In 1974, in response to a growing interest in the development of the paralegal profession, eight paralegal associations founded NFPA. It is a professional, non-profit organization comprised of state and local paralegal associations and represents paralegals throughout North America and foreign countries.
NFPA reflects a broad diversity of paralegals and offers a forum for practicing paralegals in all sectors, including private law firms, corporations, legal service agencies, financial institutions, courts, trade associations, federal, state and local government, insurance agencies and other traditional and non-traditional settings.
NFPA Mission Statement
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. promotes a global presence for the paralegal profession and leadership in the legal community.
As adopted July 2004,
NFPA was formed to:
- Foster and promote the paralegal profession;
- Monitor and participate in developments of the paralegal profession;
- Maintain a nationwide communication network among paralegal associations and other members of the legal community;
- Advance the educational standards of the paralegal profession; and,
- Conduct seminars, research and handle other work relative to the paralegal profession.
NFPA supports the independent role of the paralegal and the vital role paralegals provide in the delivery of quality legal services.
NFPA—The Standard for Excellence
Since 1974, NFPA has supported the growth and expanded role of paralegals. The voice of the profession, NFPA represents paralegals in many areas.
- Legislative Matters—NFPA will present written and oral testimony at government hearings and meetings held by local, state and the national bar associations.
- Representation—NFPA presents paralegals' interests by preparing letters and amicus briefs to educate attorneys and judges on the vital role played by paralegals in the delivery of quality legal services.
- Professional Development—As the profession develops, paralegals can depend on NFPA to offer innovative opportunities for growth. Recent examples include development of the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam (PACE) for becoming a Registered Paralegal and review/approval of textbooks and other reference manuals for practicing paralegals and student paralegals.
- Professional and Ethics Issues—NFPA continues to research and analyze issues that affect the paralegal profession. Recent issues include exempt vs. non-exempt, ethics, recoverability of fees, and definitions of a paralegal.
- Representation with National Legal Associations—NFPA works closely with the American Bar Association, (ABA), the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE), International Paralegal Management Association (IPMA), and other legal national associations.
- Committee and Commission Representation— NFPA sponsors a representative on the ABA's Approval Commission, which works with the ABA's Standing Committee on Legal Assistants.
- Educational Issues—NFPA will support the growth and expansion of the paralegal profession by addressing educational issues for the practicing paralegal and paralegal students
WHEREAS, when this profession was first developed, the preferred term for those working in this field was "legal assistant". However, throughout the years, legal assistants came to also be called "paralegals"; and in 1995, a majority of NFPA's members voted to approve policy that NFPA prefers the term "paralegal" over the term "legal assistant"; and,
WHEREAS, despite the fact that statements were made early on that paralegal/legal assistant were equal and interchangeable terms for a single profession, there has traditionally been confusion and conflict within the public and the legal community as to these terms, and the roles and responsibilities associated therewith; and,
WHEREAS, our profession is facing additional confusion and conflict because in the last few years, an ever increasing number of: 1) law firms and other entities have begun calling their legal secretaries "legal assistants" and/or have begun tiering our profession such that individuals in entry-level positions are labeled "legal assistants" and those in more experienced positions are labeled "paralegals"; 2) legal secretaries have begun calling themselves, and signing correspondence which refers to themselves as, "legal assistants"; and,
WHEREAS, we, as paralegals and members of the legal community, have an ethical obligation to avoid misconceptions and to prevent confusion and even the appearance of an impropriety; and,
WHEREAS, the term "legal assistant" is now being used to refer to positions outside the paralegal definition, including, but not limited to, assistant county attorneys in some states and legal secretaries, it is no longer synonymous with the term "paralegal"; and, NFPA believes that it is in the best interest of our profession to promote the term "paralegal" as the proper nomenclature for members of this profession.NOW
THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NFPA hereby reaffirms Resolution 95M-4 that "Paralegal" is the preferred term for this profession; and, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Resolution 87-16 be revised as follows: RESOLVED that the NFPA adopt the following definition for Paralegal:
A Paralegal is a person, qualified through education, training or work experience to perform substantive legal work that requires knowledge of legal concepts and is customarily, but not exclusively, performed by a lawyer. This person may be retained or employed by a lawyer, law office, governmental agency or other entity or may be authorized by administrative, statutory or court authority to perform this work. (emphasis added.) History Adopted 2002
Opportunities to Network and Debate Issues. Annually, member associations meet at NFPA's convention to exchange ideas, discuss and debate critical issues facing the paralegal profession, and vote on the future direction of NFPA. Nowhere else can you participate in the same discussion and exchange of ideas that impacts your profession.
During the Annual Convention, the delegates elect the NFPA Officers and Board of Directors. The NFPA Board is composed of twelve members, which includes five Region Directors. The Region Directors give each region's concerns a strong voice on the Board. The delegates also approve the NFPA budget at the Annual Convention. As a member-driven organization, the voting associations truly have the ability and exercise the privilege of shaping the future of the profession.
According to the NFPA bylaws, the NFPA Board implements policy that is established by the delegates and handles the day-to-day administration of NFPA.
The Vote. The most important benefit of NFPA membership is the right to vote on all questions brought before the policy meetings which takes place at the conventions. Delegates have debated and voted on such matters at the annual conventions as the definition of a paralegal, adoption of model language on numerous topics that may be adapted in full or in part by others, and development of PACE. Through its careful research and its insistence on local input, NFPA has been prepared with verifiable information and established positions to assist other groups such as bar associations, legislatures or committees thereof, and other organizations interested in the paralegal profession. These decisions have directly impacted the profession's development.