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Can Paralegals Work Without Attorney Supervision?

Can Paralegals Work Without Attorney Supervision?

Since paralegals are often unlicensed, and thus unregulated, they are usually defined in somewhat reductive terms, mainly in the means by which their actions in the legal industry are restrained and restricted.  

The central belief behind this mandate is that attorneys are licensed, having passed a local bar exam, and are ultimately responsible for the strategy implemented that directs paralegals, and who must ultimately place their name on any work completed by a paralegal, thus giving them a level of ownership by oversight.

However, there are jurisdictions where paralegals have historically been allowed to practice outside of an attorney’s supervision, usually in the role of aiding in document preparation.  

Very few jurisdictions have gone on to license independent paralegals, with California being the main example in its licensing of Legal Document Assistants, who are allowed to operate outside to an attorney’s purview only after they have undergone legal training and been certified and bonded by the state.

The desire for some paralegals and paralegal representative organizations to operate outside the supervision of an attorney has played a core role in the debate of whether there should be widespread licensing of paralegals.  

An argument for this is that licensing can do a far better job regulating the standard of paralegals entering into the industry, allowing this improved standard of paralegal services to be able to operate more autonomously.

A direct advantage of removing attorney supervision, is that those that are for licensing and against mandated attorney supervision, is that it can open up the level of legal care available to lower class, lower income parties.  

The belief that licensing can provide paralegals with greater autonomy to provide legal services directly to consumers and clients who were otherwise restricted access to them on economic grounds.  Therefore, the central idea is that licensing paralegals on a more widespread basis could benefit the standards and availability of the law.

The argument against licensing in place of a mandated supervision is predicated on the belief that the origins of the paralegal profession were based on supplementing, not supplanting, the work of attorneys, and their their role in the legal system.  To them, licensing represents a means of regulating the overall quality of legal work, and to that end, it remains vital that paralegals remain under attorney supervision.



Certification in the paralegal profession
usually refers to any means by which a paralegal or legal assistant has sought
to establish, through the oversight of a professional organization, that they
have acquired and can exhibit the skills needed to perform the duties
associated with the job of paralegal.education
examination, or both.

By this same point,
certification should be seen as means of improving one’s standing
It is simply a means of measuring competence and ability, not a means by
which to qualify for employment.

The most recognized means of certification
recognized in the legal profession is the National Association of Legal
Assistants’ (NALA), though there others, and they each have different
requirements for certification.

The CLA/CP certification requires varying
levels of existing experience and education, typically pertaining to having
completed an 
NALA, American Bar
(ABA), or American Association For Paralegal
Education (AAfPE) accredited paralegal training program.

In the case of an individual having a bachelor’s degree in a field other
than legal assistant/paralegal studies, they must have an additional year of
experience as a paralegal under a lawyer’s supervision. 

The Advanced Paralegal
Certification is usually given to experienced paralegals that focus more
specifically on specialized fields of the law, like property, malpractice,
tort, criminal, and so on.

Other certification exams include the American
Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) credential, which is administered by the
American Alliance of Paralegals (AAP).   The National Federation of
Paralegal Associations offers the Registered Paralegal credential. Both require
additional course work in order to renew their certification every two years.

Certification can also be extended to
paralegal institutions, as well with AAfPE  To be certified with either organization, the
program must meet elevated standards of education quality, not limited to
extensive diversity and depth of studies offered, combined with a substantial
emphasis on ethics, and they must maintain those standards through ongoing
periods of review and renewal every 5-7 years.

Is Paralegal Registration Required?

Is Paralegal Registration Required?

In nearly all states, paralegal
registration is not required with any government affiliated agency, because the
paralegal profession as a whole is subject to very little oversight.  In these regards paralegal
registration is a means of empowerment to the profession and a means of
establishing paralegals’ commitment to their occupation.

Organizations that many
professional paralegals and legal assistants can join include the
National Association of
Legal Assistants
(NALA), National Federation for
Paralegal Associations
(NFPA) , as well as educational
certification organizations such as the American Association for Paralegal
Education (AAfPE) and the American Bar Association (ABA).

The ABA ad AAfPE are both heavily involved in
certifying paralegal training facilities, and all four organizations run
regular conferences that

Paralegal registration also often
proves to be a valuable networking tool, especially in the Internet age, with
many websites providing sites where paralegals can come together, keep in touch
with one another,  

websites also provide a valuable source of news that involves the legal
profession, and they often offer services that can help a paralegal, especially
in terms of finding employment, as well recommending additional training and
the means by which to acquire it.

As of the current time, legal
registration of paralegals is only required in two states, California and
Washington, and exists on a voluntary basis in a third, Florida.  They are otherwise
forbidden from engaging in any legal activity on behalf of a client.  They must also be bonded by
their respective states.

In Florida, registration remains
voluntary, and is done primarily in the interest of establishing the paralegal’s
transparency in the eyes of the law.

All Paralegals Should Know About Credentials

All Paralegals Should Know About Credentials

Credentialing in the paralegal profession is still a fairly new idea, and one that can be implemented by numerous organizations. While no single paralegal certification is universally recognized as the best (though the National Association of Legal Assistants’, or NALA, is the most prominent), they do provide a means by which an employer can ascertain an employee’s potential viability based on their knowledge and capability.

Almost any organization that trains paralegals or legal assistants offers some credentials that the paralegal has achieved a certain level of knowledge in their field (especially with that credential takes the form of an associates or bachelors degree).  

Where the acquiring of credentials become beneficial is when the prospective paralegal has no actual degree in the field, then passing a certification exam can become vital to establishing to an employer that the applicant has a certain degree of knowledge in the field.

While certification exams or means of credentialing may vary, they can generally be held to adhere to a certain level of content, with many requiring some kind of preexisting proof of having made it through an accredited paralegal training program.  

Commonly these will then be combined with a comprehensive testing of basic legal knowledge that a paralegal will be required to call on during the course of their work.  nearly all certification exams is a comprehensive overview of ethical protocols that are required by any participant in the legal profession, especially as it comes to issues of disclosure and conflicts of interest.

It is important to note, however, that since paralegals are often unregulated and unlicensed, that certification is not required, and paralegals are hired on other merits and trained on the job without any prior experience in the paralegal profession.  

Occasionally, higher end paralegal positions will ask for some form of credentials or certification based on the more precise needs of the job, but it is fairly rare that they will specialize a particular form of certification.