As with many states, only lawyers are permitted to practice law in Ohio and paralegal work has to be handled under legal supervision.
“In Ohio paralegals are not regulated in any manner,” said Kalpana Yalamanchili, director of bar services. “We created this voluntary program in order for lawyers and the public to know that if someone has been designated an OSBA Certified Paralegal, he or she has met certain standards of education, experience and skill.”
The paralegal certification course provided by the OSBA receives applications from January to March and is based on experience and education for its acceptance criteria.
The paralegal student needs to complete 12 credit hours of continuing legal or paralegal education courses in the three years immediately preceding the application, according to OSBA paralegal course criteria. The courses are approved by the Supreme Court of Ohio Comm8ission on CLE, NALA, NFPA or the Ohio State Bar Association and so it maintains a rigorously overseen course structure and has become highly regarded.
Further requirements are three professional references, which must include two from lawyers in good standing with the Supreme Court of Ohio who have good knowledge of the aspiring paralegal’s skills and work. The final portion is of course passing the written examination, which covers multiple areas of law.
Application fees cost $150 for OSBA members and $200 for nonmembers; the exam fee is $100 and $150 respectively. The certification period is four years and biennial reporting is required to maintain the status. A paralegal may be recertified if the continuing legal education and reference requirements are met without taking another exam.
A Paralegal Certification Board, made up of members appointed by the OSBA president, has the power to grant, revoke or re-grant certification as well as determine eligibility, administer the written exam and set passage rates.
Membership in the Ohio State Bar Association is voluntary and about 25,000 people on the bench and bar of Ohio as well as nearly 4,000 legal assistants and law students are members. Paralegals do not need to be members of the bar to apply for certification.