Licensing is a concept that is still fairly foreign in the paralegal profession, with the only state so far requiring full scale paralegal licensing is California, which is mainly in place to regulate Legal Document Assistants. Whether this should be the case or whether licensing should be enacted remains a pertinent source of debate amongst the legal profession.
Essentially, it must be understood that the rise in paralegals in the 1970s was in response to lawyers being overburdened with substantive legal tasks, such as research, analysis, filing, and many other assorted task that lawyer, were, in essence, too well paid to do.
The results were beneficial to both sides, as the legal industry, which expanding at a significant rate, was able to control costs by delegating the new and growing work loan to paralegals, who were paid well, but far below the amounts that a typical attorney could bill for his or her services.
The paralegal profession exploded, and continues to grow at significant rate, because the profession often did not require substantial training or education.certification from voluntary organizations, anyone could become a paralegal provided they could be hired to be one.
However, what this has led to is an inconsistency in the ways in which paralegals have been classifiable, and the nature of activities undertaken by members could be radically different from position to position, even within the same firm or organization.
Therefore, many states, short of licensing paralegals, began to set guidelines and mandates that described paralegals in reductive terms, typically in ways that specified which powers of attorney that paralegals were not allowed to assume.
In many regards, the lack of regulation of paralegals has actually been relatively effective, as it has not led to an increase in legal abuses, according to most bar associations.
Some also feel that providing licensing and regulation will result in greater specification of the tasks and jobs that paralegals can perform, thus entitling them to an increased rate of compensation, one more commiserate with lawyers (many paralegals and paralegal organizations remain divided on this particular idea).
The key factor that will likely continue to inform this debate is the relative need for education required by paralegals going forward. However, given the important part paralegals play in the modern legal profession, and given how vital the rule of law is the organization of any society, there are some who consider the open and deregulated nature of the paralegal industry an ethical breach in and of itself, even a potential disaster waiting to happen.