Posts Tagged ‘ABA’

“Independent” Paralegals and UPL

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

I am still making my way through email that arrived while I was at the AAfPE Conference last week, but here is one that just recently arrived, perhaps in response to my referring to Martin Legal Services in this morning’s post. I am posting it in full to avoid the risk that I might alter its author’s meaning through misunderstanding or just editing. I have some thoughts on the topics raised in the email, but cannot take the time at the moment to make them all, so I will look for an opportunity to make them in one or more subsequent posts. I would like to hear what you have to say!

Hello Professor Mongue, this is Efrem B. Martin of www.martinparalegalserices.com I am writing you to give you an update as to what has transpired since I last spoke with you.  I am currently being investigated for Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL) here in the State of Colorado.  After 25yrs of being a certified paralegal and having the educational and professional background experience, an Immigration Attorney by the name of Bryon Large attorney registration number #38574 here in Colorado feels threatened by me and sent an email to the Office Of Attorney Regulation in Colorado stating that I am in violation of UPL, I am now their target.  Now before I start this email remember that it was an attorney who reported me not a formal complaint filed by a citizen in Colorado that I have worked with in the past I want to make that perfectly clear.  Professor I really don’t care who you share this email with because I am going to fight this to the very end, even if I have to take it to the United States Supreme Court.  I am a former United States Marine (USMC) I took an oath to defend and protect my country against all “Foreign and Domestic Enemies”  and the American Bar Association is a domestic enemy. 
 
I received my Paralegal Training from the United States Marine Corps (USMC) in 1984 and I helped defend the legal rights of every Marine not some and if the United States Marine Corps (USMC) had full confidence in me to handle the day to day legal affairs off all Marines from Officers, Generals to Enlisted Marines, I am sure that I am capable and qualified to work with Pro Se Litigants.  Let me give you further understanding about me, I have worked professionally in the Criminal Justice System my entire career over 20yrs not just as a Paralegal.  I have never been arrested or incarcerated in my 44yrs of living.  I have a BA in Criminal Justice & Economics, I obtained my Paralegal Certification from the United States Marine Corps (USMC) in 1984, I have a very diversified background, I am more than just a paralegal.  I am a former State of Colorado Juvenile Probation Officer, former Paralegal Supervisor, former Investigative Assistant working with White Collar Crime, former High School Teacher, former Restorative Justice Coordinator with Middle School Children, I worked for a Law Firm as a Document Clerk & Paralegal, I also worked for a Private Solo Bankruptcy Attorney, I am not a rookie or a first round draft choice out of paralegal school, I am a seasoned veteran but that does not mean anything to the American Bar Association.  I have several problems with the American Bar Association and their continued unwillingness to address the real issues of Pro Se Litigants and the continued denial of fair and equal access to the Legal Services Industry.  Professor Mongue you know as well as I do that the American Bar Association is not interested in providing access to justice for all people, I have worked in the Criminal Justice System far to long and have witnessed the atrocities not heard stories from other people but have witness through my own personal and professional experience in how to gain access to the Legal Services Industry is impossible for those people who are poor and have no economy of scale in their favor.  I am not going to stand by and allow the American Bar Association or any other State Bar Association continue to support the hypocrisy that they say they are against for all people. 
 
The American Bar Association controls all the Paralegal Organizations in this country and that is for one reason only to have full control and continue to monopolize their very existence and keep them fearful.  As a Marine I learned that “FEAR” is the number one way to control people, if people are fearful of you then they won’t challenge you.  The American Bar Association has that fear in citizens and non-citizens in the United States of America, I see it and deal with it everyday.  I will never join any of the Paralegal Organizations in America because they are not about the Freedom of Choice or the Freedom of Pro Se Litigants rights in this country.  Paralegal organizations are a front and support all the decisions the Bar Associations give them and that is for one reason only.  Paralegal organizations are “Fearful” of the repercussions that the Bar Associations will hand down to them.  If I were a member of any Paralegal Organization right now they would abandon me and turn their backs on me, they would not support me in any manner and they would hand me directly over to the enemy The American Bar Association.  The American Bar Association does not want to talk about Race, Class, Economics and Social Status regarding people of color and poor people who are severely underrepresented in the court systems in this country this is a dead silence issue for The American Bar Association.  The American Bar Association does not support fair and equal access to justice for all people because this would mean that they would have to accept the reality of Race, Class, Economics and Social Status of all the citizens and non-citizens in this country.  I am tired of having the American Bar and all the State Bar Associations tell me what I can and cannot do, it is interesting to me that when I took my oath of becoming a Marine to defend this country I don’t remember it being that I would defend this county and the Constitution of the United States sometimes and for some of the citizens and non-citizens in this country, I put my life on the line so the American Bar and all State Bar Associations would preserve and support the choices, rights and freedoms of every citizen and non-citizen not some. 
 
The hypocrisy lays within all the Bar Associations and it offends me as a human being first, Marine second that I must now after 25yrs of loyalty to this legal profession go to court and defend myself and my actions of helping all people who do not have access to the courts in this country because the American Bar and State Bar Associations are accusing me of “Betrayal” to every citizen in this country that has a Constitutional Right in which I helped defend them to have.  I am offended on so many levels I don’t even know where to began, this is not about me in anyway, shape or form this is about the Constitution of the United States and is about the Freedom of Choice that all people who live in the United States of America have the Constitution guarantees this.  The Constitution is not a document that should ever be used against the American People it is what we live by and die by.  I will fight the American Bar and any other Bar Association for the Freedom of Choice that Pro Se Litigants have, I will never be dictated to by any Bar Association who I can and cannot help. I became a Paralegal in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) in 1984, I received my Good Conduct Medal in 1987, I received my Honorable Discharge in 1988, I do not have to explain myself to any civilian who is a hypocrite and refuses to help all people access the court system in this country and who believes that I am beneath them.  I became a Paralegal to help all people, regardless of race, class, economic status, religion, beliefs, sexual orientation but most of all, all human beings period! 
 
The American people must abide by the laws of the land, the American Bar Association is not the Title Holder of the laws in this country, but for whatever reason they lost track of who they are, and have forgot that you work for the people in this country, the people don’t work for you and ultimately you will be held accountable to the American people.  The American Bar Association has a lock and monopoly on the Legal Services Industry, this is foul, unethical, immoral and shows their hypocrisy but more than anything else it goes against the Constitution that I put my life on the line for every citizen and non-citizen in this country.  I don’t need the validation of the American Bar Association or any other State Bar Association to tell me that Paralegals can only work for them and only work for Law Firms, or only work under the direction of an attorney that is a monopoly and hypocrisy.  The American Bar Association cannot justify to me or the American people that have been priced out of the Legal Services Industry that they care about all people.  In 25yrs of helping everyone who needed help in the Legal Services Industry I have never had a formal complaint filed on me or against me and the reason is because I am a human being first and treat and respect the freedom of choice that all citizens and non-citizens have.  So to come after me and try and coerce me into saying that I have practiced law and have put myself out there as an attorney practicing law is a direct attack on my integrity and self worth.  I will not allow the American Bar Association, The Office of Attorney Regulation in Colorado intimidate me and force me to give up my rights as the Constitution of the United States says that I have. 
 
People are tired of the nonsense, unethical, immorality and non-empathy of attorneys.  People are tired of being told that they must be represented by an attorney because Pro Se Litigants don’t know what they are doing.  Not everyone needs an attorney, not everyone is ignorant of the law, like the Bar Associations leads the American public to believe and think people are, not everyone wants to be in the presents of attorneys and this is called “Choice” the Freedom of Choice.  The American Bar Association and all State Bar Associations cannot continue to hide behind State Statutes and then use those State Statutes to justify their monopoly and reluctance to help all people gain access to the court system and then turn against the American people.  Attorneys can challenge me if they want, but they know that I am telling the truth because if I were not telling the truth, I would not be the subject of a UPL investigation.  I am done with this email. You can do whatever you like with this email. I will not run and hide and put my tail between my legs and roll over for anyone when it comes to standing up and protecting the Freedom of Choice for all people in this country.  I have children and if I am going to have them become decent human beings I must defend their Freedom of Choice or else they don’t stand a chance.  Thank you Professor Mongue
Efrem B. Martin BA, Certified Paralegal & Owner
Martin Paralegal Services LLC
www.martinparalegalservices.com

Attorneys’ Ethical Obligations to Paralegals

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

One visitor to this blog arrived via an inquiry regarding an attorney’s ethical obligations to his or her paralegal.  Certainly attorneys have at least the same ethical obligations to their paralegals as any employer has to their employees. (In my opinion there is a vast variance between an employer’s legal obligations to employees and an employer’s ethical obligations, a variance greater than in many other areas.) One ethical obligation, however, stands out because it is specifically incorporated into the ABA Model Rules – the duty to supervise. Model Rule 5.3 states,

Rule 5.3 Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants

With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer:

(a) a partner, and a lawyer who individually or together with other lawyers possesses comparable managerial authority in a law firm shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer;

(b) a lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; and

(c) a lawyer shall be responsible for conduct of such a person that would be a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if engaged in by a lawyer if:

(1) the lawyer orders or, with the knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved; or

(2) the lawyer is a partner or has comparable managerial authority in the law firm in which the person is employed, or has direct supervisory authority over the person, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action.

Thus, the attorney has an ethical obligation to supervise paralegals that incorporates all other ethical obligations. Now, this obligation is frequently viewed as a rule imposed as an additional protection of the public similar to vicarious liability and the doctrine of respondeat superior. It certainly serves that role. However, I would argue that this is also an ethical obligation that the attorney owes to the paralegal. Yes, a paralegal has a right to adequate supervision from his attorney.

After all, the attorney and paralegal form an essential part of the legal team. Part of the teamwork requires that the attorney supervise the paralegal. The attorney cannot rightly simply send the paralegal off to accomplish a task without adequate instruction, training, and supervision, and then complain when the task is not completed to the attorney’s liking. At the very least the attorney must be available and open to communication from the paralegal seeking guidance.

This obligation to supervise is somewhat confusing as there is a lack of specificity as to what the constituent elements of “reasonable supervision” are. As previously discussed on this blog, there is also a great deal of confusion arising from uncertainty among the bar as to exactly what a paralegal is and what they can do. Nonetheless, it is the attorney’s responsibility to provide “reasonable supervision.”

This, in my view, is not a one-way obligation. There is confusion and the confusion is understandable given the current status of the paralegal profession. There is, however, at least,one member of the legal team that does know the capabilities of the paralegal and how much instruction, training, guidance and supervision is needed by the paralegal. That person is the paralegal.

You, the paralegal, have a right to reasonable and adequate supervision. You know when you need guidance. You know when you are not receiving adequate instruction. Take it upon yourself to make your needs known to your attorney through honest, direct, non-manipulative communication. If this is done diplomatically, both you and your attorney will benefit from the improved ability to work as a team

Which to Chose: Masters of Paralegals Studies or CP/PACE Registered Paralegal Certifications

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Megan M. has contacted me asking:

I’ve recently read several posts on your blog site, and was wondering if you could provide your thoughts on the following subject:

 

For a recent graduate from a Bachelor’s program in Paralegal Studies (ABA Approved program), do you believe it would be more beneficial for said student to next pursue NALA certification or instead pursue a Master’s degree in Paralegal Studies?

The current economy has created a limited number of jobs,  and I wonder which “add-on” would help distinguish a Paralegal in a large pool of candidates?

 

Your thoughts would be appreciated, either directly or via your blog.

I would like to hear from practicing paralegals before giving a final answer on this as they are more likely to have relevant data on this than an academic, even one who practiced law for three decades. However, my initial thought is “it depends.”

Certifications such as CP or CLA by NALA, PACE Registered Paralegal by NFPA, and PP (Professional Paralegal) by NALS are less expensive and faster to obtain than a Master’s, so they are more likely to “add-on” to your marketability in the economy as it exists now. No one knows what the economy will be like by the time you finish a Master’s.

However, unfortunately there is a great deal of confusion among the Bar over what these certifications mean. Although the ABA has recognized these certifications, many attorneys have not yet become knowledegable about them. As I pointed out in a previous post, many attorneys are confused as to exactly what a paralegal is and can do in general. The present status of paralegal education is no less confusing to many attorneys. What is the difference, in terms of the work the paralegal can perform between a paralegal certificate, an associates degree in paralegal studies and a bachelors degree in paralegal studies? What does it mean to be certified? Is being certified the same as having a certificate? Who does the certification?

Certificates of completion of a paralegal program can mean nothing more than that a person completed a few courses, but they are often confused with a person being a “Certified Paralegal.”  As NALA points out,

Occasionally, paralegals call themselves “certified” by virtue of completing a paralegal training course, or another type of preparatory education. Although a school may award a certificate of completion, this is not the same as earning professional certification by an entity such as NALA. In this instance the school’s certificate is designation of completion of a training program.

Most attorneys, on the other hand, are familiar with Master’s Degrees and are impressed by them, so a Master of Paralegal Studies may draw more attention to your resume than a CP or PACE Registered Paralegal designation. Also, you are likely to be able to obtain the CP or PACE Registered Paralegal designation fairly easily by the time you complete the Masters simply because you will have mastered the material necessary to take the exams and thus have both “add-ons.”

Your state or local paralegal association may be able to give you information regarding the prevalence of CP, PACE RP, or PP paralegals in the area and the general awareness among the local bar of their significance. You may also check websites for law offices that list their paralegal staff and see how many have the CP, PACE RP, or PP designation. A firm with several CPs is more likely to recognize the value of the certification. In general the more sophisticate the attorneys in your area are, the more likely they are to understand the significance of NALA, NFPA or NALS certification

By the way, there are advanced certifications for specific areas over and above the general CP certification. NALA, for example, offers Advanced Paralegal Certification in a number of competencies. There is also a new organization, The Organization of Legal Professionals, which is developing certification in e-discovery. (More on the latter, later.)

“Independent” Paralegals

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

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

Can paralegal see client socially after legal relationship ends?

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

One reader of this blog arrived here as a result of a Google search that asked, “can paralegal see client socially after legal relationship ends?” Here are some thoughts on the topic:

It is likely that you will not find a direct answer to this question in any of the various professional association Codes of Ethics such as the NFPA Model Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, but the answer can be derived from such codes as it can be derived for attorneys from the ABA Model Code. In general, since there are no paralegal code of ethics enforceable in the same way as the attorney’s bar rules are enforceable against attorneys, regulation of paralegal conduct is derivative of the rules governing attorneys. So, it is appropriate to look to rules governing attorneys and the advice given to them on issues such as this based on those rules.

Certainly both attorneys and paralegals must refrain from becoming engaged in an intimate relationship with a client during the course of the professional relationship. There are several reasons for this, including:

  • Such a relationship can affect the objectivity of the members of the legal team
  • The lawyer and paralegal may be taking advantage (even if not consciously) of the already existing special relationship with the client – on in which the client is dependent upon the lawyer or paralegal
  • In most instances legal proceeding are stressful and traumatic placing the client in the position of not being able to make objective decisions about intimate relationships with others involved in those proceedings
  • Such a relationship can affect the expectations of the client

For these reasons and others dating clients during the professional relationships is not permitted as it violates the Code provisions requiring objectivity and the like. For example, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers advises :

D. Lawyers and Clients Should Maintain an Appropriate Professional Relationship.

Sometimes friendships and even romances develop between lawyers and clients. Many lawyers have close personal friendships with former clients. But because of the intense emotional nature of a divorce, it is usually best for lawyers and clients to defer establishing a social relationship until after the case is over. Romantic relationships are not advisable as they interfere with a lawyer’s objectivity and affect a client’s expectations. A divorce lawyer and a client should never have a sexual relationship during the case.

This does not, however, settle the question as to whether a paralegal can ethically date a client once the professional relationship is over. While the issue of objectivity may be eliminated, there is still the question of whether the client has gained enough distance from the professional events to make a free, knowing and independent decision to enter into the romantic relationship. Keep in mind that the lawyer and paralegal must not only avoid a direct violation of the specific rules of conduct, but also ” avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.” NFPA Model Code EC-1.3(b).

Finally, keep in mind that whatever the rules of conduct may provide, your employer’s vision of what constitutes “the appearance of impropriety” should be considered. Should the client again need legal services make sure you advise your attorney of the romantic relationship before the client engages the services of the attorney. It may affect the lawyer’s decision on whether or not to take the matter, and whether to assign you as a paralegal on that matter.

Paralegal v Legal Assistant – Does It Matter? (Part Two)

Monday, August 10th, 2009

As a follow up to a recent post on this topic, in 2007 the Legal Assistants Section of the State Bar of Michigan changed its name from “Legal Assistants Section” to “Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section.” name change in May 2008. A story by Linda Jevahirian in the Michigan Paralegal reports the reason for the change and some research she performed regarding the use of the terms.

The change occurred “Because both terms are used in the field, similar to the way in which ‘lawyer’ and ‘attorney’ are interchangeable, the membership felt the section name should reflect both titles.” I am not sue this characterization is correct, as is somewhat indicated by Linda’s research on “Which term is more accurate?”:

In an effort to determine whether one term—“paralegal” or “legal assistant”—is more applicable, I researched the terminology most often used by a range of paralegal organizations. What I discovered is that neither is used more often than the other.

The report gives a good history of the use of both terms by organizations such as the ABA, the International Paralegal Management Association,NALA, NFPA, and some Michigan state associations. While this research does show that there is not yet a consensus on the subject, it does appear to me to indicate a trend exemplified by the report that “IPMA changed its name from ‘The Legal Assistant Management Association’ (LAMA) to its current name to mirror the ABA’s name change two years earlier.”

As I stated in the earlier post, the profession would be well served by some standardization in this regard. This report set forth at least one reason for this in its analysis of  NALS:

Get ready for even more confusion. Many legal secretaries refer to themselves as “legal assistants.” I asked a representative of NALS (a national association with state and local chapters) for its view since it originally represented secretaries and only recently changed its focus to include a broader range of legal professionals, from receptionists to lawyers. NALS has concluded that, although the terms “legal assistant” and “paralegal” were at one time interchangeable, the term “legal assistant” is now a generic term for someone who works for an attorney.

 

Paralegal v Legal Assistant – Does it matter?

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

A few months ago a post on the Western New York Paralegals Association bulletin board forum on professionalism included a survey asking whether law firms used the term “paralegal” or the term “legal assistant,” and which term respondents preferred. There were only twelve respondents so, in addition to not being a representative sample of personnel in American law offices  the responds are statistically significant. It is, nonetheless, interesting. One firm used “legal assistant,” five used “paralegal,” and two used the terms interchangeably. Nine of the respondents preferred the use of the term “paralegal,” while none expressed a preference for “legal assistant.”

As noted in a previous post here there is still a lot of confusion both within and without the legal profession as to just what a paralegal is. This confusion is aggravated by the use  of multiple terms for people who perform essentially the same roles. While NALA and ABA have agreed upon a definition, it is of little help to those outside the profession. As the medical profession has learned with regard to physician assistants, standardization of usage would be helpful in the legal profession. The fact (assuming a larger study confirmed this survey sample) that those persons performing the role prefer “paralegal” is significant.

This difficulty is compounded by “independent paralegals” and “legal document assistant professionals,” terms that will be discussed in later posts.

Does your attorney understand what you do? – An Encouraging Sequel

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Melissa H. over at Paralegalese takes Time Out for a Moment of Encouragement starting with:

When I first decided to enter the paralegal career, I geared up to constantly be on the defensive. I just knew that many attorneys, especially young ones fresh out of law school, would look down on me and my lowly position on the legal totem pole. In a few instances, my assumption turned out to be correct. Fortunately, ignorance is usually the proponent of such attitudes, and ignorance is fairly easy to cure. I remember talking to one baby lawyer last year about my studying for the NALA certification exam, and how I excited I would be to be able to add “CP” or “CLA” to the end of my name. All of a sudden, an understanding came to his face, and he said, “So that’s what those letters mean! I thought our staff was just making it up!” I do not know whether he appreciates the staff members at his firm more because of my revelation, but I believe that conversation revealed to him that paralegals, while we usually have not spent three years in law school, take our jobs and roles very seriously.

Do not assume that your attorney really understands what a paralegal is. Here are just some of the reasons they may not understand:

  • Some attorneys do not understand the distinction between a legal secretary and a paralegal. In some small firms, especially a single attorney office, all the staff is used to doing about everything. There is no file clerk, so everyone just does the filing when they are using a file. While there are differences in the positions of the staff, there are no clear job descriptions. This blurring of lines in daily practice can cause confusion.
  • Often the problem goes deeper than that. There is substantial confusion in the legal system itself. The ABA and NALA may have agreed upon a common definition. You know this from school, but few attorneys know the definition much less understand it. In fact, while many attorneys, paralegals and legal assistants feel there is no difference between a paralegal and a legal assistant, others draw a rather unclear distinction. For them there is an hierarchy that runs some thing like this: receptionist, secretary, legal secretary, legal assistant, paralegal. Almost nobody has a clear idea of exactly where the lines are drawn between the various stages in the hierarchy. In areas where this distinction is made, generally the paralegal is more educated and/or more experienced than the legal assistant and is often paid more. Similarly, the paralegal is given more responsibility for substantive legal work while the legal assistant may have more clerical and/or secretarial duties.
  • Your attorney may be aware that paralegals are more than legal secretary and less than an associate attorney, but be quite vague as to where they fall between those two goal posts. As a result, the attorney may expect you to do work that is really attorney work and give you less guidance and supervision that you need and deserve. Or she may be unaware of just how much help you can be and give you tasks you feel underutilize your talent because she views you as a “fancy” legal secretary or “just” a legal assistant.
  • The ABA/NALA definition does not help such attorneys much. Unlike the attorney who must meet specific educational and licensing requirements, how a paralegal becomes a paralegal is a bit of a mystery to many both in and outside the profession. There was a time when a person could become an attorney just through experience by “apprenticing” to an established lawyer, or by studying and passing the bar exam, but those days are long gone. So it can be unclear to an attorney (and almost everyone else) just what qualifies a paralegal to be a paralegal.
  • The definition says “education, training, and/or work experience,” but how much of each is needed? Not long ago, there were no formal paralegal education programs. Most paralegals simply moved up the receptionist, secretary, legal secretary, legal assistant ladder by gaining more and more responsibility as a result of more and more experience which gave the attorney more and more confidence in their ability to handle that responsibility. At what point did they become paralegals – after five years? Ten? Fifteen? At what point did the responsibility level become that of a paralegal rather than that of a legal assistant? What is “substantive legal work?”
  • The present status of paralegal education is no less confusing to many attorneys. What is the difference, in terms of the work the paralegal can perform between a paralegal certificate, an associates degree in paralegal studies and a bachelors degree in paralegal studies? What does it mean to be certified? Is being certified the same as having a certificate? Who does the certification?

When I am asked to give advice to attorney on training their paralegals I soon discover that it is the attorneys that need to be trained! They are perfectly competent, sometimes extremely competent, attorneys, but know little about the capabilities of their own staff.  (Excerpted from The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient and Professional)