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The Big Five

The Big Five Overview

The Big Five Overview

Responding to the growth and recognition of the paralegal profession in recent years, national organizations have been established to oversee its functions, such as the National Federation of Paralegals Association (NFPA). The NFPA was founded in 1974 and sets forth certain guidelines for which all its members are required to follow and details specific procedures and license requirements for paralegals. Its now consists of 50 professional organizations and represents the interests of about 11,000 members. The Model Disciplinary Rules are a set of guidelines and ethic codes to which all members are strictly held. This organization offers additional education for paralegals and administers an exam to ensure the competency of all its members.
National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA): 

Similar to the NFPA, the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), is an organization dedicated to the advancement of paralegals, which offers aid in finding employment, opportunities for further education, and professional certification. The NALA also has a Code of Ethics which outline the duties and professional responsibilities of a paralegal. They also identify those responsibilities which are reserved only for attorneys and should never be performed solely by a paralegal. Legal assistants are ethically bound to these codes and must not engage in any activity that is considered an ethical violation. The NALA also aids paralegals in becoming certified.

American Bar Association- Standing Committee on Legal Assistants (SCOLA): 


   
The American Bar Association (ABA) is a national organization of attorney and law students whose main function is to set a series of ethical codes and conduct by which all attorneys must adhere. The ABA is responsible for the accreditation of law schools as well as improving the application of the legal system for the general public. Within the ABA, The Standing Committee on Legal Assistants (SCOLA) establishes a standard of conduct that promotes the fair and effective use of paralegals by attorneys. SCOLA oversees the ABA’s General Approval Process which outlines the education and training qualifications of paralegals and legal assistants. SCOLA promotes the paralegal profession by offering attorneys a variety of reasons why paralegals will benefit their practice.
Your State Bar Association:


Each state has its own bar association which is responsible for representing the interests of all attorneys within that state. The responsibilities of a state bar association include administering the bar examination to law students, maintaining an attorney directory to aid the general public, or possibly administering sanctions against attorneys who have committed ethical violations. Within each state bar association, there is generally a division that is dedicated to promoting the paralegal profession. Similar to the national associations, the state bar association offers paralegals a code of ethics and professional conduct as well as opportunities for further education. The code requires paralegals to conduct themselves with full competency and integrity in serving the public. A paralegal may gain membership to this division as an active member, an associate member, or a student.


Your Local Paralegal Association:
Paralegals and legal assistants must be aware of the standard of ethics and conduct under which they are expected to perform. It is very beneficial for anyone in this profession to become a member of a local paralegal association. These organizations will assist paralegals in connecting with attorneys from which they might find employment, as well as receive important information concerning the legal system. Any paralegal looking to advance his knowledge within his field will be able to find educational programs from his local paralegal association and have the opportunity to earn an advanced degree.

Know Your Local Paralegal Association

Know Your Local Paralegal Association

All paralegals must abide by the code of ethics developed by The American Bar Association. There are several national organizations dedicated to the promotion of the paralegal and legal assistant professions that require its members to follow certain standards of conduct. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegals Association (NFPA) are the most well known. 
These organizations provide education programs and employment opportunities to improve the quality of legal services offered by paralegals. In addition to these national law associations, states and local jurisdictions have their own chapters which will conduct seminars and meetings to assist paralegals in connecting with attorneys from which they might find employment, as well as receive important information concerning the legal system. It is important that all paralegals and attorneys be aware of the standards to which they are held; joining a local paralegal association will greatly benefit a law practice.
For a paralegal or legal assistant interested in advancing his education or seeking employment, finding a local chapter of a national paralegal association is an important step. These organizations are beneficial networking tools and will put individuals in touch with attorneys who are looking to hire legal assistants. 
In addition, these organizations provide access to quality education programs that enhance a paralegals performance and allow them to acquire an advanced degree, such as a Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) or Certified Paralegal (CP). Paralegals interested in membership to a local law association for legal assistants may access the website of the NALA or NFPA to find a branch in their area.

National Association of Legal Assistants

Standing Committee on Legal Assistants

Standing Committee on Legal Assistants

Founded in 1878, the American Bar Association (ABA) is an organization of attorneys and law students that is dedicated to setting the standards and ethical codes by which all attorneys must operate. An important function of this organization is to monitor educational institutions to ensure quality education to law students. 
The Model Rules of Professional Conduct was adopted by the ABA in 1983 and sets forth ethical standards of professional responsibility for attorneys. These rules have been modified several times. The ABA provides accreditation for law schools, which is an important part of its function, because, in almost all cases, students must graduate from an accredited law school in order to take the bar examination. 
The ABA also offers continuing education programs for attorneys and judges to ensure that they are performing to the best of their ability. In a broader sense, the ABA is also responsible for improving the application of the legal system for the general public.
The ABA also has a division which exclusively oversees the work of paralegals. The Standing Committee on Legal Assistants (SCOLA) is an organization in association with the ABA that’s main purpose is to establish standards of conduct that promote the fair and effective use of paralegals by attorneys. SCOLA focuses on training and furthering the education of paralegals to ensure that they are providing services competently and ethically.
SCOLA oversees the ABA’s General Approval Process which outlines the qualifications necessary for a paralegal to practice under a supervising attorney. In order to meet this standard, paralegals must receive training from an approved education program. This Approval Commission has led to the development of quality education programs to further the paralegal profession. 
They are all supervised by the Approval Commission to ensure that they are effectively teaching the standards necessary to offer quality legal services. Interim reports are required of these programs which are reviewed and any necessary changes are suggested. As the legal system develops and changes, SCOLA updates their standards of approval to reflect the most current issues facing paralegals. Annually, the Standing Committee attends a national conference for paralegals, attorneys, educational programs, and consumers of paralegal services to ensure that all standards are being met.  
In order to advance the professional careers of paralegals, SCOLA offers attorneys many reasons why the use of a paralegal will benefit their practice. Many law firms that have recognized these benefits have increased the salary of paralegals and provided them with more responsibilities. SCOLA also benefits attorneys by providing education programs that will improve the quality of performance among their staff.