Authored by Julia Johnson-McGee in Legal
Published on 07-27-2009
A paralegal is a person who is trained in specific areas of law. These areas include researching, writing about, and following legal ethics. Since these are areas that many people view as being solely the activities of attorneys, the lines can get blurred quite easily, leading individuals to believe that paralegals can give legal advice, which they absolutely cannot do. This has led to quite the debate concerning the pros and cons of paralegal licensing.
When someone is licensed in a specific area, it means that the individual has proven himself or herself knowledgeable through education, training and testing to perform said function and can meet the minimal qualifications to perform in the area of training. However, paralegal licensing, as it currently stands, can be achieved through several years of training under and assisting an attorney, reading and studying a few texts, and then taking and passing the licensing exam. Once a paralegal is licensed, then regulations go into effect that can limit the use of their education and training.
There are two basic schools of thought concerning the pros and cons of paralegal licensing. One is that by licensing a paralegal, the paralegal should then be able to assist those who cannot afford legal representation through an expensive attorney. Along with this, it is felt that licensure should enhance what a paralegal can do, not limit them to what is already being done. Additional responsibilities and privileges should be shown to those that go through the educational process and not just the training.
The other side of the pros and cons of paralegal licensing states very simply that paralegals are only supposed to assist an attorney. That by giving them the opportunity to practice certain aspects of the law they would be replacing attorneys that continued their education for their degree. However, these same people do not feel that paralegal licensing is necessary, as the attorney they are working for is already licensed.
The pros and cons of paralegal licensing debate have been going on for as many years as licensing has been available. Many paralegals believe that by continuing to get their licensure, they should benefit through not only recognition of their capabilities, but should also receive professional advancement in their chosen careers. Also, it is believed by many that regulating the licensure of paralegals would keep many individuals that are not qualified from performing as paralegals.
When looking at the pros and cons of paralegal licensing from the “cons” side, you have to take into consideration that licensure, and keeping that licensure, costs additional fees that are going to be seen in attorneys’ fees. Probably the biggest con when looking at the pros and cons of paralegal licensing is that attorneys will choose not to hire the licensed paralegal because it is going to cost them more. If the regulations concerning what the paralegal can do does not change and give them more responsibilities and rights, paralegals will not spend the extra money to get licensed, as they won’t be able to find employment.