The California Certified Legal Secretary (CCLS): Value For You And Your Firm

June 05, 2020 Amy Ramos

Perseverance:  the continued effort to do, or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition. 

It is truly what I needed for taking the California Certified Legal Secretary Examination, more commonly known as the CCLS Exam.  I learned that those four letters (CCLS) not only give a legal assistant a sense of pride, but also add value to the quality of service clients and attorneys receive from a law firm.

What do those letters “CCLS” really say about a Legal Assistant who is working with you?

Your legal assistant is experienced.

You cannot take this test just because you think it will look good on a resume.  Before you may even consider taking the exam, you must have a minimum of two years full-time experience in the legal field.  This should mean you know that you like this field of work and that you can be really good at it.

Your legal assistant is highly motivated and plans ahead.

The CCLS exam offered by Legal Professionals, Inc. (LPI) takes quite a bit of planning.  It is an 8 hour test, only offered twice a year, and only at two locations – once in Northern California and once in Southern California. 

Your experience planning deadlines for trials and filings comes in handy as you plan when and how to study - while still working full-time – to make it all come together for that special one-shot Saturday among other motivated legal assistants. 

Your legal assistant is knowledgeable about many different practice areas.

In addition to knowledge I already had gained while working in a law firm, I learned much more while preparing for this exam.  The California Legal Procedure section of the test covers five (5) areas of law: Civil Litigation, Probate & Estate Planning, Family Law, Corporations, and Real Estate.  The depth and breadth of knowledge acquired in studying for the exam is a valuable asset for any client or attorney.

Your legal assistant is an organized person.

There are a lot of pieces to move about when making your plan.  First, I had to determine what study method worked for me and my learning style.  Just as a legal assistant has to tailor communication styles to particular clients and attorneys, I tailored my approach to the study materials.  I found an online study group with structured materials and tests that I could do at home.

Then, I organized my support systems.  I asked family members to help with the household duties and used that extra time to study.  I reached out to members of my professional organization (Santa Clara County Legal Professionals Association (SCCoLPA) who had already taken the CCLS exam.  They were a great resource, helping me when I had questions. Friends and coworkers lined up to test me as I moved through the materials.

Finally, I persevered. I did not give up.  But not only did I schedule time for studies and practice exams, I also scheduled some down time.  And all this planning and scheduling allowed me to be calm the night before the exam.  I use this trick in my daily work now – scheduling in small mental breaks when stress is high—allowing me to bring my calm best to clients and attorneys.

Your legal assistant takes pride in their work.

I believe there is a mental aspect to studying just as there is to work.  When I began to doubt myself (and trust me, there were times), I wrote on little pieces of paper, “I am CCLS!” and “I got this!” and placed them around the house, in my notebook, and on my desk at work.

And now, I am certified. I am CCLS. All the desire, the planning, the organizing, and the learning are now a part of me for my attorneys and our clients.  I am proud that I persevered.  A legal assistant with those 4 letters after her or his name, is a proud, hard-working, organized, and motivated person – a great asset to any firm and for any client anywhere.


Amy Ramos is a Legal Assistant with McManis Faulkner supporting the family law practice, and a member of Santa Clara County Legal Professionals Association (SCCoLPA) since 2015.