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Two-tier plan for paralegals taken one step further

first_imgTwo-tier plan for paralegals taken one step further June 15, 2006 Regular News Approved by the board, it’s now before the court Gary Blankenship Senior Editor A two-tier plan for regulating paralegals has been approved by The Florida Bar Board of Governors and will be forwarded to the Supreme Court for its review.The board, at its June 2 meeting in Key West, approved the proposal from the Special Committee to Study Paralegal Regulation. The committee, made up of attorneys, paralegals, and legal educators, has been working on the issue since last August.“I present this to the board as a well-reasoned and a well-compromised plan,” said board member Ross Goodman, chair of the special committee. “The paralegels and attorneys worked well together to come up with a very good program.”“The general description is this sets two tiers, one for paralegals as they presently exist [in Bar rules] and the second tier is for what we call registered paralegals,” he added. “The closest analogy [for registered paralegals] would be to board certification [for lawyers].”Board members initially received the report from the special committee at their April 7 meeting. The proposal would create Chapter 20 in the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.Under the two-tier system, the first tier would encompass paralegals based on the definition in Bar Rule 10-2.1, as someone with education, training, or work experience who, under the supervision of a lawyer, performs delegated substantive work for which the lawyer is responsible, Goodman said.Tier two paralegals would have to meet education and experience requirements or be certified by the National Association of Legal Assistants or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations and then could hold themselves out as “Florida Registered Paralegals.” They would also have to meet continuing education requirements, he said.The proposal’s grandfathering provision would allow paralegals who can show five years of substantial experience, but who don’t meet the education or certification requirements, to become registered paralegals. That provision is limited to the first three years of the program.The grandfathering provision was necessary because, “You’ve got some paralegals who have been doing it for 20 years and that paralegal is more qualified than any 20 attorneys in town on that one area of law, but does not meet the other qualifications to be a registered paralegal,” he said.Goodman said the proposed rule also creates a disciplinary system and a code of ethics for paralegals. It was also reviewed and approved by the Disciplinary Review, Program Evaluation and Rules committees.In response to a question, he said the rule will probably need more work, such as setting standards for paralegal programs whose graduates will qualify to be registered paralegals. That will be needed, he said, because there are many “fly-by-night” paralegal education providers.The special committee began meeting last summer after bills were introduced in the 2005 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature that proposed a regulatory scheme for paralegals. Those bills, pushed by paralegal organizations, would have had regulation preformed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.That legislation specified that courts, when awarding fees, could only award paralegal fees for services performed by state-licensed paralegals.Lawmakers agreed not to push those bills when the Bar said it would study the issues, and the paralegal committee, appointed by President Alan Bookman, was the result.The committee met throughout the fall and had a public hearing. It initially proposed creating a Bar section for paralegals, which could then study further issues related to paralegal regulation.But paralegal members of the committee said it didn’t go far enough in recognizing the training and accomplishments of paralegals and the committee agreed to reconsider that recommendation.The committee then came up with the two-tier plan, which attempts to meet the needs of both lawyers and paralegals.retaining the definition of paralegals based on the language in Chapter 10 of Bar rules, it allows lawyers to retain control of who is considered a paralegal in their law firms. And by setting standards to be a “Florida Registered Paralegal” it encourages paralegals to meet minimum education, training, and continuing education standards — and law firms to encourage their paralegals to meet those standards.The proposal as adopted by the board must be reviewed by the Supreme Court in a rule amendment petition.center_img Two-tier plan for paralegals taken one step furtherlast_img read more

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