Robert E. Mongue, J.D., Assistant Professor of the Legal Studies Department at the University of Mississippi has started an interesting discussion concerning “independent paralegals” at his blog, The Empowered Paralegal.  Like Professor Mongue, I am still digesting the email he received from Efrem B. Martin of Martin Paralegal Services.  While I agree with some comments Mr. Martin makes concerning “FEAR” and I admire his passion for what he believes, my thoughts do not align with his concerning this topic.  If Mr. Martin has all the qualifications and experience outlined in his email to Professor Mongue, perhaps he should consider going to law school and take the bar exam in the state(s) of his choice so that he can legally practice law.   He might make a great attorney.

No system is perfect, but I dare say, that some system governing attorneys and paralegals is better than no system. Guidelines, rules and regulations are normally put in place because something is needed to protect everyone from those individuals who cross an unclear line.  Those guidelines, rules and regulations are never “perfect,” thus they are continually revised and updated.  Some become so important that they actually become law.

As a new virtual paralegal business owner, I have been learning that it is important to establish systems for your business.  I am diligently working to protect myself against the unauthorized practice of law by establishing the following systems:

  1. My paralegal services will be offered to licensed U.S. attorneys only.
  2. I will require your execution of an Affidavit identifying the state(s) in which you are licensed, your bar association number(s), and a statement that you are in good standing.
  3. The information identified in the Affidavit will be verified with your state bar association.
  4. My web site includes an official Disclaimer as well as a conspicuous statement on the Home Page as follows: Digital Paralegal Services provides virtual paralegal support to attorneys licensed in the United States.  WE DO NOT PROVIDE PARALEGAL SUPPORT TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC.
  5. All contract documents will include similar provisions.

I am sure the “system” is not perfect and that it will be revised many times over as the role of virtual paralegals continues to be defined by the legal profession.  My goal is to vigilantly abide by the guidelines, rules, regulations, ethics opinions and laws which govern the paralegal profession.


5 thoughts on “VIRTUAL PARALEGALS: Establish systems to protect yourself against the unauthorized practice of law.

  1. Cathy,

    Another point virtual paralegals should always keep in mind:

    A paralegal’s title shall clearly indicate the individual’s status and shall be disclosed in all business and professional communications to avoid misunderstandings and misconceptions about the paralegal’s role and responsibilities.

  2. Good points Cathy. I don’t actually have a concern working for lawyers outside of my own country, but I think that is due to the type of work I tend to do (often more on the admin side). I am always very clear about my training and where I live and I DO NOT provide legal services to non-lawyers. Anyway – just wanted to comment on such a good post!

  3. Thanks, Laurie, for adding to the discussion! Another great point — we need to be very clear about our specific training. We need to live up to the image we create!

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