Tuesday, December 4, 2007

New Program Would Seek to Raise Higher Standards for Paralegals

From today's Naples Daily News, which sums up the Florida Registered Paralegal Program nicely:

"The Florida Supreme Court on Nov. 15 unanimously approved creation of the Florida Registered Paralegal Program, which provides for voluntary registration of paralegals who meet minimum educational, certification, or work experience criteria, and who agree to abide by an established code of ethics. The program’s goal is to better serve the public by creating standards for a profession that has been largely self-regulated.

The program begins March 1 and sets up a two-tier system for registering paralegals. It also creates a disciplinary system and a code of ethics and responsibility. The rules don’t regulate paralegals, who still will be overseen by the lawyers who employ them and direct their legal work.

The first tier describes a paralegal as someone qualified through education, training or work experience and who, under the supervision of a lawyer, performs delegated, substantive work the lawyer is responsible for. “Tier two paralegals” must meet experience, education and continuing education criteria to become registered and could then describe themselves as “Florida Registered Paralegals.”

The plan also has a grandfathering provision that allows paralegals who can show substantial experience, but who don’t meet education or certification requirements, to become registered paralegals. That provision will only be available during the program’s first three years.

[snip]

Florida Alliance of Paralegal Associations Inc. President Tana J. Stringfellow said her group has diligently pursued regulation for many years.

“It is through the efforts of many dedicated paralegals that this program has become a reality,” Stringfellow said.

First Circuit Judge Ross Goodman, who chaired the special committee that also comprised paralegal professionals and members of the public, praised the ruling and credited paralegal organizations that have worked for so long for a paralegal regulatory plan.

“This was an honest effort brought about by people who did not all agree on everything, but they agreed to try to work around their disagreements,” Goodman said. “I think what we came up with was a really good start.”

Although the plan is not mandatory now, Goodman said, it may be some day — depending on whether it’s embraced by paralegals."

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