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.