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THE PARALEGAL PROFESSION - Created by The University of North Texas in partnership with the Texas Education Agency
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 2 Being knowledgeable of high-demand, yet less explored, careers is of vital importance for today’s LPSCS instructors. This presentation will provide an overview of the history, development, and educational requirements of the paralegal profession, and conclude with a few innovative ideas to help you create fun and exciting lessons!
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 3 In 2005, the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors, and the Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas, adopted a new definition for "Paralegal." A paralegal is a person, qualified through various combinations of education, training, or work experience, who is employed or engaged by a lawyer, law office, governmental agency, or other entity in a capacity or function which involves the performance, under the ultimate direction and supervision of a licensed attorney, of specifically delegated substantive legal work, which work, for the most part, requires a sufficient knowledge of legal principles and procedures that, absent such a person, an attorney would be required to perform the task.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 4 Although once synonymous, the terms “paralegal” and “legal assistant” have taken on different meanings within recent years. The preferred term for the profession is “paralegal.” The term “legal assistant” can mean anything from a legal secretary, to a paralegal, to an assistant district attorney in at least one jurisdiction. To avoid confusion, the majority of legal associations use the term “paralegal.”
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 5 The paralegal profession emerged in the mid to late 1960s when individuals were trained to assist attorneys in making legal services available to the poor during the "War on Poverty." Shortly after public agencies began hiring paralegals, private law firms and corporations recognized the benefits of employing paralegals to supply efficient support, reduce the expense of legal services, and increase the availability of services to the public.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 6 There are a number of professional organizations in the paralegal profession; however, three national associations have had a remarkable influence. They are: 1) The American Bar Association (ABA) 2) The National Federation of Paralegal Association, Inc. (NFPA) 3) The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) The Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas also played a vital role in the advancement of the paralegal profession within the State of Texas.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 7 The State Bar of Texas was the first bar association in the United States to create a separate division for paralegals. The Paralegal Division (formerly known as the Legal Assistants Division) was created on October 23, To recognize this day of creation, and the paralegals in the State of Texas, on April 15, 2005, the Texas House Resolution No. 865 was signed by the Speaker of the House, commending the Division, the paralegals of the State of Texas, and resolving that the 79 th Legislature of the State of Texas had declared October 23 as Texas Paralegal Day. Charged with “enhancing paralegals” participation in the administration of justice, professional responsibility, and public service in cooperation with the State Bar, “the Division looks forward to fulfilling its mandate enthusiastically, energetically, and professionally.” Its website is:
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 8 Only statutory, court authority, or a supervising attorney’s determination of a paralegal’s competency limits the type of tasks a paralegal may perform. Paralegals perform the same functions as an attorney, except those generally prohibited by unauthorized practice of law statutes.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 9 As contained in the definition of “paralegal” by the State Bar of Texas, paralegals perform “substantive legal work.” Substantive legal work" includes, but is not limited to, the following: ▪ Conducting client interviews and maintaining general contact with the client; ▪ Locating and interviewing witnesses; ▪ Conducting investigations and statistical and documentary research; ▪ Drafting documents, correspondence, and pleadings; ▪ Summarizing depositions, interrogatories, and testimony; and ▪ Attending executions of wills, real estate closings, depositions, court or administrative hearings, and trials with an attorney.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 10 Paralegals may perform substantive legal work so long as the attorney: Supervises the specifically delegated work; Retains responsibility for the work; and Maintains a direct relationship with the client. "Substantive legal work" does not include clerical or administrative work. Accordingly, a court may refuse to provide recovery of paralegal time for such non-substantive work.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 11 A paralegal is prohibited from: Engaging in the practice of law; Providing legal advice; Signing pleadings; Negotiating settlement agreements; Soliciting legal business on behalf of an attorney; Setting a legal fee; Accepting a case; or Advertising or contracting with members of the general public for the performance of legal functions.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 12 Paralegals should uphold a high level of ethical standards. In 1982, the Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas adopted its Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility. In 1993, the NFPA adopted a Model Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility. Code_Of_Ethics.pdf Code_Of_Ethics.pdf
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 13 Most legal associations recognize the important role education has played in the development of the paralegal profession. As legal matters delegated to paralegals increase in complexity, and as paralegal roles are expanded, education remains critical.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 14 Because paralegals are not regulated in any form, i.e., there is no governmental regulation for paralegals, paralegal education is not standardized. According to the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (NFPA), paralegal education programs generally fall into one of the following categories: Two-year community college programs Four-year baccalaureate programs Programs offered by proprietary institutions Post-baccalaureate programs These programs have different admission standards, ranging from open admissions (a high school diploma or equivalent) to highly selective admissions, such as a baccalaureate degree with a 3.0 GPA. Some programs also require entrance examinations.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 15 According to the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (NFPA), it recommends that future paralegals should have a four-year degree to enter the profession. NFPA recognizes that a two-year degree with an emphasis in paralegal studies is acceptable to employers in some markets as a minimum criteria for individuals to enter the paralegal profession. However, current trends across the country indicate that formal paralegal education has become a requirement to secure paralegal employment; a four-year degree is the hiring standard in many markets.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 16 In 1975, the American Bar Association began approving paralegal programs that satisfy the rigorous standards for paralegal education as set forth in its “ABA Guidelines for the Approval of Paralegal Education Programs.” ads/paralegalguidelines2008.pdf ads/paralegalguidelines2008.pdf The ABA maintains a directory of approved paralegal programs on its website:
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 17 The approval process is voluntary since it is not required by any governmental agency. To be approved, according to the Guidelines, a program for paralegals must : Be at the postsecondary level of instruction; Consist of at least sixty semester hours, or equivalent, which must include general education and legal specialty courses; Be offered by an institution accredited by an institutional accrediting agency acceptable to the [ABA] committee; and Meet standards relating to administration, resources, curriculum and academic policies, faculty and program direction, admission standards and practices, student services including placement and counseling, library, and facilities.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 18 The National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (NFPA) offers insight and recommendations to prospective paralegal students on how to choose a paralegal program, which can be found online at its website: barticlenbr=117 barticlenbr=117 Most institutions offer part-time evening programs for students who work; many also have full-time day or evening programs. Some programs are offered for college credit, some for continuing education credit, and some are non-credit.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 19 Continuing Legal Education (CLE) is training in the law, usually short term, that a person receives after completing his or her formal legal training. Because our laws are ever-evolving and changing, it is critical for paralegals to continue their education. Most paralegal certification programs require CLE to maintain certification status.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 20 As mentioned previously, and as will be discussed in greater length below, the paralegal profession is not regulated by a governmental entity. This means employers of paralegals determine the minimum qualifications required for those persons who are hired to work as paralegals. There is a myriad of employment opportunities for persons with paralegal skills. Earnings of paralegals vary greatly and depend on that paralegal’s education, training, experience, the type and size of the employer, and the geographic location of the job. As of May 2006, full-time paralegals had a median annual earning, including bonuses, of $43,040. The top 10 percent earned more than $67,540, and the bottom 10 percent earned less than $27,450.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 21 Individuals with diverse backgrounds are employed as paralegals. Education and training requirements differ widely, as previously mentioned, but generally are related to the responsibilities of the position. Specialized training in other fields sometimes determines the paralegal’s area of practice.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 22 Traditional paralegals constitute the majority of paralegals in the profession. A traditional paralegal is a paralegal who is employed by an attorney/law firm. In fact, 75 percent of paralegals work for private law firms. The demand for expertise has led many paralegals to develop knowledge and skills in highly technical or specialized areas of law, e.g., bankruptcy, intellectual property, labor and employment, complex commercial litigation, etc. A large number of paralegals work for federal, state, and local governments, and often hold the title of “paralegal specialist.” A paralegal specialist performs “legal support functions which require discretion and independent judgment,” according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 23 Paralegals also work for: Special interest groups, such as labor unions, business associations, environmental protection groups, taxpayer associations, consumer protection groups, trade associations, etc. Criminal Law Offices Legal service offices and legal aid offices throughout local communities across the country
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 24 Freelance (sometimes synonymous with “independent”) paralegals are self-employed paralegals who sell their services to attorneys. Freelance paralegals perform their services in their own office or in the office of the attorney who hires them for special projects. Virtual freelance paralegals are those paralegals who operate entirely online. The work they do for attorneys is transmitted primarily through .
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 25 Legal Documents Preparers – Legal Document Assistants These titles are, used in Arizona and California respectively, to describe nonlawyers who provide their services directly to the public. These nonlawyers are not authorized to give legal advice, but rather are given the authority to prepare forms and other legal documents.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 26 While the paralegal profession is still in its infancy compared other professions, it has grown and evolved with the changing legal climate over the past 40 years. There are many opportunities for paralegals, and the profession will continue to grow and change with the ever-evolving social climate of the United States.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 27
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved A traditional paralegal is a paralegal who is self-employed and sells his/her services directly to attorneys. (A)True (B)False
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved Almost 75 percent of paralegals work for ____________________________. (A)Corporate law departments (B)Civil service department of federal, state, and local governments (C)Legal aid offices (D)Law firms
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved Of the following, which paralegal certification exam is not an advanced- level exam? (A)PACE (B)TBLS (C)CLA or CP
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved Engaging in acts that require either a license, or other special authorization by a person who does not hold such a license or special authorization, is the ____________________________. (A) Duty of loyalty (B) Unauthorized practice of law (C) Conflict of interest (D) None of the above
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved Texas was the first state in the United States to create a division of its bar association for paralegals. (A) True (B) False
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved The paralegal profession emerged during the mid to late ____s, when individuals were trained to assist attorneys in making legal services available to the poor during the “War on Poverty.” (A) 1950 (B) 1960 (C) 1940s
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved Which of the following associations did not a have a remarkable influence on the development of the paralegal profession. (A) National Federation of Paralegal Associations (B) National Association of Legal Assistants (C) American Bar Association (D) American League of Women Paralegals
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved “Substantive legal work” includes clerical and administrative work for which courts will provide recovery for paralegal time. (A) True (B) False
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 36 Question No. 1 – False. A traditional paralegal is a paralegal who works for a law firm/attorney. An “independent” paralegal is self-employed and sells his/her services directly to attorneys. Question No. 2 – (D) Law Firms. Question No. 3 – (C) CLA or CP exam is an entry-level exam offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants. The PACE – Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam, and the Texas Board of Legal Specialization paralegal exams are advanced-level exams. Question No. 4 – (B) Unauthorized practice of law. Question No. 5 – True. Question No. 6 – (B) 1960s. President Johnson declared a “War on Poverty” during his State of the Union speech on January 8, Question No. 7 – (D) American League of Women Paralegals is a fictitious organization. Question No. 8 – False. The Texas Supreme Court, in its decision of Gill Savings v. International Supply Co., provided for the recovery of substantive paralegal fees as a component of attorneys fees, but did not allow for administrative or clerical work to be recovered
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 37 Now that you are knowledgeable of the Paralegal profession, you can also utilize this information to enhance your student’s knowledge! Possible activities include: Web Quests ▪ Assign each student a state, and require them to explore “state specific” developments. Competitions ▪ Have students compete to determine the number of paralegals in your community by utilizing local resources such as phone books, legal firms, Chamber of Commerce, etc. Group Projects ▪ Assign presentations or skits depicting “Life as a Lawyer without Paralegals.” Research ▪ Require students to investigate the career outlook of the profession, or research colleges and universities for information about Paralegal academic programs.
UNT in partnership with TEA, Copyright ©. All rights reserved. 38 Alliance of Paralegal Profession Standards. (2002). Our Proposal. NC, USA. American Association for Paralegal Education. (1981). Educational Standards. Mt. Royal, NJ, USA. American Bar Association - Standing Committee on Paralegals. (2008, August 14). American Bar Association. Washington, DC, USA. Bureau of Labor Statistics, D. o. ( ). Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved November 28, 2008, from Department of Labor: Florida Supreme Court. (2007). Order FL. Johnson, L. B. (1964, January 8). Speeches Archives. Retrieved November 28, 2008, from Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum: Louisiana State Paralegal Association. (2007). Certification. Monroe, LA, USA. National Association of Legal Assistants. (1975). Norman, OK, USA. National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (1993). Model Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility. Edmonds, WA, USA. National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (1974, January 30). NFPA. Edmonds, WA, USA. National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (2000, November 8). Statement on Issues Affecting the Paralegal Profession. Edmonds, WA, USA. Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas. (1981, October 23). About Paralegal Division. Retrieved November 28, 2008, from Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas: State Bar of Texas Board of Directors; Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas. (2005). Paralegal Definition and Standards. Retrieved November 10, 2008, from Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas: Statsky, W. P. (2009). Introduction to Paralegalism, Perspectives, Problems and Skills. Clifton Park: Delmar, Cengage Learning. Texas Board of Legal Specialization. (1994). Paralegal Certification Process. Austin, TX, USA.
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