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  • October 20, 2021

    Paralegal Day: State Bar Certification Signifies Professionalism for Paralegals

    National Paralegal Day is Oct. 23, 2021. More than 260 paralegals in Wisconsin have completed the State Bar of Wisconsin Certified Paralegal™ program since 2018. 

    Shannon Green

    April DeValkenaere (right), with Waukesha County Deputy District Attorney Lesli Boese.

    April DeValkenaere (right), with Waukesha County Deputy District Attorney Lesli Boese. DeValkenaere was certified in January 2019 with the State Bar’s Certified Paralegal program.

    Oct. 20, 2021 – Janesville paralegal Renae Ehle is proud to put “SBWCP” after her name.

    “It represents my dedication to a profession that challenges me each day, and is one that I love,” said Ehle, a paralegal and office administration professional at Carney Thorpe, L.L.C., in Janesville.

    A paralegal with the Waukesha County District Attorney’s Office, April DeValkenaere also uses SBWCP following her name. “It shows that I am committed to our profession and will persevere through any obstacles I encounter,” she said.

    SBWCP indicates that Ehle and DeValkenaere are each a State Bar of Wisconsin Certified Paralegal. The Certified Paralegal program is a self-funded, voluntary program for all paralegals in Wisconsin who meet the program's criteria. The program, now in its third year, protects the interest of paralegals and attorneys by providing a certification process that vets the paralegal’s education and experience.

    Through the State Bar program, paralegals in Wisconsin are eligible to be certified – a credential that demonstrates a paralegal’s dedication to professional development and excellence.

    To be certified, the paralegals must work under the supervision of a Wisconsin-licensed attorney. They must also meet the program’s education and experience requirements, and participate in ongoing legal education to polish their skills and keep them up to date.

    Certification Indicates a Commitment to Professional Excellence

    DeValkenaere is one of many paralegals who obtained the certification as soon as it was available in 2018. “It was important because when I was hired with the Waukesha County District Attorney’s Office, the ability for a prosecutor’s office to employ a paralegal was a brand new concept,” she said.

    Shannon Green Shannon Green is communications writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. She can be reached by email or by phone at (608) 250-6135.

    “I wanted to demonstrate my passion and dedication to the paralegal profession by showing the prosecutors how much I could assist them in preparing their cases for prosecution.”

    Ehle became a paralegal in 1993, and obtained her Professional Legal Secretary (PLS) and Professional Paralegal (PP) certifications from the National Association of Legal Support Specialists in 1999 and 2004. As soon as she learned of the SBWCP program, she applied for certification.

    “Having an experienced and skilled paralegal is absolutely essential to my practice,” said Ehle’s supervising attorney, James A. Carney.

    With the Madison Office of the City Attorney, paralegal Derek Schuld believes the certification helped him obtain his current position. “I feel it helped impress the interview panel going into the interview process,” he said. I came across as more polished and committed to my work with it under my belt.”

    “A paralegal is essential for my property tax litigation practice, for organization, editing, filing and writing,” said Madison Assistant City Attorney Jaime Staffaroni. “Derek understands the legal issues, which is essential for editing, proofing and filing.”

    For DeValkenaere, certification afforded her the opportunity to pursue continued professional development as a part of her employment, including staying current on issues related to the paralegal profession. “It also allows me to specialize in an area of the law that I am passionate about, such as white collar crime,” she said.

    DeValkenaere, in addition to working as a paralegal, is a board member of the Paralegal Association of Wisconsin (PAW). “Paralegals are a vital part of the legal profession,” she said.

    “The SBWCP designation recognizes the skill, education, experience and dedication of today’s paralegals and serves as a special distinction that recognizes the most highly qualified paralegals in Wisconsin.”

    Becoming certified “makes me more marketable in my field,” said Schuld. “I also saw it as a good chance to learn more about my craft and to help me to keep up with the legal trends in this state as they develop. You know, I never thought of myself as one who cared much about honorifics, but it’s kind of nice to be able to have a little alphabet soup after my name!”

    Derek Schuld, a paralegal with the Madison Office of the City Attorney, with Assistant City Attorney Jaime Staffaroni.

    Derek Schuld, a State Bar Certfied Paralegal with the Madison Office of the City Attorney, with Assistant City Attorney Jaime Staffaroni. Staffaroni professes that Derek makes her job easier – be it fielding calls, drafting pleadings and resolutions, and generally keeping her organized on all fronts.

    More About the Certified Paralegal Program

    A State Bar of Wisconsin Certified Paralegal (SBWCP) meets and maintains the certification requirements, including training and ethical standards. The program provides a benchmark to ensure paralegal competency and enhance the quality of the legal services they provide.

    “Maintaining the SBWCP certification demonstrates my dedication to our profession as a paralegal, and reflects my commitment to providing the best possible legal services to my firm and our clients,” Ehle said.

    “A certified paralegal is valuable to a law firm,” Carney said. “It gives the law firm another skilled and trained member in an area where the firm needs help. In addition, the certified paralegal not only produces income for the firm, but gives real value to the client at a reasonable price point.”

    Certification Requirements

    To be certified, all paralegal program applicants must:

    • be employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, or agency;

    • be directly supervised by a Wisconsin-licensed lawyer;

    • consent to a criminal history background check; and

    • meet the program’s education OR experience requirements.

    To maintain their certification, SBWCPs must meet the program’s employment practice and education requirements, including 12 hours of continuing legal education every two years, with at least 2 ethics & professional responsibility credits.

    More than a dozen paralegals have obtained first-time certification ​since early March, with additional applications in process.

    About the State Bar Certified Paralegal Program

    SBWCP logo

    The State Bar of Wisconsin Paralegal Certification program is a self-funded, voluntary credentialing program of the State Bar of Wisconsin.

    The State Bar Board of Governors established the program to identify training and ethical standards for paralegals working in Wisconsin and to recognize the professional commitment of paralegals who choose to become a State Bar of Wisconsin Certified Paralegal (SBWCP).

    The program provides a benchmark for paralegal standards for lawyers who do or plan to work with paralegals. And it promotes access to legal services and the justice system by utilizing the services of qualified paralegals.

    The SBWCP program creates a standard for the quality of paralegal services. In addition, the program will make the hiring process easier, since a SBWCP’s credentials are already verified and approved by the State Bar of Wisconsin.

    Applicants must pay a $125 nonrefundable application fee. If the application is approved, the applicant must pay a $75 certification fee, and annually pay $75 to maintain certification.

    For more information, visit the SBWCP website on There, you’ll find:

    For more information about the State Bar of Wisconsin Certified Paralegal program, call the State Bar at (800) 728-7788 or visit the program’s webpage on

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