California Paralegal Law Does, at least, a Darn Thing.

There’s been an interesting thread on the Paralegal Today listserv recently.  It started with a post concerning whether an advertisement for a paralegal position misrepresented the position. This is a difficult question in general. Many attorneys remain confused regarding the proper role for paralegals leading good, professional paralegals to be unhappy in their positions. Even courts have some difficulty determining what is “suitable work” for paralegals. This is especially true in areas where there is fine distinction between legal assistants and paralegals.  One commenter asked whether the California law establishing a definition of “paralegal” was helpful. Another responded that it “didn’t do a darn thing.” This drew a response from Jack Ingram which I include here in its entirety with Jack’s permission. In obtaining that permission I noted to Jack that his post contained most of what I would say on the topic. I do have further comments, but will save them for another occasion.

Here’s Jack’s comment:

In regards to Calif. Business & Professions Code Section 6454, doing
"not a darn thing", I couldn't disagree more.
Sure, admittedly, on Craigslist, it may be likely that there will be
so-called professional job postings in which the language misuses and
misrepresents the "paralegal/legal assistant".
But Craigslist is not the norm; keep in mind people can practically
purchase "adult services" among other things... So, the job postings
on Craigslist are not what I would consider as being representative of
the entire population of employers - employers whom actually value (if
not require) paralegal certification and paralegals as a skilled class
of legal professionals.
In addition to the codification requiring people employed  as
paralegals to attain a certain education and standardized testing for
certification, before they can call themselves a "paralegal" (on their
resume, etc.), the codification also allows for certified paralegals
to act as "Legal Document Assistants" ("LDA/""UDL") upon registering
and in the county and being bonded by the state.
The state of CA recognized a growing trend in the amount of self
represented litigants (NYT just had a front page article about 3 weeks
ago regarding the growing amount of self represented litigants in NY)
and essentially created a a niche industry, providing to those legal
professionals whom possess entrepreneurial aspirations, to create
their own lucrative, business, while offering a valuable, low-cost
alternative to  as many more litigants are representing themselves,
especially in BK.
There are also many litigation support positions (ie, trial
presentation techs, EDD specialists) requiring in depth-knowledge and
proficiency of legal-industry specific technologies: this field is
dominated by (what I call) "techie-paralegals"; many have
certification in specific software programs. Having paralegal
certification in this arena makes a legal professional more
The certification is just a foot in the door. I've had paper weights
brighter than some of the attorneys I've worked w/ in the past. Its
experience that matters in this industry, if your concern is upward
mobility. But common sense, thick skin, a good sense of humor will
make it sustainable and tolerable.
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