I few posts back I broached the subject of paralegal licensing and regulation. Peter G. Paoli argues against mandatory regulation in an article the Central Illinois Paralegal Association’s CIPA Connection argues against mandatory regulation and offers CLE as a way of assuring ” the attorneys who hire us that we possess the highest degree of competency:”
The legal community has grown significantly over the last 30 years as has the paralegal profession. The advent of changing social issues, advanced technology, and new laws have created new jobs necessary to meet these challenges that are perfect for paralegals. Due to the nature of our professions the more the title of paralegal expands, the more diverse the individual’s background becomes (e.g., degree v. certificate or experience). This diversification is a critical component of who we are and it must be considered when we ask ourselves: (1) how do we assure the attorneys who hire us that we possess the highest degree of competency; and, (2) how can we assure ourselves that we will be properly utilized in our field? The answer to these two questions does not lie with mandatory licensing/regulation. Instead, the answer comes from paralegals themselves understanding that their professional training is not done with the completion of their initial job qualifications. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative that all paralegals be encouraged to continue their legal education.
While Peter is correct that part of the answer lies in CLE, the jury is still out on whether mandatory regulation is also part of the answer. I believe that in the end professionalism results from a comprehensive application of the general principle “the answer comes from paralegals themselves.” The question then becomes do we “weed out” those paralegals who cannot find the answer within themselves solely via the marketplace, or do the same principles and factors that lead to mandatory regulation of lawyers as professionals also apply to paralegals as professionals.