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PARALEGAL ETHICS: 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.

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