Paralegal Certification - Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam and Credentialing

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About the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam® (PACE®)

At the 1994 mid-year meeting the NFPA membership voted overwhelmingly to develop an exam which could become a standard used by state legislative bodies to gauge the competency level of experienced paralegals.  The PACE program launched in 1996. 

The exam was developed by a professional testing firm in conjunction with an independent task force including paralegals, lawyers, paralegal educators and content specialists from the general public who are legal advocates.  It is administered by computer in a proctored testing facility, consists of 200 multiple-choice questions and must be completed in four hours, although many candidates complete it in two.

The questions are not practice-area specific, but are hypothetical issues testing advanced application of general knowledge, paralegal experience, and critical analysis ability to identify the correct answer. The exam covers tasks that experienced paralegals routinely perform, regardless of the practice area or geographic region in which they live. These tasks were organized into 5 domains: Administration of Client Legal Matters (23%); Development of Client Legal Matters (30%); Factual and Legal Research (22%); Factual and Legal Writing (20.5%), and Office Administration (4.5%).  Ethics are included in all of the above domains, as are technology and terminology.

As the utilization of paralegals increases and the roles they play become more varied, the legal profession has come to recognize the Registered Paralegal (RP®) credential as a signal of excellence.

Preparing for PACE

The eligibility requirements and suggested study materials for PACE are covered on the Preparing for PACE page.

Applying for and Taking PACE

The application and testing procedures are covered on the Applying for and Taking PACE page.

Candidates may sit for the exam at over 200 Sylvan Technology Centers/Prometric testing sites across the United States, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Credential Maintenance

To maintain the PACE RP® credential, paralegals are required to obtain 12 hours of continuing legal education, including at least one hour in ethics, every two years.  For more information see Maintaining Your Credentials.

Inactive Status

The PACE Standards Committee may grant inactive status to an RP in good standing for a period of up to four (4) years upon submission of a written request showing good cause.

The PACE Standards Committee will provide written notice (via certified mail) to the RP of the following:

A. Action taken;
B. Effective date and time period;
C. CLE obligation;
D. Termination of rights of RP® credential; and
E. Reactivation procedures.

The PACE Standards Committee will reactivate the RP status of an inactive RP upon receipt of a written request to reactivate the status, received at least sixty (60) days prior to the expiration of the inactive time period, and a showing of compliance with registration requirements. RP's on inactive status are required to obtain ½ of the regular CLE requirements.


The PACE Standards Committee shall suspend the RP credential for a period of sixty (60) days based upon any of the following:

A. Failure to file a Registration Statement with NFPA Headquarters;
B. Failure to meet CLE requirements; or
C. Failure to provide evidence of continuing education.

The PACE Standards Committee will provide written notice (via certified mail) to the RP of the action taken, effective date and time period of action, termination of rights to RP credential, requirements for reinstatement, consequence of failure to meet requirements, and appeal procedure.


The PACE Standards Committee shall revoke the RP credential based upon any of the following:

  1. RP's knowingly making a false statement or misrepresentation deemed material to the application or registration statement; or
  2. RP's knowingly and intentionally disclosing any or all test questions; or
  3. RP's suspension, termination, or revocation of a certification, registration, or license to practice by a professional organization, court, disciplinary board or agency in any jurisdiction; or
  4. RP's conviction of a felony or comparable crime as defined by an individual state that does not have a felony designation; or
  5. RP's becoming subject to a second suspension pursuant to Section 6 of the Manual.

The PACE Standards Committee will provide written notice to the RP (via certified mail) of the pending action, grounds for pending action, effective date of action, right to respond to allegations (60 days, in writing, with supporting documents), and deliberation schedule.

The PACE Standards Committee shall consider all responses to notice of intention to revoke the RP credential within sixty (60) days of receipt of response to allegations. After such consideration, the PACE Standards Committee will again provide written notice to the RP (via certified mail). The RP credential will not be revoked and removed from all RP public lists until such time as the RP has been afforded every opportunity to appeal.

Foundation for the Advancement of the Paralegal Profession

The member associations of NFPA resolved in 1995 to create a repository for the proceeds from PACE. The Foundation for the Advancement of the Paralegal Profession (the Foundation or FAPP) operates independently of NFPA.  For more information about FAPP click here or visit the FAPP website at

PACE - Development and History

modified 6/4/2014

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