CONSIDERING THE FIRM'S RESPONSIBILITIES
Do you know what
the parameters within which the paralegal can perform assigned tasks
in your office? Have you met with the paralegals in your firm to
discuss their ethical responsibilities? 26 states have adopted
guidelines on the utilization of paralegals, either through their
supreme courts or state bar associations. New Jersey has not done
this. However, the issue is on the burner and almost at a full boil.
There are several opinions of the New Jersey Supreme Court Advisory
Committee on Professional Ethics that directly affect paralegals.
Further, the Supreme Court, after reviewing the Standing Committee on
Paralegal Education and Regulation report submitted on July 27, 1998,
decided that the proper place for discussion of regulation of
paralegals rests with the New Jersey State Bar Association. Since then
the Paralegal Committee of the New Jersey State Bar Association has
worked to make recommendations to the Board of Trustees of that
Association and are awaiting notification of when that can be done.
Until some regulation is put into place, paralegals and attorneys must
rely upon the opinions already in place, and the attorney ethical
codes. The National Association of Legal Assistants Code of
Professional Responsibility and National Federation of Paralegal
Associationsí Affirmation of Professional Responsibility bind those
paralegals who are currently members of either the Legal Assistants
Association of New Jersey, or the South Jersey Paralegal Association.
Every paralegal and every attorney should be aware of all ethical
guidelines and integrate the concepts into their daily professional
lives. One way is to attend continuing education seminars given by
paralegal groups, the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal
Education, or local bar associations. The New Jersey State Bar
Association Paralegal Committee is sponsoring, with the New Jersey
Institute of Continuing Legal Education, two (2) in-depth seminars at
the State Bar Annual Meeting on May 22, 2002. The seminars will be
directed to attorneys who employ paralegals and to paralegals. Both of
these seminars will be informative and will provide new information
regarding utilization of paralegals in New Jersey law firms, and the
ethical considerations of same. We wish to
stress that it is of the utmost importance of you and the paralegals
in your office to attend these seminars.