New York Paralegal Licensure Bill Proposed

A bill directing the NY Board of Regents to develop a paralegal licensure program has been sent to the New York legislature’s Committee of Higher Education. I’ve included the bill’s summary below. The full bill is available here.

BILL NUMBER:A8532

TITLE OF BILL:
An act
to amend the education law, in relation to requiring licensure for
the paralegal profession

PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF THE BILL:
Requiring licensure for the paralegal profession.

SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS:
Section 1: The education law is amended by adding a new article 167 to
read as follows; the board of regents upon the recommendation of the
commissioner shall establish a program to require the licensure of
paralegals practicing in this state. The program shall define the
scope of paralegal practice, establish license application fees and
license renewal fees and create an independent board to adopt rules
and regulations.

JUSTIFICATION:
Every year more and more attorneys are allowing their paralegals to
work extensively on important and complex cases: Cases that impact
the life of their clients and other people involved. Some of these
paralegals tend to commit errors that could lead to nightmares for
the clients. This legislation would require paralegal to have the
qualification necessary in order to provide improved and more
professional services to clients of attorneys.

H/T to Dr. Robert N. Diotalevi, Esq.,LL.M., Associate Professor, Florida Gulf Coast University on the AAfPE listserv

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6 Comments

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  • Clifford C. Smith says:

    I have prepared a short paper in response to the proposed bill, which focuses on the three main issues:

    1. Regulation

    2. Minimal qualification

    3. Access to justice

    It is available in PDF at: http://napa.club.officelive.com/Documents/ParalegalRegulationNY.pdf

  • Jasmine Gurreri says:

    Clifford,

    I read your paper in response to the proposed bill. It is a very well written argument against the bill. Do you think this bill may also possibly hold paralegals liable for “errors” or anything of the like, which can result in lawsuits against individual paralegals? If yes, then this possibility would also result in the need of paralegals to obtain malpractice insurance? (What do you think? – Just a thought – )

  • R. E. Mongue says:

    Clifford is also a contributor to The Empowered Paralegal Professionalism Anthologydue out in a few weeks. His article there is entitled, “The Independent Paralegal Movement in North America.” Clifford is one of several practicing paralegals who contributed work to the anthology.

  • Clifford C. Smith says:

    Jasmine:

    I might add that Professor Mongue’s transparent editing added to the overall quality of the article.

    On the point of the NY proposed bill, I am not entirely against licensure, provided it is approached in a meaningful manner that doesn’t restrict entry into the paralegal profession with excessive educational barriers. The NY bill should also open the door for paralegals to deliver legal services to low income people who have no access to justice.

    This could be accomplished by fashioning an exception similar to that of an “exigent circumstance,” where for example a self-represented low income party in lawsuit would be represented by a paralegal, until the paralegal could locate a lawyer to represent the party, that absent locating the lawyer the paralegal would assist them throughout the proceeding, until it reached resolution.

    Regarding your question on malpractice insurance, yes, it will be necessary, but not to the level of a lawyer, since paralegals would only be providing basic legal advice and representing people in civil actions in exigent circumstances, where no lawyer could be found to represent the person. Since the standard of care would not rise to the level of lawyers, insurance premiums would likely be lower.

    The present model of working under a lawyer follows the common law doctrine of respondeat superior, where the employer (lawyer) is responsible for the actions of a paralegal during the course of his or her work, with the exception of intentional torts and criminality. It seems unfair to lawyers and should be phased out in favor of paralegal responsibility, which is what paralegal professionalism should entail.

    In short, it’s time to take the training wheels off the bicycle and permit paralegals to ride to the end of the street. Those are some of my thoughts on NY licensure.

  • David says:

    GOOD IDEA

    I think it is a great idea to have paralegals licensed. I am tired of hearing secretaries calling themselves paralegals when they have no or little legal training and they could not draft a motion to save their life. This type of person not only creates major errors that can lose a case; but they also diminish the reputation of real paralegals. When I started working in he legal industry, I decided to educate myself. I obtained a BS in Criminal Justice and an AA in legal affairs. Thus, i believe licensing paralegals will build up their reputation and the profession.

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