Should a Senior Paralegal give legal advised to help a friend?

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Comments (14)

fabianalucero@live.com in Miami, Florida

26 months ago

I'm doing a research paper about the unauthorized practice of law and the rules of ethics, I'm on my first year of my A.S Paralegal. I'm really appreciate your comments. Thank you so much

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Unemployed Paralegal in Massachusetts

26 months ago

The short answer is, generally, "no." It doesn't matter if you're a senior paralegal or one just out of paralegal school.

Your paralegal school should emphasize or should have emphasized in your Legal Ethics class that paralegals are not licensed to practice law. The only exception might be if a state allows nonlawyers to represent persons in certain administrative law matters.

Get on WESTLAW and run a natural language search using the keywords "unauthorized practice of law" to find case law and statutory authority for your paper.

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fabianalucero@live.com in Miami, Florida

26 months ago

I'm indeed enroll on Everest, and it is true is pretty expensive for an associate degree. I was thinking finished my A.S and then transfer my credits to ABA approved college for my bachelors.

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fabianalucero@live.com in Miami, Florida

26 months ago

Now I'm stuck, I'll call tomorrow to the school to see what they respond to that question. Thank you for being sincere with me.

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mary in Tampa, Florida

26 months ago

You're in Miami. St. College has a nice paralegal degree, with a Bachelor's too. You could take extra credits in something else worth doing.

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fabianalucero@live.com in Miami, Florida

26 months ago

Well in my city Paralegal are well requested. The thing is that I really want to study Paralegal, but I'll consider what you said, thank you to both for the honesty and as hard as it sound for my ears I'll talk to the school and see if I can drop the classes or transfer to another school.

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Unemployed Paralegal in Massachusetts

26 months ago

The admittely limited data (as I am not personally involved in the legal profession) is for MORE AND MORE lawyers DOING paralegal work. The reasoning is : Why should I hire a paralegal when I can get a lawyer willing to work for the pay of a paralegal ??I don't know where you get your reasoning, but that is incorrect. Paralegals and lawyers have different roles.

The lawyer's role is obvious; to practice law. The practice of law includes but is not limited to giving legal advice. In order to be licensed to practice law, one must graduate from law school and pass a bar examination.

The paralegal's role is much different. Paralegals are not trained to practice law. They are trained to support lawyers. Law school is not a requirement at all to be a paralegal; in fact, some paralegals have never graduated from college. Paralegals are barred ethically from giving legal advice. In California and Arizona, so-called "legal document assistants" may have had paralegal training, but their purpose is entirely different from that of paralegals.

Further, paralegals learn on the job and/or in paralegal school the nuts and bolts of law. Compare with lawyers, who are well schooled in the theory of law but are often clueless about the nuts and bolts of it. I can tell you that it can be quite hilarious to observe a lawyer try to handle a common everyday paralegal task, such as setting a hearing.

While some law firms may hire J.D. holders to be paralegals, firms general won't hire them for that role. They know they are most likely taking paralegal jobs to get their feet in the door for attorney jobs. They also know through experience that J.D. holders do not make good paralegals because they aren't trained as such and because many of them don't have the right attitude for the job.

Once again, there's a big difference between paralegal and lawyer. The two roles are not interchangable.

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Unemployed Paralegal in Massachusetts

26 months ago

guest in San Francisco, California said: The admittely limited data (as I am not personally involved in the legal profession) is for MORE AND MORE lawyers DOING paralegal work. The reasoning is : Why should I hire a paralegal when I can get a lawyer willing to work for the pay of a paralegal ??.
The lawyer's role is obvious: to practice law. The practice of law includes but is not limited to giving legal advice. In order to be licensed to practice law, one must graduate from law school and pass a bar examination.

The paralegal's role is much different. Paralegals are not trained to practice law. They are trained to support lawyers. Law school and passing a bar exam is not a requirement at all to be a paralegal; in fact, some paralegals have never graduated from college. Paralegals are barred ethically from giving legal advice. In California and Arizona, so-called "legal document assistants" may have had paralegal training, but their purpose is entirely different from that of paralegals.

Further, paralegals learn on the job and/or in paralegal school the nuts and bolts of law. Compare with lawyers, who are well schooled in the theory of law but are often clueless about the nuts and bolts of it. I can tell you that it can be quite hilarious to observe a lawyer try to handle a common everyday paralegal task, such as setting a hearing.

While some law firms may hire J.D. holders to be paralegals, firms general won't hire them for that role. They know they are most likely taking paralegal jobs to get their feet in the door for attorney jobs. They also know through experience that J.D. holders do not make good paralegals because they aren't trained as such and because many of them don't have the right attitude for the job.

Once again, there's a big difference between paralegal and lawyer. The two roles are not interchangable.

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mary in Tampa, Florida

26 months ago

The new attorneys do their own drafting today - it's required. (This is something that most paralegals did, then the junior attorney changed it - then the junior attorney gave it to the managing partner for him to review and change again - and it went back to the paralegal). Waste of time, resources and firm payroll.

That leaves scheduling, filing, simple letter writing, file management - done by a secretary or legal assistant.

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Unix Brat in Asheville, North Carolina

26 months ago

Fabianalucero-- if there is any way you can get your foot in the door at a law firm NOW, I would urge you to do so. Even if it would be one day a week. It would be beneficial to get a taste before you commit to the whole meal, so to speak.

I know enough people who became disillusioned about the legal field AFTER spending a lot of time and money. One example is my brother. He earned the post baccalaureate certificate in legal studies at Barry University (Miami Shores). He thought he would be able to make a difference in the world. But his dreams were crushed. He went back to his original profession less than 6 months after graduation from Barry.

The other example: my ex went to law school at NSU in Ft. Laud. Passed the FL bar with flying colors the first time...student loan debt is > $100K... currently works for $12/hr as a social worker. He worked as a lawyer in FL for a span of time and HATED it. He says lawyers' rotten reputation is not a myth.

Furthermore, the general population despise lawyers EVERYWHERE, south Florida included.

Point is, make sure this is how you want to earn your living.

And yes, like unemployed paralegal wrote earlier, the answer to your question is a flat out "no."

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Unemployed Paralegal in Massachusetts

26 months ago

guest in San Francisco, California said: The law offices are starting to get rid of paralegals in favor of lawyers. Lawyers can and will do the work of paralegals. Lawyers are a dime a dozen. The legal market has drastically changed over the last couple of years. The big law firms might still have paralegals but the small to midsize ones don't need them as much as they used to. More and more lawyers are doing their OWN paralegal work because they HAVE TO. (e.g. not enough billable hours).

News you may not want to hear but more and more lawyers are becoming more and more familar with "nuts and bolts" as many new lawyers had law office and paralegal expertise BEFORE becoming lawyers.

Lawyers have always done a lot of drafting. Because of the recession, law firms have shed people. That forced even older lawyers to become self-supporting. They had learn how to use computers, copying machines and the internet. Also because of internet court filing anyone can file pleadings with the court 24/7.

But it is incorrect to say that law firms are hiring J.D. holders as paralegals because they can get a lawyer for the price of a paralegal. Once again, the roles are different. J.D. holders often lack the proper subservient attitude to be paralegals. These individuals were raised up in law school to give direction, not take it. One other point is law school does NOT train students in paralegal skills.

You had written that you were not directly involved in the legal profession and were working from "admittedly" limited data. I have been directly involved in the legal profession for several years as a law firm paralegal. My data is unlimited because I've been there and done it. I have direct experience with licensed attorneys who were hired as paralegals. They didn't last. Thus, I feel I am in a better position to comment and must strongly disagree with your comments.

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Unemployed Paralegal in Massachusetts

26 months ago

Have you actually worked as a paralegal in a law firm, sir? I have. However intimate it may be, familiarity with operations of what you said is a small number of law firms is not the same as full-time employment, fifty or more hours a week, as an actual paralegal to lawyers for more than ten years. Handling a pro se lawsuit for yourself is not the same as dealing with multiple clients and working a large caseload of cases in different specialties.

Having said that, you are certainly entitled to deliver your point-blank comments on this forum.

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Unemployed Paralegal in Massachusetts

26 months ago

I have just started posting after lurking on this board for a while. I just would say I have seen the issue of paralegal schools and lawyers working as paralegals addressed in other forums on this board. It seems pointless to also address it here, especially because the original poster had asked for help for his paper on unauthorized practice of law and rules of ethics.

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Unemployed Paralegal in Massachusetts

26 months ago

FWIW being an expert witness is not the same as being an everyday, experienced, hard working paralegal in a law office. If you cannot see the difference, others will.

I don't care to debate this issue with you. It's addressed elsewhere on Indeed. Move on. I hope the discussion starter got the help he needed with his paper.

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