By now most of you are familiar with Washington state’s new LLLT program, a topic covered here several times. (See the link in “Categories” for “LLLTS, etc.,” a sub-category of “Regulation, Certification and Licensing.” I’ve long argued for a variety of methods of utilizing paralegals as part of efforts to close the access to justice gap in the United States. Now California may join Washington in closing the gap through LLLTs. According to an article in the California Bar Journal, “A State Bar task force last month proposed the development of a pilot program for limited licensing of legal technicians as part of a series of recommendations aimed at closing the so-called “justice gap.” The article is short, but provides a concise telling of the task force’s work, reasoning, and recommendation. As one member of the bar trustees said, ““Our recommendations are a start rather than an end.” There is a long way to go before the recommendation is implemented and, if it is implemented, there’ll still be a lot to do to close the gap.
Archive for April, 2015
I’ve often posted here about attorneys’ obligation to supervise paralegals, arguing that they owe that duty to the paralegals as well as the public. So, I’ve been intending to write about the story of a paralegal and lawyers involved in the case of Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, but have not found the time and energy to do so. Fortunately, my procrastination has paid often as Celia E. Elwell, The Researching Paralegal,” has not only posted a link to Tom Feher’s good post about the story, but has added commentary that raises both the supervision issue and the need for ethical education of paralegals. She also gave her post a title that I could use here, making my job even easier. So here’s the basics of the the story from Feher’s post on Lexology.com, “Florida lawyers face disciplinary charges after representing ‘Bubba the Love Sponge Clem’”:
Reports at the time suggested that, on the evening after the media-focused defamation trial started, the defense firm’s paralegal spotted plaintiff’s counsel at a local bar near his home. She contacted lawyers at her firm, returned to the bar with a friend, and sat down next to opposing counsel. Over the next two hours, the paralegal is reported to have lied about where she worked, flirted with opposing counsel and ordered drinks, including buying defense counsel a vodka cocktail and shots of Southern Comfort. She also stayed in touch with the three lawyers from her firm, sending them more than 90 texts and emails over the course of the evening. Later, opposing counsel’s lawyer stated that it was clear that the paralegal was in an undercover role and was making sure “all the parties knew exactly what was transpiring virtually every minute.”
Shortly after she first reported what was going on at the bar, a call was made by one of the lawyers to an acquaintance in the police department and an officer was posted outside the bar to wait for the plaintiff’s lawyer’s departure. When he eventually left, the paralegal convinced him to drive her car several blocks from a parking garage to a new parking space. As he did, he was arrested for DUI. The next morning, defense counsel touted the arrest to the media. Bar charges (a disciplinary complaint, not the tab for cocktails) accused the three lawyers of being involved in what appeared to be using the paralegal to set up opposing counsel.
The attorneys’ ethical violations didn’t end there as you can discover with a full reading of Feher’s post via the link provided above. But out focus is on the paralegal. That’s where I’ll let Elwell take over with an excerpt from her commentary “This Is So Wrong On So Many Levels:”
There has been a long, ongoing discussion in our profession about whether paralegals should have a certain level of paralegal education or whether it is sufficient to have experience alone. This article makes a good argument that, one way or another, in-depth education in legal ethics is critical for paralegals and all support staff. This subject deserves, and needs, special attention.
I’ve posted here previously on Washington State’s LLLT program and hope to post soon about AAfPE’s Task Force on Legal Education’s report regarding similar proposals in other states. But, Washington continues to jump ahead of other states according to this report by Robert Ambrogi:
The Supreme Court of Washington has approved revisions to the Rules of Professional Conduct governing lawyers in that state that allow lawyers and limited license legal technicians to form partnerships and share fees. To my knowledge, this makes Washington the first state to allow fee sharing and joint ownership of a law practice between a lawyer and nonlawyer. (The District of Columbia also allows ownership and fee sharing by nonlawyers in limited circumstances.)
The new Washington rule was part of a package of changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) proposed by the Washington State Bar Association to bring the rules into alignment with the LLLT program and to provide guidance to lawyers concerning their interactions with LLLTs and the clients of LLLTs. LLLTs are subject to a separate set of professional conduct rules.
For more information, read Ambrogi’s full post.
Received this notice through the AAfPE listserv:
Each year NFPA together with Thomson Reuters offers two scholarships for paralegal education. The deadline is July 1, 2015 so please share this information with your students so they can apply and possibly win one of the scholarships! The first place award is $3000 and second place award is $2000. The scholarships will be awarded at NFPA’s Annual Convention in Honolulu, Hawaii!
To access the scholarship applications, please follow directions below:
To download the 2015 National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. / Thomson Reuters Scholarship Application, go to www.paralegals.org. Scholarship and award winners will be announced at NFPA’s Annual Convention in October.
Important! Incomplete applications and nominations or those postmarked after July 1 will be ineligible for consideration. Please note when multiple copies of a document are specified, they are required.