Conspicuous Hole in [Paralegal] Ethics Training

This commentary in Law.com by an experienced paralegal surprised me. What’s your reaction?

"For all the talk of the need to prevent ethics transgressions in the legal profession, a glaring education gap exists for one group: paralegals.

"Usually, it does not rise to the level of a topic to be covered — until there is a problem. It generally crops up after an unintentional violation of the attorney-client relationship by support staff members who have received no ethics training.

"As a paralegal for more than seven years, I often get questions from colleagues asking what to do in certain situations. Those of us who have been educated in an American Bar Association-accredited program have some knowledge of ethical issues. However, some support staff are not even aware of the ethical issues to avoid, yet they are on their firms’ front lines every day, in danger of unintentionally violating ethics rules.

"In a poll taken on Jan. 3 by NJParalegal, we asked our members the following: Have you ever received training or instruction by your attorney-employer on how to handle ethical issues, specifically, maintaining attorney-client relationships and the confidentiality of your clients?

"The answer: Of the 42 who responded, 80 percent said no."

Author Cindy Lopez is a paralegal in the office of Charles Byrnes in Toms River, N.J., and is founder of NJParalegal, a career resource. She’s also a speaker for Estrin LegalEd Paralegal SuperConferences.

One Reply to “Conspicuous Hole in [Paralegal] Ethics Training”

  1. As a paralegal with more than 20 years experience, I serve as First Vice President of the Houston Metropolitan Paralegal Association – one of the largest individual associations in the nation. We are making bold efforts to close the gap in Houston. Our association offers free in-house ethics CLE presentations to any interested firm. We even provide a free lunch to the paralegals who attend, and they receive one hour of CLE credit for their time.

    We’re helping firms understand that Ethics training is critical to their utilization of paralegals. The Texas State Bar has adopted standards that make it a virtual duty for employing attorneys to see that paralegals receive sufficient continuing legal education. We provide a copy of these standards to the employers when we present the seminar. The standards may be found at http://www.txpd.org and at http://www.texasbar.com/paralegalstandards.

    I will be speaking on the topic of Ethics for the Institute For Paralegal Education in Houston on March 18, 2008. Ethics training is a top priority to us.

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