Posts Tagged ‘independent’

ABA, meet Efrem Martin.

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Efrem Martin is an “independent” paralegal whose emails have engendered some discussion here (with a very good side dialogue through Melissa H. at Paralegalese of the role of “independent” paralegals in the U.S. Legal System. I use the “” marks on independent because the ABA/NALA definition of paralegal states that a paralegal must be supervised by an attorney. By that definition, there can be no “independent paralegals.” In the last installment Mr. Martin informed us of recent action taken by the Colorado Bar Association to charge him with UPL. As indicated in this morning’s email Mr. Martin has met fire with fire and filed a lawsuit against the ABA and CBA in Federal Court. I’m posting the email without further comment this morning because I have a class to teach shortly, but I hope to say more on this soon. In the meantime, here’s the email:

Hello Professor Mongue, this is the last email I will be sending you, just wanted to give you an update. I filed a Federal Lawsuit yesterday in Federal Court to challenge the Constitutionality of the UPL investigation of me and also to challenge the UPL Rules and Statutes here in Colorado as Unconstitutional, as they are applied to everyone. Now once again I do not care who you choose to share this email with. As I stated in my last email this is not about my business as a Independent Paralegal Services Provider, this is about my constitutional rights as a Pro Se Litigant. I am going to represent myself in court, I believe that this is in my best interest and the only way to expose the ABA and the Colorado Bar Association and the Office of Attorney Regulation who oversees attorneys in Colorado. I have received so much support from around the country from other paralegals and Pro Se Litigants that it really makes me proud to be in this profession.

I am not going to allow the Office of Attorney Regulation here in Colorado intimidate me or punk me and I am sure as hell am not going to allow them to coerce me into admitting that I have practiced law. 100% of the emails that I have received from paralegals around the country state that they truly hope that I am able to get the Federal Court to find UPL unconstitutional, because they fill the same way that I do and fill that it is time that someone challenge the ABA and all State Bar Association, because it is paralegals who do the work and attorneys get paid for the work. I am so humbled, I am blessed on so many levels and I continue to become more encouraged with the support that I am getting throughout the United States. Pro Se Litigants are saying that I am their voice for doing the right thing and that we Pro Se Litigants have constitutional rights to represent ourselves in court. If I were the ABA I would take notice of what is happening, because sooner or later they are going to have to be in court at the Federal Level to address UPL, they have gotten away with hiding and using their association to continue to take advantage of paralegals and their services for too long. I want to share an email with you that I received today verbatim.

“Hello Mr. Martin, I pray that all is well. I am a certified paralegal in Vermont and support you 150%, I am a white female in my 30’s and like you have had enough of the ABA, Vermont Bar Association and all paralegal associations that continue to pimp out paralegals like we are their property. The reason why paralegals are not regulated in the United States or in some states and not other states is simple, attorneys have a monopoly and will fight like hell to keep their monopoly, I see it everyday in my law firm. There is not another industry where a person has to be under the direction of anyone, only in the legal profession and since no one challenges this none sense the ABA and all the State Bar Associations continue to abuse and use it to their advantage. Paralegals don’t practice law, please we are trained to understand the difference between giving legal advice and answering questions. Just the other day I was put in the position to give legal advice because one of our partners was not able to make the meeting with our client so here I am again as usual telling our client what they have to do. I wonder if I am ever going to be charged with UPL, oh that can’t happen to me because I work under an attorney.

… [Edited for length by R. E. Mongue] I work for a law firm that would not even look your way, because you are a threat to their pockets and I can tell you that attorneys take care of their own, there are no ethical or moral boundaries when it comes to greed. It is a good thing that you filed a Federal Lawsuit because that is the only place where you can get justice. Mr. Martin never feel like you are alone, paralegals like myself are out there just like you are and trust me we are so grateful that you are going to take this for the team. I support you and pray that we get justice, all UPL Statutes need to be found unconstitutional and struck down in every state, you have been in this field far to long to be challenged and treated the way that you are being treated. Mr. Martin knowledge is power and they know that you have the knowledge and power to help people. Mrs. C

Professor these are the emails that I continue to receive daily so I know that I am doing what is right for all Pro Se Litigants. I have been asked over and over again do I worry about the ABA, Colorado State Bar Association and the Office Of Attorney Regulation in Colorado and what they can do to me. My answer is always the same, “FEAR CREATES PARANOIA” they pick the wrong Marine to mess with and they are about to see be very careful what you ask for, I fear God not men or women. So with that being said it has been a pleasure corresponding with you, I am sure that you will read about my case sometime in the future. I want to thank you for allowing me the opportunity on your forum it has been a good thing for me. Thank you Professor Mongue. Efrem B. Martin

Efrem B. Martin BA, Certified Paralegal & Owner
Martin Paralegal Services LLC
www.martinparalegalservices.com

I have notified Mr. Martin that future emails updating on the status of this lawsuit would be welcome.

“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

A question of identity

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

The paralegal profession continues to deal with questions of identity and definition as can be seen by responses to this post on the Legal Assistant Today listserv:

I am new to this blog, new to this profession-I’m actually finishing my certificate in the spring.Although I hope to get into mediation practice, I want to spread my skills out as far as I can over the legal spectrum. So in order for me to get started as an independent paralegal, I’m trying to design a business card. Does anyone have any ideas about what I can put on my business card other than just “Independent Paralegal”?

Aside from the question of whether there is a role for truly “independent” paralegals within the current American legal system and, if so, what that role should be, there is some confusion in this instance as whether the person making the post means “independent” or “freelance.”  The post also raises questions about education, certification, and experience. All of these questions are raised by Rachel in her response:

The paralegals I know who are freelancers all have years–as in 20, 30 years–experience in this profession and did not jump from a certificate to a full blown, attorneys knocking down their doors, career.

 
You might want to maybe get your feet wet a bit before you do this. From what I understand, the laws vary from state to state but even a freelance paralegal has to be beholden to an attorney in order to do any real substantial legal work independently. Check your states statutes concerning this.
 
Also, is this certificate you spoke of just that–a certificate, like a program you took that lasted a year or less? If so, you might also want to do some research into the area where you live as far as the minimum educational requirements for this type of work. The only way around not having at least an associates if not a bachelors degree where I live is to either 1.) start out in a different capacity, say, as a legal secretary or something along those lines, or 2.) to already have been in the field for many years and have the actual experience under your belt.
There does appear to me to be a distinction between indepenent paralegal providing services directly to clients such as Martin Legal Services, who wrote regarding his practice as discussed in this post, and freelance paralegals who work for attorneys as independent contractors rather than employees such a Outsourced Paralegal Services, who I discussed in a previous post.
There is a real question of whether there would be adequate protection to the public in a case where someone with minimum education and experiences attempting to establish a practice as a truly independent paralegal. It is far too likely that serious mistakes will be made when an undereducated, inexpereinced practitioner in any field attempts to practice without superision. One problem with which the paralegal legal professions still must deal is the fact that there  is, in most jurisdictions, no clear statement of what is “adequate” education and experiences to hold oneself out as a paralegal.
There are also dangers to the profession should the public not be well served in such circumstances. First, the perception of the paralegal profession as a whole is affected when members of the public suffer from such mistakes. Ultimately enough incidences will lead to a demand for regulation. Regulations as a reaction to an accumlation of such incidences rather than as a well-thought out effort to establish paralegals as a profession, it seems to me, is not likely to serve the best interest of the profession or the public.

Does it matter that it is cheaper to hire a paralegal to handle your divorce?

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Is it cheaper to hire a paralegal to handle your divorce? That is the question asked in today’s Living/Family Relationship section of SanLusiObisco.com in a storyabout Amy Wishart of DoItYourselfDocuments. First of all, hat’s off to Amy for generating such a favorable piece of publicity. She also handled her comments in the article well. Of course, I am principally interested because of the timing of the article in relation to the discussion here and at Paralegalese on the issue of “independent” paralegals.

Here are some points made by Wishart:

For Wishart, being a paralegal means knowing and understanding the legal processes.

“A paralegal can do everything an attorney can do except give legal advice or step inside a court,” she said.

There are two types of paralegals. Wishart is an independent paralegal that prepares documents for individuals who retain her services. There are also paralegals that work for attorneys and can therefore speak on behalf of their employer, Wishart said.

She, like Mr. Martin, who has been quoted on this blog, is careful not to “cross the line”

Because paralegals are not legally allowed to provide their clients with advice, Wishart said many independent paralegals avoid direct contact with their customers. “Somebody who prepares documents can’t give advice, but they have the knowledge,” Wishart said. “It’s a very fine line that cannot be crossed.”

To avoid crossing that line, Wishart, as with many paralegals, has her clients fill out and submit a questionnaire. She then uses the information provided to fill out the appropriate court documents, she said.

“I use the questionnaire to avoid asking questions,” she said.

Perhaps most interesting in terms of where we left this issue in the last post, the story also quotes Amy and another independent paralegal with regard to these problems:

According to Therkildsen, using a paralegal service has its pros, but potential clients should be cautious. “The good thing about paralegal services is the price,” she said. “But anyone can claim they are a paralegal. It is kind of a buyer beware situation.”

Therkildsen recommends starting the hunt for a paralegal with an Internet search. “You want to know if it’s a legitimate business,” she said. “What are their qualifications, experience? Are they licensed with the state?”

Both Therkildsen and Wishart also suggest checking with the Better Business Bureau to ensure there are no complaints against the company. Even if you use an online service, call and talk to someone at the service,” Wishart said. “There are a lot of unscrupulous people out there.”

Therkildsen said finding a qualified paralegal is extremely important. She has seen cases of individuals posing as paralegals who will take their client’s money and nothing more. Other supposed paralegal services simply sell the documents needed to file for bankruptcy and mail the blank forms to the client.

“My pet peeve is people who claim to be a paralegal and sell the documents you can get off the state’s Web site for free,” Therkildsen said.

This last harkens back to the discussion of the many sorts of people out for the most they can possibly get for the least they can possibly do.

Is There a Role for Independent Paralegals?

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Melissa H. of Paralegalese continues a great dialogue regarding independent paralegals asking of the legal profession, “Where are we going?”and  stating, “When people are willing to forego the licensed professional for the regulated document preparer, it’s time to rethink the status quo.”  In my comment to that post I noted there is a tension between the need to provide legal services at an affordable cost and the legal profession’s desire to monopolize the legal field. If the latter is going to continue, the profession must find a way to achieve the former. My rather preliminary research into legal systems in other countries indicate that lawyers continue to flourish even when others are not excluded.

I believe that paralegals are the answer to this problem. The question is how we protect the public while providing that answer. One way is to insist upon supervision by an attorney who has a license to protect. Another is through regulation. You are correct that the legal profession must ultimately deal with the fact that, “When people are willing to forego the licensed professional for the regulated document preparer, it’s time to rethink the status quo.”

One concern I have is that public may become confused by the existence of both supervised and “independent” paralegals. If “independents” are allowed, they must be regulated for the protection of the public (not the protection of lawyers) and should probably be required to call themselves something other than “paralegals.”

Since reading Melissa’s post and making that comment I’ve run across an article entitled, “THE ROLE OF INDEPENDENT PARALEGALS IN IMPROVING THE QUALITY AND DELIVERY OF LEGAL SERVICES” by Joi Pierce Cregler (which is curiously annotated as “Edited for the Bellow-Sacks Project. This document may be used for discussion purposes only. General distribution prohibited.”) While I am not incomplete agreement with the reasoning or the conclusions of the article, it is worth the read for anyone interested in this issue.

The article references some studies that provide important background for this discussion: “Relying upon lawyers alone to increase access to justice has proven to be inadequate. Currently, fewer than seventeen percent of U. S. Lawyers accept pro bono cases. Moreover, given that there have never been more than four thousand American legal aid lawyers, the federally funded legal aid program is able to serve only a very small percentage of the poor. While legal needs are unmet for low- and middle-income Americans, a majority of U. S. legal resources are utilized to serve the wealthiest individuals and corporations. Left unaddressed, this disparity in access to justice will continue to erode public confidence in the legal system and fuel dissatisfaction with the legal profession.” (footnotes omitted) Thus these studies may provide empirical support for Melissa’s instinctive conclusions.

More surprisingly, the article also notes, “The study also found that individuals often do not seek legal assistance because of their perception that the involvement of a lawyer will not solve their legal problem.”(emphasis added)

The article argues for replacing of UPL laws with regard to independent paralegals with a system of regulation and licensing. In the final section of the paper, Cregler “challenges the assumption that licensing Independent Paralegals will create a group of ‘second-class’ legal services providers.”

Independent Paralegals and UPL

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

In her comment to a previous post on independent paralegals Melissa H. of Paralegalese expressed a concern regarding UPL issues. This concern is well grounded. As noted by Mary Kay Lieberman, RP, in DCBA Brief: Journal of the De County Bar Association in May of 2002,

There are cases on point about paralegals and other nonlawyers being prosecuted for the unauthorized practice of law. Although not all cases have been included, listed below are some cases of interest.

a. Statewide Grievance Committee v. Patton:1 Defendants provided customers a form to indicate the type of service they requested. The service provided legal documents for nonlawyers to file in their own uncontested legal actions. The question was whether the acts performed were those commonly understood to be the practice of law.

b. Attorney Grievance Commission v.Hamilton:2 The attorney was charged with violating the rule that prohibited a lawyer from assisting unlicensed persons in the unauthorized practice of law when the attorney failed to adequately supervise a paralegal in the representation of a church at a zoning hearing.

c. Davis v. Woolridge:3 Lawsuit filed against 40 independent paralegals in the San Bernardino County Superior Court charging the paralegals with unauthorized practice of law. This suit was filed in 1997.

d. In re Reed:4 The court ruled that Christine Mandjik, who runs Affordable Court Assistance and is a nonlawyer bankruptcy petition preparer, did not engage in the practice of law by advising a debtor about which exemption to select on her bankruptcy papers.

e. In the Matter of Arons:5 A lawsuit was filed in the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel against Marilyn Arons and others for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. Arons runs the Parent Information Center of New Jersey and provides services to parents of disabled children in due process headings before administrative agencies.

f. Florida Bar v. Catarcio:6 Florida Supreme Court ruled that a paralegal may not use the phrase “free consultation” to advertise legal form preparation service.

g. Furman v. Florida Bar:7 The Florida Bar prosecuted a former legal secretary and tried to have her jailed for helping poor and middle-income people complete routine divorce forms. The Florida’s governor granted her a pardon and she did not serve any jail time.

h. Oregon State Bar v. Smith:8 Robin Smith, an independent paralegal who ran Peoples Paralegal Service, was put out of business after being successfully sued for unauthorized practice of law.

In the Furman matter the former legal secretary was sentenced to eighteen months of jail time. This is significant even though she did not serve the time due to the pardon.

In some states a distinction is made between “paralegals” and “legal document preparers” with the latter being subject to regulation. the California Legislature enacted legislation recognizing and regulating the industry. Since 2000, all California independent paralegals have been classified as Legal Document Assistants and have to register with the Department of Consumer Affairs, post a bond, and meet minimum education and experience qualifications. Paralegals working under the supervision of an attorney have escaped this type of regulation. The regulation that does exist, according to ABA.net,

In California, the desire to increase standards has resulted in legislation that sets out a higher standard of education and mandatory continuing education for paralegals. Sponsored by the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations, California Business & Professions Code Sections 6450-6456 became effective on Jan. 1, 2001. Under the California statute, it is unlawful for a person to identify himself or herself as a paralegal unless he or she has met the qualifications of the statute and performs all services under the direction of a qualified lawyer. Further, the terms “paralegal,” “legal assistant”, “lawyer assistant,” “freelance paralegal,” “independent paralegal,” and “contract paralegal” are synonymous under Section 6454.

The California statute does not establish a governing body, mandatory competency testing, or mandatory registration for the paralegal profession. It does not provide for moral character checks or a disciplinary system. However, it creates a crime enforceable by the courts and allows consumers to bring a cause of action against an individual who violates the law.

I have received communication from Efrem Martin of  Martin Paralegal Services LLC  www.martinparalegalservices.com addressing this issue. It states in part,

Thank you for putting our conversation for others to view and I am always open to good discussion regarding the paralegal profession.  I am a rare breed of paralegal because I know most paralegals are really concerned about being accused of UPL but I have been in this field too long and understand the difference between answering questions and giving legal advice, my entire background in the Criminal Justice System has prepared me to address any attorney, judges and anyone else regarding UPL, the Supreme Court has already spoken on this issue and their is case law so I am never concerned.  Efrem

For Efrem, as I suppose it was for Furman, this is more than simply a matter of career or profession. In discussion another point regarding blogs, he states (again in part),

I will not ever provide a forum like yours for just paralegals there are too many of them out there and they are used primarily to give information to paralegals.  I have a greater mission and that is to make sure those people who represent themselves in court that I provide to them information in order for them to make a better decision, I cannot help all Pro Se Litigants trust me I refer a lot of people to attorneys because their cases are more complicated then they think and only an attorney will be able to help the.

I think one point on which we can all agree is that the ultimate goal must be to benefit the public as much as possible. I like to focus in particular on the role paralegals can play in bring services to those who might otherwise not be able to afford or obtain access to legal services. The question, of course, is how best to accomplish this goal.

“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

The Line Separating “Lawyers” From “Paralegal” Becomes Blurred

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Lynne at Practical Paralegalism has a good post entitled, “Paralegals, Watch Your Backs! Out-of-Work Lawyers Want Your Jobs. ”  The post discusses a story that also caught my eye describing how the recession has resulted in lay-offs of almost 6,000 lawyers that, according to Lawshucks.com, a Web site that tracks legal layoffs – are willing to work in the legal industry as paralegals, law librarians and legal secretaries.

This is of particular interest to me as an academic researching paralegalism in other countries. (An interest, therefore, of far less import than that of practicing paralegals who may feel threatened by this development.) On a recent trip to London I learned that the term “paralegal” is taking on a new meaning for a similar reason. In England law students “study law” for four years at the Bachelor’s level, then take a one-year “legal practice” program before entering into a two-year training program under contract with one of the “chambers” authorized to practice before the courts. The problem is that every year there are almost twice as many graduates of the Bachelor level programs as there are “chambers” contracts available.

Those graduates who do not get the contracts have become a pool of individuals who call themselves “paralegals.” However, these “paralegals” are not subject to the same restrictions as paralegals in the United States, so many end up setting up their own practices and working directly with clients without the supervision of attorneys. In England, people needing legal services still have a common law right to chose the person from whom they receive those services, so the paralegals are on safe footing as long as they make it clear they are not solicitors or barristers.  I had the pleasure of meeting with one such practitioner who maintains his own office with two other “paralegals” who work under his direction and others staff. The office serves mainly people who have legal problems dealing with immigration. The immigration service has granted him the right to represent his clients before the immigration courts.

This is, of course, a grossly simplified statement of the British system. I will explain further in later posts. I will also post regarding groups of paralegals like one of which I am aware in Portland, Maine, that runs their own independent office, but provides services to attorneys on a contract basis.