Archive for July, 2010

Logic can be fun.

Friday, July 30th, 2010

A little Friday humor today from the Paralegal Hell blog. Actually given that it will strike some many of you as a snipet of reality, it may not seem humorous at first, but remember professional paralegals will see humor whereever it can be found, thus making them and their careers much more pleasant. The blog post poses this as a test of logic:

I worked with an attorney at Litigation firm that is smart. A pain in the ass most days, but very smart.  This attorney used to abuse the staff and didn’t care. (I swear, Friday afternoon 4:45, he will bring you a 500 pages of documents he wants Bates Stamped and copied.  And there are staples every 5 pages. )
This attorney loves to go to trial. Probably because he was bullied in school, so he gets to make up for it in the courtroom.  Because he made lots of money for the firm, he was usually handed the tough cases and was in court most of the time (when he wasn’t in the office being a total bitch).  He was set for a new trial, which took place about 50 miles away from our firm. 
The  morning of the third day at trial, he spills coffee on his suit. Which of the following is a logical conclusion that can follow the situation above?
(A) He sends it out for dry cleaning at his hotel that has a 24/7 cleaning service.
(B) He buys another suit.
(C) He just wears the same suit he did the day before.
(D) He asks his wife to FedEx him another suit.
(E) He calls  Paralegal and says “I spilled coffee on my suit. I need you to drive 50 miles and bring me another suit. Tonight.”

You all know the correct answer from experience. Check out the post for the logic.

Keeping the attorney/paralegal relationship professional

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

The attorney/paralegal relationship is an intimate one, with the well-operating legal team often being compared to a dance team on this blog based on a wonderful description from another blog. Equally a subject of discussion is the need to keep that intimacy professional with posts regarding the danger of crossing the line between professional and personal intimacy. However, most frequent internet searches bringing viewers to this blog continues to indicate that paralegals are considering crossing that line. So this is for their benefit:

In April 2006, Oakland, Calif., lawyer Thomas Ostly was chatting via instant messages with a paralegal in his office.

“How do you record these i.m.s?” she asked him.

“Oh, you can’t record me,” he typed back. “I refuse to give you any evidence for the inevitable lawsuit.”

He was joking then, but four years and reams of online chats and text messages later, Ostly and the former employee, Allison Moreno, are this week battling each other in a contentious, lengthy jury trial in Alameda County Superior Court.

And at trial Tuesday in front of Judge Jo-Lynne Lee, Moreno sought to make the most of Ostly’s odd decision to personally depose her.

Moreno, 30, sued in 2007, claiming that Ostly fired her when she refused to continue a sexual relationship with him. She says she felt pressured to have sex with Ostly, and that she did so to protect her job and her plan to attend law school.

Ostly, 38, says the two dated each other, and that he never fired Moreno — that he told her to go home one day because he couldn’t deal with her belligerent attitude after he confronted her about a serious mistake she had made in a case. He says her suit is just about money.

In cross-examining Moreno on Tuesday, Ostly’s attorney, Shane Anderies of San Francisco employment law firm Anderies & Gomes, quizzed Moreno about explicit messages she sent Ostly. And he poked at her credibility, showing the jury disparities in what she said in depositions and what she testified to in court. But he kept running up against the fact that his client had taken an active role in deposing Moreno, at times questioning her and at others observing.

“Isn’t it true that Mr. Ostly never said anything to you that you found offensive?” Anderies asked Moreno.

“That is very untrue,” she replied.

Anderies then played for the jury a portion of Moreno’s videotaped deposition, in which, answering the same question, she said she couldn’t think of anything specific.

“After three years of litigation, in day three of the deposition, you still couldn’t recall anything offensive that Mr. Ostly said to you?” he asked her in court.

Moreno replied that she had been stressed out and intimidated by Ostly’s presence.

There’s a lot more and you can read it at Law.com, but the moral of the story should be clear.

The Price of Appreciation

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

There is little doubt that attorneys frequently under appreciate those who work with and for them. Witness, for example, posts here such as Paralegal Unhappy. There are good ways to handle the feeling of not being appreciated, which for paralegals often hinges. Some of those ways are discussed on other posts here and in The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional. There are also many bad ways of handling it. Here’s a story from WHTM in Pennsylvania regarding one of the worst. It involves legal secretaries rather than paralegals:

Two legal secretaries in Cumberland County have been charged with ripping off their boss.

Tina Garlinger of Enola and Bethany Noss of Honey Grove, Juniata County, were arraigned Tuesday on theft, conspiracy and forgery charges. Police allege the woman stole $94,000 from Camp Hill attorney Patrick Lauer over the last two years by racking up false overtime and cashing forged checks from his office account. Lauer employed the pair as legal secretaries.

“They were just stealing checks, writing them to cash, forging my name, writing them to my own name and cashing them,” said Lauer. ABC 27 Talkback:
Click Here to Comment on this Story

Lauer said he caught on to the scheme in April when one of the women mailed a personal bill using a metered stamp from his office.

… Lauer said he was told by police they did it because they felt unappreciated.

There does seem to be something to the thought that it is OK to steal from unappreciative employers. See for example this from John Dierckx who, according to his website, assists employers in reducing the risk of employee theft:

While opportunity is most important, there may be other relevant factors. Low morale can lead employees not only to steal, but can also lower productivity. Feelings of being wronged or mistreated may ust offer that rationalization when the opportunity presents itself. The same applies to feelings of under-appreciation.
Lack of punitive measures in place or there is a lack of preventative and detection measures including but not limited to appropriate policies and procedures and control measures are similarly factors that could lead to an increased risk of employee theft and fraud.

However, one commentator who collects stories of employee theft mocks the idea and notes:

Hourly, salary, blue collar, white collar, rookie, or professional are all represented in the stories above. One individual was even a weekend pastor at a small church. At what point do people decide that taking things that do not belong to them is acceptable? Many will attempt in vain to justify inapt conduct with a Robin Hood justification thought process of taking from the “haves” by the “have nots” as being the way life is. Spend a little too much time surfing the net during work? Cheat on your taxes? Keep excess change that is not yours? Steal an identity? How would you answer the question “Are you honest”?

That question is, of course, important for everyone, but especially for professional paralegals. After all, professionalism is all about standards.

Passionate advocate for the paralegal profession proffers advice on Paralegal Voice

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Readers of this blog are likely to find the latest espisode of The Paralegal Voice particularly interesting. Here’s the run-down on this episode from Vicki Voisin as posted on her website, The Paralegal Mentor:

The latest edition of The Paralegal Voice, “Today’s Paralegals: Career Advice, Ethics Tips & More,” co-hosted by Lynne DeVenny and me, is now available at Legal Talk Network.

In this episode we welcome attorney, mediator and management consultant, Nancy Byerly Jones, as she draws from her extensive legal experience to share career advice for paralegals.

A passionate advocate for the paralegal profession, Nancy talks about the biggest challenges facing paralegals today, how the profession has changed over the years, handling conflict at work and how paralegals can enhance their individual value, as well as the value of the profession.

Also In this episode:

  • Dealing with on-the-job stressors
  • Dealing with boredom at work
  • Career mistakes to avoid
  • Dressing for professional success
  • Steps to take if you think an attorney is engaging in misconduct

Page URL: http://legaltalknetwork.com/podcasts/paralegal-voice/2010/07/todays-paralegals-career-advice-ethics-tips-more/

ABAJournal.com on Middle-Class Dilemna

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

ABAJournal.com today has a post entitled, “Middle-Class Dilemma: Can’t Afford Lawyers, Can’t Qualify for Legal Aid.” There’s not much new in the article itself for regular readers here where access to justice has a category of its own. It says, in part,

Lawyers are just too expensive for many people needing legal help, a law professor says.

“You can hardly find a lawyer who charges less than $150 per hour, which is out of reach for most people,” University of Southern California law professor Gillian Hadfield tells the Wall Street Journal.

At the same time, people who can’t afford lawyers make too much money to qualify for legal aid. Most aid groups serve those at or below the poverty line, and budget cuts are forcing the organizations to turn away more people, the story says.

Comments to the post, not surprisingly, focus on “unbundling of services” as a possible solution. It is a possible partial solution. However, I continue to suggest that solving the access to justice problem will take more than attorneys. A real solution will find a way to maximize the  utilization of the talent, skill, and experience of professional paralegals.

 It might even include re-visiting UPL and allowing paralegals (suitable licensed) to provide limited legal services at an affordable cost without the supervision of attorneys. This approach is used in other jurisdictions. (Check the “Canada” category.) While many lawyers fear this options as opening the door to competition from paralegals, that approach does not make a lot of sense to me. After all we are talking about middle class people who are not able to afford attorneys. Even now with no competition, the lawyers are not getting that business. As the story notes:

The newspaper cites a survey of nearly 1,200 state trial judges by the ABA Coalition for Justice. Sixty percent of the judges reported that fewer people are represented by counsel in civil cases, according to results announced in a press conference earlier this month.

Building the Paralegal-Attorney Relationship – An Aggregation

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

There are names for blogs that rely on other blogs and sources for their content and add nothing to that content. Depending on who is doing the naming they range from parasites through derivative to aggregators. Today I’m joining Google News, Yahoo, etc., as an aggretator because that’s what I’m doing in this post.
Let’s start with Lynne DeVenney at Practical Paralegalism who has a post about another blogger’s post:

At first glance, I thought John Cord’s post, “Be nice, and other ways to strengthen your legal team,” at the blog Generation J.D., was only going to yield a short quote with some timeless advice for new lawyers, “1. Don’t run up the Westlaw/Lexis research bill, and 2. be nice to paralegals and secretaries.”

But Cord’s article is well worth a closer look – by all members of the legal team, from the senior partner right down to the part-time runner and that lady that comes by once a week to make sure the plants don’t die. His article is really about appreciating everyone’s contribution to getting the job done.

And what legal staffer wouldn’t heartily agree with the following advice for attorneys?:

  • Say please and thank you.
  • Be effusive in your praise for jobs really well done.
  • Be unexpected and reward exceptional work – a lunch out of the office, baseball tickets, or some other recognition.
  • Shut the office down early sometimes. Even 4 p.m. on a nice Friday is a good perk.
  • Get to know the people behind the workers – take an interest in their families and activities.
  • Don’t limit your website bios to just attorneys – include pictures everyone on the team.

But unlike this post, Lynne actually adds something. She points out:

But strengthening the team is a two-way street, and when we’re fortunate enough to be part of a great work environment, we should also be appreciative employees. There are a number of ways that we can show our employers that we don’t take their “work, energy and input” for granted:

  • Say please and thank you, whether it’s for great mentoring, having expenses paid for a CLE or conference, getting the opportunity to do more substantive work, or receiving a raise or surprise luncheon treat.
  • Be effusive in your praise for cases really well handled and problems quickly resolved.
  • Be unexpected and reward exceptional supervisors – do more than you’re asked, fetch a cup of coffee or a soda when you can tell they really need it, share the candy from your secret stash (all the attorneys I work with know which drawer has the Hershey’s chocolate) or bring baked (even if not at your house) treats once in a while for the whole office to enjoy.
  • Offer to stay late in a pinch, or come in on the weekend, especially when you can tell your supervising attorney needs your help but is reluctant to ask.
  • Get to know the people behind the bosses – take an interest in their families or activities (without being nosy).
  • Market your firm, even if your bio is not on the website, by telling people what you do and how proud you are of the work your firm does.

One of the nicest things my supervising attorney repeatedly says when he takes extended vacations is, “I couldn’t do this without you!” When I think of all the wonderful career opportunities I’ve had during 15 years of working for him, I honestly have to say, “I couldn’t do this without you!”

Now if all I did was to give you, as I have, Lynne’s work in its entirety, I’d just be a rip-off artist. What makes me an aggregator is that I noticed there were other posts and stories on the internet that go with (sort off) Lynne’s. Here’s the next, from Chere Estrin of so many sites I could not name them all – KNOW: The Magazine for Paralegals, Sue Magazine for Women Litgators, Organization for Legal Professionals, etc. – with more advice on maintaining a good relationship with attorneys:

Establishing a good relationship with your boss is critical for success. And frankly, it’s sometimes hard to talk with these folks. If you have a distant relationship with him or her, you probably have no idea what to informally chit-chat about. You don’t want to cross any boundaries but when your boss starts small talk with you, it becomes even more important that you make a good impression.

Small talk is defined as light and easy conversation about common, everyday things. Hard to do if you have no clue what to say. Yet, a hidden key to success is the ability to carry on small talk. Why? Because small talk establishes rapport. It builds trust and allows the other person to get a chance to know you without delving into anything personal. You simply cannot get ahead in your job if you cannot establish trust with your employers. It’s not going to happen.

Attorneys, in particular, must have an excellent grasp of expressing themselves because mostly, that’s how they make a living. And, since raises and promotions are built on whether your firm likes and trusts you, it probably behooves you to do well in this arena. Conversations give a human dimension to the employee/employer relationship.

I got this excerpt from the KNOW Magazine LinkedIn Group feed, but you can read more at http://estrinlegaled.typepad.com. By the way, the most recent feed from that group contains review letters praising Chere’s new book, The Successful Paralegal Job Search Guide. Given the current market you may want to check it out.

Next we go to Linda Whipple who reports on the Paralegal Today discussion forum (in response to another post, not just out-of-the-blue), “Actually I will be 62 in September and I have been at this for 36 years now. I have lawyers all the time asking me if I am happy working for the attorneys I have been working for because if not they want to talk with me about hiring me.” Apparently, she is still happy with her present attorneys. This in itself is not news, but another posts reminds us, “Hey, Linda – FINALLY got around to reading my January-March issue of PT and saw the nice interview with you and your boss. Isn’t it wonderful having that sort of working relationship with an attorney?” So if you still have your copy of the January-March issue of Paralegal Today, feel free to add that interview to this aggregation. It ought to say a lot about how to build and maintain a good relationship with your attorney.

Now a previous post from this blog. This might seem like I’m adding my own content and not just aggregating, but this post is itself mostly aggregation. It is included to gives some sense of what a well-oiled attorney/paralegal relationship can do when that relationship comes up with a plan.

Finally, I’ll send you directly to Melissa at Paralegalese. The relevant posts are down a bit where Melissa describes the angst that goes with leaving a paralegal/attorney relationship built on mutual respect and trust – End of an Era Parts I, II, and III. Melissa has been quite busy working on her relationship with new attorneys, paralegals, and clients (I assume) so she hasn’t posted as regularly as she once did, but I am looking forward to the time when she regains her old blogging form!

Penny the Paralegal with a Clever PC

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

As I’ve often noted issues facing the attorney and paralegal professions in other countries are both different and the same as ours. Take Great Britain for example. The system for becoming and being a lawyer in Great Britain is quite different than ours, and lawyers themselves are divided between barristers and solicitors. However, there as in most other jurisdictions there is a tension between the goals of providing affordable legal services to the public and protecting the public from incompetent service providers. There, though, the public can choose their representation to a larger degree than here where only the licensed attorney can practice law. As noted in a post today on guardian.co.uk, “Anyone can launch themselves as a legal adviser, but solicitors have a unique selling point, they are qualified.”

There are a lot of “legal advisers” in England. As the author of the post, Neil Rose, points out, “After a 50% growth each decade over the past 50 years, there are now nearly 150,000 people on the roll of solicitors (plus another 45,000 in the various other legal professions), making England and Wales one of the most densely “lawyered” countries in the world. In another 50 years, on current trends, there will be a million solicitors.”

But the question he raises is, “For what do we need qualified lawyers? Why not just go to Penny the Paralegal with a clever PC (who may be a law student who couldn’t find a training contract)?”

Here, of course, this question could not arise since Penny the Paralegal is prevented from performing most lawyer-like activities by UPL statutes. This is true only to a very limited extent in England where, “By law, there are six areas of work – known as reserved legal activities – for which you need a legal qualification: preparing litigation; representing someone in court; transferring land; certain limited aspects of probate; notarial activities; and the administration of oaths. That’s it.”

Here’s the rub – a rub we saw in Canada and, to a degree, here -especially in Wisconsin: “The argument that more legal activities, such as will-writing and employment advice, should be reserved may seem like a job creation exercise by the legal profession, …” In other words, who are UPL laws meant to protect – the public or the legal profession.

If he smells bad there, he’ll smell bad here.

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Way back in 1984 the Mississippi Bar Association issued an ethics opinion that concluded it is not proper for an attorney to allow a disbarred or suspended attorney to work as a paralegal or legal assistant in the attorney’s law office. OPINION NO. 96 OF THE MISSISSIPPI STATE BAR, RENDERED JUNE 7, 1984. The opinion rested primarily on UPL considerations:

In the recent case of In re Frank John Kuta, Attorney, Petitioner, 427 NE2d 136 (1981), the Supreme Court of Illinois held as follows:

Without a doubt, a disbarred or suspended attorney should not serve as a law clerk or a paralegal during his disbarment or suspension. The line of demarcation between the work that a paralegal or a law clerk may do and those functions that can only be performed by an attorney is not always clear and distinct. The opportunity for a disbarred or suspended attorney who is serving as a paralegal or a law clerk to violate that line of demarcation is too great and too inviting. Also, the public is not aware of the differences between the work of a paralegal and that of an attorney. For a disbarred attorney to be seen performing what the public may perceive as legal functions can only lessen the public’s regard for the effectiveness of our attempt to discipline errant attorneys, and would foment the belief that the public was not being protected from unethical attorneys.

A synopsis of unpublished Informal Opinion 7 (found at page 134 of the American Bar Association Opinions on Professional Ethics, 1967 edition) indicates that the American Bar Association Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility previously has given this advice:

An attorney should not employ a disbarred lawyer, even to do only office work and seeing no clients, because of the practical difficulty of confining his activities to an area which does not include practice of law, and because such employment would show disrespect to the courts.

Recent reports from Texas give another reason:

Disbarred S.A. lawyer sentenced for stealing thousands from indigent veterans fund
by KENS 5 Staff

kens5.com

Posted on July 17, 2010 at 5:46 PM

A former San Antonio lawyer, who was found guilty of defrauding the VA, will be spending the next four and a half years in prison.

On Friday, a judge sentenced Leo Alvarado to 54 months in prison for stealing $134,000. The money was supposed to go to the legal needs of indigent veterans.

Alvarado, a disbarred lawyer and former paralegal with the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid,  reportedly submitted over 500 fraudulent vouchers for trips from San Antonio to Big Spring, San Angelo, Midland, Waco and other Texas cities between November 2003 and February 2006.

The trips were supposed to have been made to help indigent veterans and widows in filing claims with the Veterans Administration. Alvarado was in a position to approve his own travel. But investigators say he used invalid Social Security numbers , Social Security numbers of dead people, or numbers that belonged to different people.

They say sometimes Alvarado just made up clients so that he could be reimbursed fictitious travel expenses.

The VA says they have no record of Alvarado every assisting any veteran or widow.

Instead Alvarado pocketed the money.

None of the reports I’ve read state why Alvarado was disbarred. The State Bar of Texas website lists him as “Not eligible to practice in Texas,” but only reports the specifics on disbarment for ten years.

This poses a number of issues for the paralegal profession. First, the definition of paralegal is supposed to include attorney supervision, but the Legal Aid group apparently made him a “team leader” without supervision. So why is he called a paralegal?

Most attorneys are simply not trained or experienced in paralegal skills to actually do a paralegal’s job well. So what was the skill set required for this person as “team leader.” Is this really a paralegal position? If not, why call him a paralegal? If so, why not hire a real paralegal?

In general, why taint the paralegal profession with the stain of a person the lawyer profession found unsuitable? As the title of this post says, “If he smell bad there, he’ll smell bad here.”

Of course, these issues are just particular instances of the issues that arise when there is no firm definition of paralegal exists, when there is no “good character” requirement to become a paralegal, when there is no way to say when a person has the skill set required to be a paralegal, etc.

The California Story

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Yesterday I did a post based on a Paralegal Today Forum discussion regarding state regulation of paralegals. Today I’m yielding the blog to Stacey G. Hunt, CLA, CAS a paralegal with Duggan Smith & Heath LLP in  San Luis Obispo, California, for a guest post on the history of the California law regulating paralegals:

Hi, Lucy.  Elona is right – UPL and paralegal regulation are two separate issues.  There are huge downsides for  paralegals in states where there is no recognition of the profession at all, either through bar membership or certification or regulation that go beyond people practicing UPL.   In California we tried everything – a Supreme Court opinion/order, regulation through the State Bar, hiring a lobbyist, and were shot down every time.  An interesting string of events allowed us to get through the regulation we have in place now.

Believe it or not, one of the strongest oppositions we received when the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations originally attempted some form of regulation was from the AARP.  They wanted senior citizens to have access to inexpensive legal help, and they thought the only way to do that was through “independent paralegals’ who at the time were practicing UPL.  They did not want traditional paralegals to put those people out of business.  In approximately 1997, the governor of California got into a big disagreement with State Bar and literally shut it down by vetoing the bill approving the funding for the State Bar.  The Bar actually ceased to exist for a couple of years and the “machine” was in complete disarray.  During that time, two bills went through, one creating Unlawful Detainer Assistants and the other creating Legal Document Assistants.  These two new groups were non-attorneys who had to register in their counties and be bonded, but were allowed to help lay people with their court paperwork.  I doubt these bills would ever have passed if the State Bar hadn’t been too busy trying to get itself put back together  to oppose them.

After those statutory schemes were in place, the AARP and other “anti-attorney monopoly” groups were satisfied, so when we came along with our proposed legislation for paralegal regulation, they did not go after us.  Once we talked the independent paralegals into giving up the title and instead embrace the legal document assistant concept, we had overcome most of the opposition out there and our bill sailed through quite easily.  We did have to make concessions that we hated.  One of them was that we were forced to allow disbarred attorneys to be called paralegals, as long as they were properly supervised like we are, which the State Bar viewed as a form of rehabilitation for them so they could eventually get their licenses back.  But we thought that in the big picture it was worth it.

Since the bill became law in 2001, we have been very pleased with the results.  Many of the “Mary’s Beauty Salon and Paralegal Services” signs have come down.  The “become a paralegal in 3 weeks” schools have gone away.  Senior partners at enlightened firms have stopped bringing in their wives and college kids to the office and calling them paralegals.  We learned of a woman in a neighboring city who was advertising herself out as a paralegal/legal document assistant and I was able to call the local police department who put a stop to it.   We finally have case law now (in a California federal court) that actually reduced an attorney’s fee claim because the paralegals were not qualified under the code.  Talk about sending a message!  When it gets to the attorneys’ pocketbooks, they will sit up and take notice.  And I believe they were talking about revising a judicial council form filed in probate matters to recover fees that required the attorney to attest that all paralegals whose fees were being charged to an estate were qualified paralegals under the code.

It is a big fight and well worth it.  I encourage your state paralegal association to continue its efforts.

To Regulate or Not to Regulate – a Wisconsin Question

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Back in April I used the state of affairs regarding UPL in Wisconsin to launch a discussion of the possibility of licensing and regulating paralegals as a means of addressing the access to justice problem in the United States. As discussed in previous posts UPL laws and regulations of legal professionals exist amid tension between the need to provide the public with access to justice and the need to protect the public from snake-oil salesmen posing as legal professionals. I noted that what I read on the bar website does not deal at all with the access to justice issue.  I do not favor unregulated snake-oils salesman practicing law – as attorneys or as paralegals. However, it does seem clear we must do more to allow if not provide access to legal services than we do now. A well educated, well trained, well regulated paralegal profession may just be the answer.

Today a paralegal from Wisconsin posted on the Paralegal Today Forum stating,

I’m in Wisconsin, a state which doesn’t license (or register, or certify) its paralegals.  Anyone can call themselves a paralegal here, regardless of whether they’ve worked as one, or studied to be one (I’m getting a post-college certificate).  In recent years, paralegals here have asked the state for permission to be licensed.  The state courts declined the request.  I’ve noticed lots of UPL articles and legislative proposals on our state bar website.  I agree that UPL needs to be prevented, of course, but anyone who attends paralegal school knows how to avoid UPL.  My questions to the list-serv are these:
1) Do you live in a state that doesn’t regulate paralegals?
2) How do you deal with this in your work as a paralegal?

This led to several interesting responses including these:

Ditto for Louisiana. We do have a state certifying exam administered by NALA, but a lot of paralegals do not avail themselves of this certification, because (1) it doesn’t automatically increase their salary, (2) you have to study to take the exam and pass, and then have to pass the CLA exam within 2 years to get the certification, (3) why bother when you can call yourself a paralegal even if you mostly do secretarial work.

Until paralegals across the nation realize that education and continuing education is what puts them above the run of the mill employee, anyone and everyone is going to apply for a paralegal job and give the rest of us a lot of disrespect when they can’t do the job.

AND before we get into that age-old debate about education vs. experience, ALL JOBS, including paralegal jobs include OTJ training and always will. Education only enhances skills.

and

I often see a lot of misunderstanding, misperception, and misinformation about ‘regulation’ of paralegals.  There is only one state that has any sort of mandatory regulation of paralegals and that is California.  Interestingly enough, the California regulatory scheme doesn’t have any kind of agency, board, or other such entity to administer or oversee the regulatory scheme.    There is not one single state that requires paralegals to be licensed, certified, or ‘registered’ in order to function as a paralegal.

NFPA has a section of their website devoted to the regulation issue: http://www.paralegals.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=795 Scroll down the page and check out their comprehensive chart that details the efforts towards regulation for each state.  Some states offer a voluntary certification program through the state Bar, e.g. TX, OH, and NC.  Florida offers a voluntary registration program.  The WI Supreme Court recently rejected a proposal for mandatory regulation and suggested the proponents look at the Florida FRP scheme as a possible alternative.

Personally, I believe that the UPL issue and regulation of paralegals are two separate and distinct issues.  Most every state has UPL laws, statutes or Bar rules prohibiting UPL by anyone.  Florida has an aggressive Bar and UPL Committee that investigates and prosecutes UPL claims.  The Florida Bar Rules specifically state that non-lawyers offering services directly to the public cannot use the title of ‘paralegal’.  Mandatory regulation of paralegals (who by definition work under the supervision of a licensed attorney) will not prevent ‘John Doe’ from setting up his own shop and offering his services directly to the public.

Whether one agrees with mandatory regulation or not, it would be helpful if we all spoke knowledgeably on this issue.  I think the dissemination of inaccurate information clouds the issue and distorts the message.

Elona M. Jouben, FRP
NWFPA Parliamentarian/Membership-Student Liaison Chair
Litigation Paralegal
Wilson, Harrell, Farrington, Ford
Pensacola, FL 32502

Several months ago I posted a Call for Papers for an anthology on paralegal professionalism. One article submitted is a very good statement of the current status of regulation in the United States and two articles argue in favor of regulation. No one submitted an article opposing regulation – which means I’ll probably have to do that one myself!

I do agree with the last paragraph of Elona’s response above: Whether one agrees with mandatory regulation or not, it would be helpful if we all spoke knowledgeably on this issue.  I think the dissemination of inaccurate information clouds the issue and distorts the message.