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Being a Paralegal With Attorney Supervision

Being a Paralegal With 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.

The level of attorney supervision is something that plays a key part in the debate over whether paralegals should be licensed or not.    Those who support this argument feel that paralegals are, by design, directed with helping lawyers, and that by licensing them they could  

Those who are for supervision, argue that providing limited legal services, especially at a level regulated by some form of government oversight, could provide legal service to lower income groups who were previous restricted access to them in the past.

However, it remains that many in the paralegal industry do not desire licensing on two grounds.license, and then maintaining and renewing it over an extended period of time.  

The second idea is that paralegal licensing and regulation could limit the amount of available paralegals, as it could increase salary amounts to the point where positions eventually are priced out of the market, and the amount of paralegal positions can decrease (conversely, those on the other side of the argument point to the potential for increased compensation as a reason for licensing).  

The closest thing to actual licensing in most areas of the paralegal industry right now, is third party certification, which is provided by a number of organizations, including the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), the American Alliance of Paralegals (AAP), and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).  

 However, in order, to take these exams or even study for them requires, in most cases, an extended period of paralegal employment under the direct supervision of an attorney.  

On the whole, the paralegal market and the legal profession place great deal of value on attorney supervision as a means of maintaining market growth, as well as maintaining the economic balance and division of power needed for the legal profession to remain strong and viable.


 

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

Certification

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
cosmetically. 
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
Association
(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,  

These
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.

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