Saturday, March 1, 2008

Florida Unveils Registered Paralegal Program

As of today, the Florida Registered Paralegal Program goes into effect. About 300 people have already requested the application, and many more are expected to download it today from the Florida Bar's Web site.

Additionally, applicants need to pay a $150 application fee. Applicants who are approved will be notified by mail with certificates and welcome packets in approximately two weeks. The program sets up a two-tier system for paralegals and also creates a disciplinary system and a Code of Ethics and Responsibility.

The first tier encompasses paralegals with education, training or work experience and who, under the supervision of lawyers, perform delegated, substantive work for which the lawyers are responsible.

Tier two paralegals have to meet education and work experience requirements or be certified by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).

Additionally, for the first three years of the program, paralegals who are able to show substantial experience, but who don’t meet the education or certification requirements, will be able to become Florida Registered Paralegals under a grandfathering provision.

Those who receive the designation will be listed on The Florida Bar Web site.

To remain a Florida Registered Paralegal, 30 hours of continuing education courses will be required over a three-year period, with five of those hours having to be in professionalism or ethics courses.

The new Chapter 20 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar establishing the program does not set forth the duties paralegals may perform or deal with the fees that can be charged or awarded for the work they do. As is the case now, the primary responsibility for monitoring the work of paralegals — whether Florida Registered Paralegals or not — rests with the attorneys who employ or supervise them.

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