Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Paralegal Regulation Sorely Needed

Yesterday's news that a paralegal posed as a lawyer to represent a client in court illustrates the need to regulate paralegals. As it stands now, Larissa Sufaru, the paralegal in question, can resume her work as a paralegal without any fines or sanctions. She can be charged criminally, however. According to New Jersey law, Sufaru can be charged with a disorderly persons offense or with a fourth-degree crime (N.J.S. 2C:21-22.)

Sufaru faces no professional sanctions, nor are safeguards in place to screen paralegals and ensure that they are fully aware of the ethics involved in the unauthorized practice of law. With mandatory licensure, Sufaru would face sanctions, including suspension or revocation of her license. Licensure would require specific paralegal training, including ethics, and would require continuing education with a component in ethics.

By the way, this isn't the first time Sufaru has represented herself as a lawyer. As a board member of Women Helping Women, she is listed as Larissa Sufaru, Esq.

2 comments:

  1. This story is not a good example to promote the regulation of paralegals. According to the original story, the paralegal was appearing in court on behalf of the clients of the incompetent ATTONEY she worked for. Sanctions are in place against the attorney. Even though her actions were wrong, and she was aware of them, her attorney was the one whose guidance she was working under. If you are seeking a mechanism by which to "punish" paralegals for wrong-doing, this is not a reason for regulation. Regulation, in my opinion, should be done to insure that those who call themselves paralegals are indeed qualified to say so.

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  2. Actually, this is a GREAT example to promote paralegal regulation. Sufaru had a choice: she could appear in court, which was unethical, or she could tell her supervising attorney that she didn't feel comfortable with it and not go. By choosing to appear in court and not correct the hearing officer in any way and represent herself as an attorney, she violated all model ethics codes and deserves sanctions as a result.

    Actions (or, in this case, inactions) have consequences. Regulation should address these consequences.

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