Posts Tagged ‘registration’

Should NY follow Florida in order to protect banks?

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

The first is an article in the New York Public Policy Examiner that asks, “Should Paralegals be required to register with The New York State bar?” The article answers the question affirmatively, suggesting that New York follow Florida’s example (an example which may soon change as Florida is now considering a substantial revision of its program. The writer makes his case in part though based on a concern for fairness for banks that write student loans for paralegal degree students, claiming that hiring non-degreed persons “betrays” those banks! A slightly more valid point is “Employers in the State of New York have a hard time understanding what the law considers as “qualified.” In fact, it’s so troublesome, that many employers are sued for discrimination when they overlook an individual’s qualifications. Although a paralegal is not required to register in the State of Florida, employers can determine a paralegal’s qualifications from their registration with The Florida Bar.” However, most employers of paralegals are attorneys and frankly they should know how to determine whether a potential employee has the necessary qualifications.

The more I study the paralegal profession, the more I come to believe some sort of regulatory scheme would help the paralegal profession, the public, and the legal system, as can be seen from many posts here. (See the “Regulation, Certification and Licensing” category. I’m not ready to sign onto paralegal legal registration as a means of protecting banks and attorneys.

Beating an Incarcerated Horse

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Regular readers will have noticed, I hope, that I have not been posting at my regular rate over the last couple of weeks. The reduced postings relate to publishing deadlines and preparations for travel. As I note in The Empowered Paralegalthere are times when we simply need to establish priorities.

In this brief break from attempting to meet other deadlines I came across the reports on Bonnie Sweeten. She was previously sentenced to prison for identity theft and filing a false police report and is just one of several who are part of a trend the paralegal profession does not need. It is no secret that she now faces 23 new charges in alleged $700K law firm thefts. This is not a simple case of a paralegal’s attorney failing to properly supervise the paralegal, as it appears the attorney may have been involved in the illicit activities.

What really caught my attention and brought me back to the blog was an indication that this may be another case of just anyone calling themselves a paralegal. PhillyBurb.com is carrying a report entitled, “A closer look at Bonnie Sweeten’s life” which begins, “1993: Bonnie Anne Rakoczy takes a job as paralegal and office manager with Feasterville law firm of attorney Debbie Carlitz.”

Regular readers will also be mindful that this is the type of report that drives me crazy. While Bonnie is constantly characterized as a “paralegal” in news reports, this story, apparently accurately, simply states that she took a job as a paralegal. As I have noted frequently here these two are not the same. Apparently just about anyone can call themselves a paralegal and become a paralegal“take a job as a paralegal. That does not make them a paralegal despite John Stossel.

I realize the profession continues to be hampered in establishing an identity by the lack of uniform certification, registration, or licensing requirements, an obstacle that could (and I hope will be) removed through cooperative efforts by all interested groups. In the meantime, it continues to be aggravating that anyone-regardless of training, education, or experience can taint the profession simply by “taking” a job as a paralegal.

Braveheart Beware: Paralegals in Scotland on the rise.

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Melissa at Paralegalese has done a post on paralegals in Scotland that fits nicely into this blog’s International Paralegalism category as well as the ongoing discussion regarding professional identity. So, I am going to blatantly steal her punch line and give you the link to the whole post:

Our Scottish friends have the right idea. High standards and a unified identity promote the inherent value of any profession. All over the world, the similar paralegal news stories are popping up – from registration to certification, even to licensure of paralegals. The rising value of nonattorney legal professionals is hopefully driving down costs and allowing easier access to justice in countries that have implemented these programs. The comparison and contrast of the United States with all of these other countries makes me very interested to see where our justice system will be in relation to all the rest twenty years from now. I know one thing: I want to be right in the middle of it when I find out.
I plead guilty to this being another example of a paralegal doing the tough work and a lawyer taking full advantage.

“A firm paralegal?”

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting on a law firm accused of falsifying documents for its clients. One of those arrested was “a firm paralegal:”

A Utah immigration attorney and four of his current or former employees pleaded not guilty Wednesday to various charges of conspiracy, visa fraud and inducing undocumented aliens to reside in the United States.

Appearing before U.S. Magistrate David Nuffer in Salt Lake City were James Hector Alcala, 41, principle attorney of The Alcala Law Firm; Carlos Manuel Vorher, 43, a firm paralegal and former U.S. Border Patrol agent; Andres Lorenzo Acosta Parra, 31, a firm employee who had worked as a visa assistant at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; and Gustavo Ballesteros-Munoz, 45, accountant for the law firm.

Nuffer ordered Alcala, Vorher and Acosta Parra released from jail and to be monitored via ankle bracelets.

Whether the allegation are correct will be for the courts to decide. If they are they provide yet another illustration of the difficulties a paralegal can face when their attorney is involved in, or asks the paralegal to become involved in, illegal or unethical behavior.

Another issue this brings to mind though is the use of the term “paralegal.”  I wonder whether this former border agent has had any formal paralegal training, education or experience.  All too often the label “paralegal” is applied to persons who are not really members of the paralegal profession.  Part of the problem is that many attorneys, much less the general public, really understand who paralegals are and what they do.  Perhaps the answer lies in a more formal system of paralegal certification, registration and (gulp!) regulation. More on this topic later.