“Independent” Paralegals

The definition of “paralegal” agreed upon by the ABA and NALA, and accepted by many other organizations and courts, includes the concept that the paralegal works “under the supervision and direction of an attorney” and “performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.” (Emphasis added.) The NFPA definition is slightly different and includes the statement, “This person may be retained or employed by a lawyer, law office, governmental agency or other entity or may be authorized by administrative, statutory or court authority to perform this work.”

There are instances in which paralegals form their own business and work “independently” for a variety of attorneys, i.e., they are independent contractors, but still work under the supervision and direction of an attorney. There are other individuals who work independent of any attorney. When they do they often risk being accused of UPL – unauthorized practice of law. (In a later post, I hope to discuss some of the more famous cases of this.) There are a number of issues here for the paralegal profession. One is whether such practitioners should truly be considered paralegals or something else, say “Legal Document Preparers,” a group that has it’s own national association. Another is whether this whole issue argues in favor of regulation and licensing as opposed to voluntary certification.

All of this is a rather long lead-in to a communication I recently received and am posting here ( with permission of the author) for your consideration and comment:

Hello Professor Mongue, I came across your information today as I was doing some research on the Internet. I have been a certified paralegal for 25yrs. I have my own paralegal business www.martinparalegalservices.com. Please review my website.  I would like to have an open discussion with you regarding the paralegal field.  As a business owner I am on the opposite end of what you are talking about because my business works with Pro Se Litigants only and this is an area in the paralegal profession that many paralegals would not dare try because of being accused of UPL, Unauthorized Practice of Law.
I have been in this profession for too long and I am never worried or concerned about what attorneys or being accused of UPL. It has never happened to me and never will.  I am a seasoned, veteran paralegal that has worked in the Criminal Justice System for over twenty years in many different environments and positions.  Please go through my website it explains who I am and what I do and like I said I would like to have some discussion with what you are doing for the paralegal profession I am sure I can bring a good perspective to your research.  Thank you and look forward to hearing from you soon.  Efrem
Efrem B. Martin BA, Certified Paralegal & Owner
Martin Paralegal Services LLC

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