The Important Role that Paralegals Play in the Legal Industry
Paralegals are an integral part of the Legal Industry. Whether you are engaging them to serve process, conduct a private investigation or serve as court reporter, they play a role that is undeniably critical to the attainment of your goals or the successful resolution of your case.
In addition, if you’re a lawyer, the actions of the paralegal you hired are considered as an extension of your act. As such, you may be held culpable for their mistakes and unethical actions. In fact supervising attorneys are expected to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the personnel for whom they are responsible are performing their duties in an ethical manner.
Thus, to protect yourself from the consequences of their mistakes or unethical actions, it is imperative that you should be aware of the ethical standards they are bound to observe, so that when a violation is committed, you can easily spot it and act on it.
Here then are the some of the most important ethical considerations that paralegals are expected to observe and that anyone working with them or employing should be aware of or reminded of.
This is based on the Model Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility and Guidelines for Enforcement of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations.
According to The Model Code and Model Rules, which offer a framework for professional discipline, either voluntarily or through formal regulatory programs, an paralegal should:
1 .ACHIEVE AND MAINTAIN A HIGH LEVEL OF COMPETENCE. This means a paralegal shall perform all assignments promptly and efficiently. To help him or her do this, the paralegal should have the proper education, training, and work experience. He or she should also strive to obtain a minimum of twelve (12) hours of continuing legal education, to include at least one (1) hour of ethics education, every two (2) years in order to remain abreast of the current developments in the law.
2 MAINTAIN A HIGH LEVEL OF PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL INTEGRITY. A paralegal shall not knowingly engage in fraudulent billing practices such as inflation of hours billed to a client or employer; misrepresentation of the nature of tasks performed; and/or submission of fraudulent expense and disbursement documentation. He or she should also not engage in any ex parte communications involving the courts or any other adjudicatory body or communicate, or cause another to communicate, with a party the paralegal knows to be represented by a lawyer in a pending matter without the prior consent of the lawyer representing such other party. He or she should also be be scrupulous, thorough and honest in the identification and maintenance of all funds, securities, and other assets of a client and shall provide accurate accounting as appropriate.
3 MAINTAIN A HIGH STANDARD OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT. An ethical paralegal should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety. He or she should not engage in any conduct that would adversely affect his/her fitness to practice such as violence, dishonesty, interference with the administration of justice, and/or abuse of a professional position or public office.
4. SERVE THE PUBLIC INTEREST BY CONTRIBUTING TO THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE LEGAL SYSTEM AND DELIVERY OF QUALITY LEGAL SERVICES, INCLUDING PRO BONO PUBLICO SERVICES AND COMMUNITY SERVICE. Under the code, paralegals are enjoined to contribute at least 24 hours of Pro Bono Publico services in favour of persons of limited means, or charitable, religious, civic community organizations or seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties or public rights, among others. If the paralegal you’re working with is doing this, that’s a very good sign that at least he or she is taking the code of ethics by heart.