as the paralegal is working for a California Attorney who is a member of the State Bar of California and that paralegal qualifies as a paralegal from the state in which they came. Continuing education for those working in California temporarily is recommended but is not mandatory.


Wave Button What happens if the continuing education criteria are not met?
If the educational criteria are not met by the paralegal, the individual is in violation of the Code.

Wave Button To whom does the paralegal certify his or her continuing education?
The paralegal certifies continuing education requirements with their supervising attorney. Paralegals should keep a record of their certifications.  There is no state or local agency or association who monitors the requirements.

Wave Button Can I utilize self-study programs if they are MCLE approved by the State Bar of California?
Yes. As long as the courses meet the requirements of Business & Professions Code 6070.

Wave Button What if I write an article or teach a legal course? Will it meet the criteria as continuing education?
No. The Code is specific in regard to its continuing educational criteria.


Wave Button What if my school became ABA approved after I graduated? Can I still call myself a paralegal?
Yes, as long as the educational criteria are met. If the educational criteria are not met, you will need to qualify under Section (c)(2)(3) or (4).

Wave Button What if I come from out of state?
In order to become a paralegal in California, those coming from out of state must meet the qualifications of California paralegals, unless they are working with their law firm on a temporary or loan basis.


 Wave Button What are the duties a paralegal may perform?
Tasks performed by a paralegal, include but are not limited to, case planning, development and management, legal research; interviewing clients; fact gathering and retrieving information; drafting and analyzing legal documents; collecting, compiling, and utilizing technical information to make an independent decision and recommendation to the supervising attorney; and representing clients before a state or federal administrative agency if that representation is permitted by statute, court rule, or administrative rule or regulation.


Wave Button What are the prohibited activities of a paralegal?
A paralegal is governed by the same Code of Ethics and Canons of their supervising attorney. The following restrictions have been specifically laid out in the Code:
(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), a paralegal shall not do any of the following:
1) Provide legal advice;
2) Represent a client in court;
3) Select, explain, draft, or recommend the use of any legal document to or for any person other than the attorney who directs and supervises the paralegal;
4) Act as a runner or capper as defined in Sections 6151 and 6152;
5) Engage in conduct that constitutes the unlawful practice of law;
6) Contract with, or be employed by, a natural person other than an attorney to perform legal services;
7) In connection with providing paralegal services, induce a person to make an investment, purchase financial product or service, or enter a transaction from which income or profit, or both, purportedly may be derived;
8) Establish fees to charge a client for the services the paralegal performs, which shall be established by the attorney who supervises the paralegals? work. (This does not apply to fees charged by paralegals in a contract to provide legal services to an attorney, law firm, corporation, governmental agency, etc.)


Wave Button What is the difference between a Paralegal and a Legal Document Assistant (LDA)?
A paralegal does not work directly for members of the public; the paralegal works under the supervision of an attorney.  A paralegal does not have clients; only their supervising attorney does.  A paralegal can not, on their own, prepare legal documents or charge fees to the general public.

A Legal Document Assistant (LDA) is authorized to assist the general public by preparing legal documents under the direction of the client. They can distribute legal materials that have been approved by a lawyer, and they can file legal duments in the appropriate courts.  However, LDAs cannot give legal advice of represent clients in court. Every LDA is required to use a contract that outlines the scope of the client’s rights and the LDA’s duties. The LDA must also be registered with the County Clerk/Recorder's Office and post a $25,000 bond in the county where they provide services.

Wave Button Can I advertise as a paralegal?
A paralegal can only advertise to prospective contracting attorneys. 

Wave Button What should my paralegal business card say?
.A business card for a paralegal shall include the name of the law firm where that individual is employed and clarification that the person is not an attorney or a statement that he or she is employed by contracting with a California licensed attorney.


Wave Button As an attorney, do I have to keep a record of my paralegals?
The law does not require you to but given that the supervising attorney is liable for the actions of the paralegal, it is in your best interest to do so.

Wave Button Should I check with my malpractice carrier to see if I should increase my malpractice insurance?
No. The paralegal is still governed by the same Code of Ethics and same Canons as the supervising attorney.

Wave Button Is an attorney liable for the paralegal's work?
Yes, a
n attorney who uses the services of a paralegal is liable for any harm caused as the result of the paralegal’s negligence, misconduct, or violation of the Code.


Wave Button What are the penalties for not abiding by Business & Professions Code 6450?
Specifically, any consumer who is injured by a violation of this Code may file a complaint and seek redress in any municipal or superior court for injunction relief, restitution, and damages.

Any person who violates this act is guilty of an infraction for the first offense which is punishable upon conviction, for a fine up to $2,500 as to each consumer a violation occurs and a misdemeanor for the second and each subsequent violation which is punishable upon conviction of a fine of up to $2,500 as to each consumer with respect to each violation, or imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or both with respect to each violation that occurs.

Paralegal Schools, Certifications, and Associations 


American Bar Association (ABA) approved Paralegal Programs
The American Bar Association (ABA) evaluates law school and paralegal programs that apply for accreditation. Their intensive reviews and on-site evaluations ensure that programs deliver quality education. To find out if your school's paralegal program is ABA-approved, click California or USA.

 button_wave_bd15168_ ABA Certification
The American Bar Association does not certify Paralegals.  Paralegals may not represent themselves as "ABA-certified paralegals," because the ABA's approval applies to the paralegal education program rather than to the individual paralegal.  If you went to an ABA-approved paralegal program, your resume should read: Name of school, ABA-approved paralegal program.  

button_wave_bd15168_ Online Paralegal Programs
The American Bar Association (ABA) has given approval to eight entirely online paralegal programs in California. An up-to-date list of those programs can be found on the ABA website.

Paralegal Association Certifications or Exams
There is no mandatory certification examination for paralegals anywhere in the United States. However, a few paralegal organizations grant recognition to individuals who meet predetermined qualifications and pass an exam drawn up by the sponsoring association. Please note that having an organization certification, by itself, does not satisfy California's paralegal educational requirements.
NALA - The National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc.
NFPA - The National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc.
NALS - The Association for Legal Professionals
AAPI - The American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc.

Local Paralegal Associations
OCPA - Orange County Paralegal Association
LAPA - Los Angeles Paralegal Association
ICAP - Inland Counties Paralegal Association (Riverside and San Bernardino)
SDPA - San Diego Paralegal Association
CAPA - California Alliance of Paralegal Associations (other California counties)

Bordwell & Associates
(949) 724-1466