Posts Tagged ‘cdertificate’

Some Thoughts on California

Monday, August 24th, 2009

California’s legislation relating to paralegals has come up in previous posts, particularly Independent Paralegals and UPL. The legislation capped “CAPA’s [California Alliance of Paralegal Association] longtime goal of obtaining a statutory definition of the paralegal/legal assistant titles came to fruition in 2000 with the passage of AB 1761, now codified as California Business and Professions Code sections 6450 et seq..”

The definition itself does not add much to that agreed upon by ABA and NALA:

6450. (a) “Paralegal” means a person who holds himself or herself out to be a paralegal, who is qualified by education, training, or work experience, who either contracts with or is employed by an attorney, law firm, corporation, governmental agency, or other entity, and who performs substantial legal work under the direction and supervision of an active member of the State Bar of California, as defined in Section 6060, or an attorney practicing law in the federal courts of this state, that has been specifically delegated by the attorney to him or her. Tasks performed by a paralegal include, but are not limited to, case planning, development, and management; legal research; interviewing clients; fact gathering and retrieving information; drafting and analyzing legal documents; collecting, compiling, and utilizing technical information to make an independent decision and recommendation to the supervising attorney; and representing clients before a state or federal administrative agency if that representation is permitted by statute, court rule, or administrative rule or regulation.

However, the legislation puts some meat on the bones of the phrase “who is qualified by education, training, or work experience,” stating,

(c) A paralegal shall possess at least one of the following:
   (1) A certificate of completion of a paralegal program approved by the American Bar Association.
   (2) A certificate of completion of a paralegal program at, or a degree from, a postsecondary institution that requires the successful
completion of a minimum of 24 semester, or equivalent, units in law-related courses and that has been accredited by a national or
regional accrediting organization or approved by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education.
   (3) A baccalaureate degree or an advanced degree in any subject, a minimum of one year of law-related experience under the supervision
of an attorney who has been an active member of the State Bar of California for at least the preceding three years or who has
practiced in the federal courts of this state for at least the preceding three years, and a written declaration from this attorney
stating that the person is qualified to perform paralegal tasks.
   (4) A high school diploma or general equivalency diploma, a minimum of three years of law-related experience under the
supervision of an attorney who has been an active member of the State Bar of California for at least the preceding three years or who has
practiced in the federal courts of this state for at least the preceding three years, and a written declaration from this attorney
stating that the person is qualified to perform paralegal tasks. This experience and training shall be completed no later than December
31, 2003.
   (d) Every two years, commencing January 1, 2007, any person that is working as a paralegal shall be required to certify completion of
four hours of mandatory continuing legal education in legal ethics and four hours of mandatory continuing legal education in either
general law or in an area of specialized law. All continuing legal education courses shall meet the requirements of Section 6070.
Certification of these continuing education requirements shall be made with the paralegal's supervising attorney. The paralegal shall
be responsible for keeping a record of the paralegal's certifications.
   (e) A paralegal does not include a nonlawyer who provides legal services directly to members of the public, or a legal document
assistant or unlawful detainer assistant as defined in Section 6400, unless the person is a person described in subdivision (a).

Many persons within the paralegal profession argue against regulation of the profession. On the other hand, independent paralegals may point to the fact that this legislation was sought by CALA and question the motivation behind the legislation. Still other note that the preference given to ABA approved programs is intended to create or advance a monopoly by the ABA on the legal profession.

So the question remains, does minimal regulation such as California’s benefit the paralegal profession? Whether or not it does, does it benefit the public?