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By: Sharon A. DeNofa, RP


I first learned of the PACE examination back in 2000 when I joined Philadelphia Association of Paralegals (PAP).   I was immediately intrigued.  How great, an exam to test the competency of paralegals.  It was right up my alley!  I=m always looking for a challenge!  So I quickly ordered all the materials to begin my quest.  About a week later I received my package of materials.  I was thrilled.  But with a busy work schedule, billable hour requirement and three children at home, I never had a moment to even open the envelope, let alone begin the process.  I began to feel guilty there was this exam out there which would enhance my position within my profession and I couldnít find the time to take it.  At the same time I started to become more involved with PAP=s newsletter committee.  I began asking my fellow paralegals to see how they felt about the exam.  To my surprise, most paralegals didnít feel it was worth their time since it wouldnít get them a pay raise and it wasnít mandatory.  Well if others felt this way, maybe this exam was a waste of my time.  So I threw out the materials and went on with my busy paralegal life. 

A few years had passed and I was, at this time, even more involved with PAP, its committees and in 2005 was elected to serve on its board of directors.  It wasnít until I became a board member when I learned PAP had a PACE ambassador, Barbara I. Nield, RP.  I quickly began to think again about taking the exam.  I thought if PAP had an ambassador and promoted the PACE exam, well this is something I need to do, regardless of no pay raise or whether it was or later would be mandatory.  At the same time, Ms. Nield was working with PAP to offer scholarships to PAP members for the PACE exam.  I was so excited and I actually only attended the December luncheon to put my name in the drawing.  Well what do you know, I actually won the scholarship.  I almost immediately ran back to the office to ask my boss if I could take the exam.  Lucas and Cavalier, LLC has always supported me in my profession so I wasnít surprised when he replied, ďAbsolutely!Ē  Let me know what you need from me and/or the firm to get started.

The minute I got the okay from my boss, I called Ms. Nield to find out what the necessary steps were to take the exam.  She suggested I order the study guide first to give myself a little extra time to study.  From the time you receive the acceptance letter to take the exam, you only have 90 days to actually take the exam. 

A week later the book arrives at my office.  All 676 pages of it.  I almost fell over when I saw how huge the book was.  I couldnít even fit it in my work bag.  There was no way I could carry this thing to and from work every day.  So the book sat on my desk for a few months before I even opened it.  It was now May 2006 and I decided I was again ready to start studying.  Well tragedy hit home and my only brother suddenly passed away.  After a few months of walking around in a daze, I decided I wasnít going to take this exam.  I felt life was to short and I didnít want to waste months of studying to take this four hour exam.  But as more months went by I began to remember all the things which make life worth living and that yes, life is short and we need to get all we can out of it and taking this exam was just another step in my life to enhance me professionally.  So I picked up the study guide in January 2007 and started studying.

I first planned out goal dates of when I wanted each step of the process completed.  I gave myself until mid February to complete the study guide, end of February to complete the application and until May 18, 2007 to take the exam.  I was a little held up on my reading and didnít finish until the end of February.  I started the application at the end of February but then had three trials back to back and didnít complete it until mid March.  I gave myself a two week break from studying then I decided to re-read the study guide to pick up anything I may have missed the first time around.  Then I went out and read the suggested additional reading materials listed in the study guide.  At this point it was mid April and I finally received the letter granting permission to take the PACE exam.  I had until mid July to take the exam.  I then contacted Ms. Nield to see what advice/guidance she could give me.  She suggested I purchase the on-line practice test which would point out any areas where I needed additional studying.  I passed the on-line practice test which gave me great confidence to keep going and did let me know of my weak areas.  I then scheduled the examination for my original goal date which was May 18, 2007.   The last four weeks before the exam I went over my weak areas with the study guide, additional reading materials and the results from the on-line practice test.  

It was May 18, 2007 and I was at the exam center.  I felt my heart in my throat.  My hands were sweaty.  I felt so nauseous.  I haven=t taken an exam since college -which was ten years ago.   My exam was scheduled for 8:00 a.m.   By 8:20 a.m. I was still sitting there waiting.  I pulled out the study guide and began to read.  I was so nervous that the words were not registering in my head.  Finally, my name was called.  I was taken back where they register you, review your ID and sign paperwork.  They then stick you in this room with rows and rows of computers along with other people taking exams.  I=m given my computer and the timer begins to tick away.  The entire time I=m taking the exam, I can see the timer out of the corner of my eye.  I=m finished in about two and a half hours and I decided to re-check my answers.  Thirty minutes later, I determined I was satisfied with all my answers.  I gave it another minute while I thought whether I wanted to go back yet again to check my answers but declined and then clicked the finished button.  It was the longest three minutes as I waited for the results.  Then there it was, a congratulations, you passed. I almost cried. 

My job, PAP and NFPA really hyped up my results and made me extremely happy that I decided to take, let alone pass, the exam.  Did I get more money, no.  Was it mandatory, not yet.  But I am thrilled to be a RP and proud of it.  I would encourage every paralegal to take the examination.  The feeling of accomplishment was and remains wonderful! 

"Reprinted with permission from The Legal Intelligencer." and "Copyright, 2008, ALM Properties, Inc."


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