An Important and Well-written Rallying Cry

Jamie Collins wrote “A Rallying Cry Against Rogue Paralegals” posted on The Paralegal Society webpage. Here’s her motivation quoted from the article:
For starters, I believe 99% of paralegals are ethical people, who do their jobs with integrity, and do it well. …

Aside from the aforementioned 99%, the remaining (incredibly loosely estimated) 1% of paralegals, it seems, may consist of some shifty folks who tend to straddle the ethical lines. I write this post today as a rallying cry to ALL paralegals across the United States. I’m talking to every paralegal reading this post who gives a damn about the profession and our reputation as “paralegals.”

It is, as I say in the title of this post, both important for the paralegal profession and well-written. Please take the time to read it.

Wow! 46 years. Congratulations on your retirement!

Fort Washington-Based Paralegal Retires After 46-Year Career
“Pat believes and lives with a purpose and a dedication that helps improve everyone around her, and these qualities are palpable.”
FMI: https://patch.com/pennsylvania/plymouthwhitemarsh/fort-washington-based-paralegal-retires-after-46-year-career

Scholarship News from NFPA

NFPA is now accepting applications for our 2017 NFPA/Thomson Reuters Scholarships. All completed applications must be post-marked by July 1 in order to be considered.
There are two scholarships: first place scholarship is $3000 and second place scholarship is $2000. They will be awarded at the NFPA Annual Convention in New Orleans in October. Winners will be announced by September 15. This has always been a great way for our students to earn scholarship money for their paralegal education! Those applying do not need to be a member of NFPA. Remind students to follow the instructions for the deadline and documents required for the application packet, along with the essay.
Download the Thomson Reuters Scholarship Application
Additional information, including the application and judging criteria for all NFPA awards is available on the Awards and Scholarships page of the website.
Get more information about NFPA awards and scholarships!
On another note, if you have an current students or graduates who are interested in taking PACE or PCCE exams, there are also scholarships, but applications must be a member of NFPA (can be member through their local paralegal association who is a member of NFPA).
The link can be found at http://www.paralegals.org./ The scholarship links are under the Announcements section on the home page. For these scholarships, click on either the 2017 PACE Scholarship or 2017 PCCE Scholarship.

Best of luck to your students! If you have questions, contact Beth King, RP, at Education_coord@paralegals.org.

ASLP Use Increasing

Via Chere Estrin at The Estrin Report we have this article, Law Firms Increasingly Using Alternative Legal Service Providers.  by Tami Kamin Meyers for Progressive Law Practice.

The premise for the article is this: “According to a new study (PDF) recently released by Thomson Reuters, Georgetown University Law Center’s Center for the Study of the Legal Profession and the University of Oxford Said Business School, more than half of large law firms and 60% of corporate law departments say they utilize alternative legal service providers (ASLP) to assist them with their burgeoning caseloads.” It’s an interesting read.

Washington State LLLT Program is working!

At least according to this from the ABAJournal.com:

Despite kinks in program, nonlawyers are successfully providing some legal services in Washington

Limited license legal technicians in the state of Washington are succeeding at helping clients who can’t afford a lawyer while staying within their limits as practitioners, a new study has found.

Conducted by the American Bar Foundation and the National Center for State Courts with support from the Public Welfare Foundation, the study (PDF) evaluates Washington’s LLLT program. The program permits nonlawyers who earn an LLLT credential to help clients with lower-level legal tasks without the supervision of a lawyer, as the ABA Journal reported in January of 2015.

Currently, Washington is the only state offering this kind of license, although Utah is working on a similar program for professionals called Paralegal Practitioners. Washington’s first LLLT class took the licensing exam two years ago. All of those LLLTs are licensed in family law; the state of Washington plans to expand training to other practice areas. LLLTs help fill out forms and explain legal procedures to clients. They may not represent their clients in court or in negotiations with opposing parties.

For more on this study: Complete ABAJournal post. The bottom line is the last line: The program, the study concluded, “should be replicated in other states to improve access to justice.”

Utah Approves Limited Paralegal Practitioners

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, “[T]he Utah Supreme Court has approved the creation of a new legal profession: limited paralegal practitioners. An LPP, or paraprofessional, will have more training and responsibilities than a normal paralegal, but is not quite a lawyer. The paraprofessional will be able to help the public in those areas where Utahns generally aren’t hiring lawyers.”

The reasoning behind the new classification of licensing is similar to that behind programs adopted in other states: “”We recognize the valuable services that lawyers provide to their clients every day, in and out of court,” the report reads. “But the data shows that, even after years of effort with pro bono and low bono programs, a large number of people do not have a lawyer to help them. … The people facing these situations need correct information and advice. They need assistance.” Likewise, the biggest obstacle to success of the new program is the bar: “One of the biggest hurdles may be getting Utah lawyers to support the program. The task force report said 60 percent of lawyers recently surveyed by the Utah State Bar either disagreed or “strongly disagreed” with a proposal to explore limited licenses for certain practice areas.”

I look forward to scientific studies of the effects of these programs on access to justice and on the bar.

Sloppy or Misleading

I’ve posted several times about judicial reprimands for sloppy work. Indeed, there’s a “Consequences of Sloppiness” category. Above the Law notes a recent “benchslap” for sloppiness on the part of government in a post entitled, “Judge Loses Patience With Government’s Sloppy Work.” However, the article makes it clear that the judge’s concern went beyond mere sloppiness. She writes that the government exhibited a pattern of “sloppiness” that “in sum” the sloppiness “represents a systematic pattern of the Commission picking the wrong conclusion from the evidence.” If this is the case, the problem goes well beyond sloppiness to a matter of serious ethical concern.

There used to be a commercial in which the tag line was “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature>” The fact is that most judges are fairly intelligent. It’s not nice to attempt to fool them in this way and they are not likely to be fooled by it. The consequences may go well beyond the consequences of mere sloppiness.

According to an article at Examiner.com, “the South Carolina Supreme Court issued an Order which gives legitimacy to Rule 429 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules (SCACR) and creates the Board of Paralegal Certification where paralegals can voluntarily apply to become certified with the State of South Carolina. According to the Supreme Court, ‘The purpose of certification of South Carolina’s paralegals is to assist in the delivery of legal services to the public by identifying individuals who are qualified by education, training, and experience and who have demonstrated knowledge, skill, and proficiency to perform substantive legal work under the direction and supervision of a lawyer licensed in South Carolina.’ ”

There are a lot of reasons why this is good, most of which are well stated by the article (which at times reads more like an opinion column than just a news report,) “South Carolina has taken a huge step toward filling the gap to making legal services more affordable to the economically challenged. Hopefully, the future will be brighter for paralegals with degrees that are forced to compete with non-degreed paralegals for jobs while carrying the burden of an ever increasing student loan with aspirations of making their mark as a paralegal with a law firm or corporation. Today, many have found themselves hopeless in their never ending quest to find an employer that would recognize their talents and creativity in legal matters. South Carolina should be applauded for creating the Board of Paralegal Certification which may someday be like the program in the State of Washington which has Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) who represent clients before judges in small claims, divorce, and probate proceedings. The State of California and several other states are seriously considering an LLLT program to bring the cost of legal services down and make it more affordable for those in need with very little resources.”

Washington State Bar Board Members Resign

According to ABAJournal.com the Washington State Bar Association’s Practice of Law Board has been hit with mass resignations and departures as a result of a long-running feud with the bar association’s leaders. The article states, “On Monday, former board members released an 11-page letter (PDF) accusing the executive director of the state bar of pursuing “a campaign to eliminate the Practice of Law Board” over differences in philosophy on how to bridge the access-to-justice gap in the state.”

So why does this matter to us and why am I posting about it here? It’s this part of the story, “The letter traced the POLB’s problems with the WSBA to the debate over the Limited License Legal Technician Rule, which allows non-JD legal professionals to deliver limited legal services in certain designated practice areas. The rule, proposed by the POLB and opposed by the bar’s Board of Governors, became state law in 2012.
“The Washington State Bar Association has a long record of opposing efforts that threaten to undermine its monopoly on the delivery of legal services,” the four resigning board members wrote. The 13-person POLB is now down to four as a result of resignations and terms that were not extended.”

This is a battle being fought in several jurisdictions. One take on the issue is whether Bar Associations can ethically take positions that favor the interest of the bar over the interest of the public the bar is supposedly serving. But, my take is that fighting programs to solve the access to justice problem in the U.S., is not in the interest of the Bar.

Jamie Collins Strikes Back

Yesterday at The Paralegal Society website, Jamie Collins posted a response to an attorney who predicted the death of the paralegal profession. As usual, Jamie is right on target. There is no doubt that the practice of law is changing (as it always has) and that the paralegal profession must change with it (as it always has,) but there is nothing to indicate that the role of the paralegal will be made obsolete by technology. Jamie addresses this point well:

Have things changed? Absolutely. Will they continue to? You better believe it. The roles of paralegals will continue to evolve based upon firms’ and societal needs, more advanced skillsets and education, occupational trends, and yes, with the rise of technology and its continued immersion in our daily work lives. We will be doing far more with less.

But does that equate to the death of the paralegal? No. (Trust me, if the stress, deadlines, workload, and attorneys haven’t killed us yet, nothing will.) The role may change. The tasks may evolve. You may get new software or better systems. You may learn how to do things faster or better. Heck, one day, your attorney may even learn how to locate his own files or properly format a legal document—it could happen. One day, they may even potentially call us by an alternate title. But don’t go picking out your career tombstone just yet…

I’ll also let her conclusion serve for mine – other than suggesting that you use the link above to go read the entire post:

The day the robot can actually field phone calls like a living, breathing, caring human being, act as a liaison to clients, work on trial strategy, prepare clients for depositions and trial, make clients over for trial purposes which includes a hell of a lot of shopping, read an esquire’s mind, find inconsistencies in case-related matters, make the attorney look damn good, and fetch all those missing files/documents, along with my sanity—do send it immediately. I’m all in. I will seriously begin to contemplate my severance package and cabana rental at that time.