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Paralegal Tech. Redesignated as ‘Qualified'

PCC Paralegal Technology Department Chair Vicki ColemanWINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College administrators announced last month that the Paralegal Technology program has been redesignated by the N.C. State Board of Paralegal Certification as a “qualified paralegal program.”

Vicki Coleman, chair of the PCC Paralegal Technology Department, said Pitt’s program was initially designated as “qualified” in 2006, when certification of paralegals in North Carolina began. Qualified programs, she said, are reviewed every five years by the N.C. State Bar – the government agency responsible for regulating the legal profession, including attorneys and paralegals, in North Carolina.

“Students who graduate from qualified paralegal programs, such as PCC’s program, and who meet other eligibility requirements may apply to take the N.C. Certified Paralegal Exam,” Coleman said. “Passing the exam entitles the examinee to use the designation ‘North Carolina Certified Paralegal’ and indicates that the N.C. State Bar has determined the certified paralegal has met its entry-level professional standards.”

Coleman said certified paralegals maintain their certification by taking annual continuing education courses and adhering to ethical and professional standards throughout their careers.

PCC’s paralegal program began admitting students in 1971. In the 45 years since, it has produced entry-level, professional problem-solvers for the legal marketplace throughout northeastern North Carolina. Coleman said the program will graduate 22 students this year, including 13 receiving associate degrees and nine receiving post-baccalaureate diplomas.

PCC’s designation as an N.C. State Bar-qualified paralegal program stems from its ongoing approval by the American Bar Association (ABA). Coleman said ABA approval entails a rigorous vetting process, including detailed documentation of the program’s standards, activities and outcomes, and site visits by ABA personnel. PCC’s program was first approved by the ABA in 1995, she said, adding that its most recent reapproval came in 2014.

“There are only seven approved programs in North Carolina and, of those seven, only four are located within the North Carolina Community College System,” Coleman said.