Posted: Tue, 02 Aug 2011 17:46:48 +0000
UPL or Unauthorized Practice of Law is often one of the most dreaded terms for paralegals and attorneys alike. While the logical reason for this is that Unauthorized Practice of Law frequently results in the individual losing his or her credentials to practice, the additional factor is that states radically differ in what they deem Unauthorized Practice of Law.
In order for a paralegal to avoid potential repercussions, it is essential that she familiarize herself with the term as it is defined by the particular state in which she lives.
Most states in America conclude that Unauthorized Practice of Law covers any legal advice or legal services which are rendered by anyone other than a practicing attorney. Such states require that any work or duties which are carried out by a paralegal must be done under the supervision of a practicing attorney, or acting on his knowledgeable behalf. There are very few states which take a more lenient view of this subject.
For example, California is one of the few states which allows for document preparation by non-attorneys. As long as the paralegal is not wrongfully misrepresenting herself as an attorney, or taking an attorney’s role in court proceedings, she can earn a very comfortable living providing such basic services as preparing the documents for divorce proceedings and similar types of cases.
Most states in America, however, do not go this far, and can legally prosecute a person who does this type of work for being Unauthorized Practice of Law. The best way of finding out what the status of UPL is in your particular state of residence is to thoroughly investigate the facts. While preparing court documents, Wills, and other such services to the community can be an excellent business, obviously that is not the case if the state where you live considers it to be a crime. Some states are very clear as to what constitutes UPL, while others are vague enough in their definition that you in turn must be very clear in finding the facts.
As there are serious penalties for UPL, it is in a paralegal’s best interests to be completely knowledgeable about her state’s specific laws on the subject, and to adhere to them one hundred percent. If you work in a law firm or in an individual attorney’s private practice, it is also wise to be aware of UPL. While the job consists of doing many tasks which are delegated to you by the attorney, you must be aware that his discretion does not include crossing the very fine line into Unauthorized Practice of Law. Actually, in many cases, the responsibility for this falls more on the paralegal herself than on the attorney.
In other words, if he is asking you to carry out a task in his behalf, you must know for sure in advance that a paralegal has the authority to do it. It does occasionally happen that an attorney loses his own license to practice law simply by assigning a task to a paralegal that she does not actually have the authority to do. Whether you plan to work for an attorney, a law firm, or investigate the possibility of providing services, it is essential that you get the facts beforehand.
Posted: Tue, 02 Aug 2011 16:46:37 +0000
When you are thinking about what you can gain from becoming a paralegal, it is a good idea to look also at the other side of the picture how much you yourself can contribute to this field. As an individual, you have many positive assets which can be a wonderful influence in the office where you work, the field work that you may also do, and both co-workers and clients alike.
No one else has a personality quite like yours; and whatever characteristics you possess can go a long way in making your workplace even better. You may have the special ability to sense and help with problems, or you may be outgoing and cheerful, or you may have a unique style of dedication to your work. All of these assets, and others, will help to create harmony in the workplace, and will be a great aid in “getting the job done.
” Whatever your own unique personality may consist of, you can correctly assume that you have something special to offer, simply because you are an individual. You also have your own unique range of experiences. These, too, can be very helpful in problem-solving, resolving conflicts and other difficulties, and assisting in the process of your office running much more smoothly.
Your personal, education, or prior work experiences have given you a unique perspective; and there will be many instances and situations where your perspective is precisely the one that is needed.
As a good paralegal, you probably have a considerable amount of interest in all phases and aspects of this line of work; but it is also likely that you have a special passion about one or more of those aspects in particular.
Whether your passion is for helping people, or for accuracy and efficiency, or for being a team-player, your enthusiasm will lead you to be much more effective at your job than someone who does not possess these special traits.
After you have completed your studies and are prepared to begin working as a paralegal, your status of being well-educated and appropriately trained will also make you a valuable asset wherever you decide to work.
You will bring with you the freshness of one who is not only new to the field but is also completely up-to-date in everything that you have learned. While paralegals who have been working for a long time frequently take on coursework to keep their education current, you will already have this matter in hand as a newcomer to the paralegal field.
While you will have the chance to learn a lot from those who have much experience, they in turn will be able to appreciate the fresh perspectives and the current knowledge which you can contribute to both them as individuals and the workplace as a whole. You may already be aware of all of the wonderful opportunities that the world of the paralegal will offer to you; knowing that you have much that you can give in return is equally important.
Posted: Tue, 02 Aug 2011 15:46:10 +0000
Although many paralegals work under the supervision of an attorney, paralegals are professionals in their own right. As many people still have the common misconception that a paralegal’s place in the law firm consists of little more than being an underling to a superior, it might be a good idea to get a clearer view of the facts, and possibly set this misconception to rest.
The paralegal’s professional status can at once be underscored by what is known as the Professional Code of Ethics. A paralegal is as equally bound to this Code as any attorney in the law firm. He or she is expected to adhere as strictly to the policies set forth in the Code of Ethics, and can face suspension or even termination from both the job and loss of credentials if he or she does not do so. For example, one of the most significant points set forth in the Code of Ethics is that of privileged communications.
A paralegal, no different from an attorney, a doctor, or a minister, is bound from disclosing information that he or she is told, has read, or learns, regarding the case and the client. As a paralegal who works in a law firm or for an individual attorney routinely has access to such information in general, and, in many situations, is the person who actually receives the information directly, the information can go no further than the attorney who is actively working on the case. If someone does not recognize the paralegal in her professional regard, the person may assume that the paralegal is free to talk about a case.
This is not true; for whether a paralegal is your best friend, your spouse, or a family member, she is never at liberty to disclose privileged communications. This is a fact which paralegals and the people in their lives must take seriously; for even talking about a case or a client in a vague manner can lead a paralegal to lose not only her job but her credentials to practice in the field. One of the best ways to keep this in its proper perspective is to keep in mind that while you are working for an attorney, you are basically working for the client as well.
The trust that the client places in his attorney, he also places in you. This is true whether you have had personal communications with the client, or whether everything you know about him and the case has come from the paperwork that you have been dealing with on a regular basis in the office. In the legal field, violating a client’s confidentiality is something which simply is not allowed, and cannot be allowed.
Regardless of the specifics of the case, privileged communications is the client’s right, and it is the responsibility of the paralegal as well as the attorney to ensure that this right is not violated. Even for this reason alone, it is essential for anyone who plans to enter the paralegal field to not only be fully aware of her responsibility for professional conduct, but also be fully willing to adhere to it at all times.
Posted: Tue, 02 Aug 2011 14:45:30 +0000
One of the most interesting facts about becoming a paralegal is that one work day is never like another. There is always different tasks to perform, different information to deal with, different people with whom to interact. This fact alone makes working in the paralegal field a very appealing prospect, for a paralegal’s workday is not a boring one, not a routine one at all.
This is the case regardless of whether you work in a specialized area or with general law, and regardless of whether you work for an individual attorney in his private practice, a large law firm, a community agency, or another type of business. In a paralegal’s work day, there is always something to do, and even tasks which would appear to be basic are all important.
Depending on the place where you work and the area that it covers, you may find yourself doing anything from taking statements from someone in a capital-murder case, assisting in the process of someone who is buying a new home, doing the paperwork for clients who are forming a new business partnership, or operating spreadsheets for tax purposes.
If you work in a firm which specializes in a specific area, the focus of cases may be much more concentrated than one which deals in general law, but even if the cases are specialized you can be assured that you will never find your work to be boring or routine. The basic facts that every case is different and each person you will deal with is unique will make this obvious to you from the very beginning. The wide range of experiences which you will encounter in your work day is highlighted by your paralegal studies. Rather than placing focus on any one particular aspect of paralegal work, you are provided with broad yet detailed information so that you are adequately prepared for nearly anything that you may encounter in your job.
After you have begun working in this exciting field, you will see how quickly and how regularly this will benefit you. In short, the more you know and the more prepared you are, the more effective you will be; and this includes your ability to do the job well, the ability of your daily work to keep your interest and hold your enthusiasm, and, ultimately, your success. Whether you intend to work as a paralegal for a short period of time while furthering your career, or if this is the job you wish to do on a longterm basis, it is one of the best choices that you can make.
There are few other fields in which every work day will feel like a new adventure, bringing some unique experience and sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. You can work as a paralegal for a year, or you can choose it as your lifetime career; but whichever prospect suits you the most, you can be assured that when you have begun working as a paralegal, every work day will present positive experiences for you.
Posted: Tue, 02 Aug 2011 13:45:16 +0000
If you live in one of the states which allow non-attorneys to work in document preparation, you have an exciting way in which you can put your paralegal knowledge to work. It is essential, however, for you to know in advance your particular state laws regarding this subject.
There are a number of positive aspects to working in document preparation. While you may have the option of either working for a document preparation service or having this as your own business, the latter has the potential to help you earn a very nice income, as well as being able to set your own schedule. If you have a passion for the field you are working in and the job that you are doing, this is the most wonderful way to ensure that every day and every assignment is a new adventure.
As each assignment that you contract will be different from the previous assignment, your enthusiasm and interest will continue to grow, and you will never need to be concerned that boredom will ever be a part of your work life. Even in the states which do allow for document preparation to be done without a supervising attorney, there are a couple of very important facts which you must know and keep in mind.
One point is that you can never misrepresent yourself as being an attorney if you actually are not one. This means that whether you work for a service or are in business for yourself, you must be honest with your clients regarding your status, as well as what functions you can and cannot perform. Another important point is that if the law in your state allows you to do this type of work, you cannot solicite, offer, or provide these services outside of the jurisdiction.
What this means is that you cannot take on clients who live in a location where this practice is deemed Unauthorized Practice of Law. If you have a love of the legal field and also enjoy helping people on a one-to-one basis, working in document preparation can be a great option for you. In addition to the paralegal coursework which you have already taken, you can find resources on your own and even take classes to learn how to do this.
The two main factors in being able to do this type of work are having the knowledge of the necessary types of documents, and knowledge of procedure in your specific location. For example, if you are producing the documents for an uncontested divorce case, you will not only need to know what documents are required for such a case, but also the specific format for each one.
Second, you must also know when, where, and by whom a document must be filed. Although these days it is becoming more and more common for people to deal with their own documents, it is generally not in the best interest of an untrained, unqualified individual to attempt to produce his or her own legal documents from a template in a book or an online source. Many people do so simply because they cannot afford the high cost of consulting an attorney. You can provide these services at a much lower cost to them and a good income for yourself.
Posted: Tue, 02 Aug 2011 12:44:57 +0000
Although negativity and popular opinion may suggest otherwise, attorneys are expected to abide by some basic standards both in their professional and their personal lives. A paralegal is expected to adhere to the same standards as an attorney. The reason for this is based on general common sense: when a person in the legal field upholds high standards, both individuals and the public as a whole are much more able to place their trust in him. In the legal field, such trust is essential.
Whether one’s practice involves the sensitive subject of criminal law, the financial importance of tax or corporate or business law, or any other specialized or general law field, both the attorney and the assisting paralegal have the potential to effect significant change in a person’s life, either for the better or for the worse. While professional competence is undeniably important, the standards which the legal professional adheres to is also a factor.
In addition to upholding professional standards in the workplace and when doing field work, the person’s standards in his or her personal life are expected to be above reproach. The character points of integrity, ethics, and basic standards of morality, are not only required by the legal field but expected by the clients whom they serve.
As each and every client deserves not only competent representation but representation by those who take their role seriously, acceptable standards of behavior and lifestyle, absence of illegal drug use or abuse of alcohol, absence of prior criminal history, and the highest standards of both professional and personal ethics and integrity, are prerequisites and ongoing requirements for those who wish to be accepted into the paralegal field and continue to do well in it.
There is simply no legitimate place in the paralegal field for someone who is a recreational drug user, or someone who does not adhere to the laws in his or her jurisdiction, or other negative qualities which would not only diminish the person’s capacity to conduct her job duties effectively but would also diminish both the client’s and the public’s trust in her. As a practicing attorney is expected to follow the professional code of standards, so is a paralegal equally bound to it. While the direct wording of this code is quite clear, it is actually common sense for a person who wishes to not only do the best but also be the best that she can be, both in her professional and personal life.
The paralegal field will give you many interesting, positive, exciting opportunities. A very important part of it is the professional status that you will have in this line of work. You must, however, be completely willing and completely able to maintain the highest possible standards not only on the job but in all of the other areas of your life.
The legal field is not for everyone; before making the final decision as to whether it is the right one for you, you should first assess your attitudes and priorities in order to establish that the high standards set forth for this field are not a sacrifice but your chosen way of life.
Posted: Tue, 02 Aug 2011 11:44:41 +0000
If you are a paralegal, or are planning to enter this career field, you might also like to consider becoming a Notary Public. Although states vary in their requirements for this, if you live in an area where your paralegal training also qualifies you to carry out the duties of a Notary Public, you will be providing a very valuable service to your community.
Whether you live in a large city or a rural location, you may have had the experience of not being able to find a Notary Public when you needed one. In addition, many Notaries are located in banks, post offices, and within other such businesses which often do not have business hours that are as convenient as many people need them to be. If you are qualified to provide this service, it can be both a very helpful way of assisting others, as well as a rewarding experience for you yourself. Although the classifications of Notaries vary, also, providing this service generally includes the basic duties of administering oaths, being witness to the signing of a variety of legal documents, and placing your Notary Public stamp on each document to verify that you have personally carried out these tasks.
As each state varies in its laws regarding qualifications necessary in order to become a Notary Public, as well as differences in the processes for doing so, if you are interested in providing this service it is essential that you first find out the facts specific to your state. To illustrate how important it is to make certain of your state specific laws well in advance, it is interesting to note that while some states require nothing more than an application and an accompanying fee, others require a licensure examination, and yet others require a prospective Notary Public to be bonded before becoming able to practice. If all of this appears confusing, it need not be; all you really need to do is find out where your state laws stand, meet its requirements, and follow its procedure.
Although it is not likely that you can earn a comfortable living solely by providing Notary Public services, it is a great option to consider in addition to your regular paralegal job. If you are currently working for an attorney, he or she will probably be more than willing to help you get the information that you need regarding the requirements, regulations, and process for becoming a Notary.
If you have ever needed to get an important document notarized on short notice as most of us have! you are already well aware of the need for more people who are willing to provide this service, and willing to provide it at convenient times, in convenient places. If you are considering taking on the duties of a Notary Public in addition to your regular job as a paralegal, you may be further spurred toward making the decision to do so when you realize exactly how essential this service is to the community.
Posted: Tue, 02 Aug 2011 10:44:05 +0000
Whether you are young or not-so-young, planning your first venture into a career or changing careers in mid-life, you might like to consider becoming a paralegal. This field will open up a world of opportunities, enjoyment, and personal satisfaction for you! First, if you become a paralegal you will be taking on a very important role in the legal field. As one who has begun training for this career is taught, a paralegal needs to be as aware and up-to-date on laws, procedure, and the legal system, as the attorneys. Assisting an attorney is no small role, for you will be providing some very valuable functions– in short, lessening the attorney’s workload by dealing with many of his or her essential tasks.
Second, working as a paralegal will give you the benefit of meeting many interesting people. Whether you are working in the office, providing hands-on assistance with legal cases, or preparing documents, your life will be enriched by the many fascinating people you get to interact with along the way. In addition, paralegal work provides a valuable service to the community. As there are not nearly enough qualified attorneys available to deal with every necessary aspect of legal work, there are a number of services which can be dealt with by a trained paralegal instead. While these services vary depending upon the specific laws in the state where you reside, many states allow paralegals to serve in some capacity to the community. The range of benefits to paralegal work also extend to income.
Although pay rates vary in different areas, the general pay scale for a trained, qualified paralegal is very nice indeed! If you are considering entering this field, you will also be glad to know that in most locations paralegals are much in demand, which will make it relatively easy to get a job as well as the all-important factor of job security once you have been hired for the position.
Another wonderful aspect to working in the paralegal field is that it will expand your range of knowledge and will keep you up-to-date with the frequent changes in the courts and legal system.
As a paralegal, you will need to stay well-informed and current with the status of laws and procedure in general, but especially those surrounding the specific field of law that your attorney deals with on a regular basis. As you can see, there are many benefits in paralegal work.
After you have considered all of these exciting opportunities which will be open to you, it is quite likely that you will decide that it is the career you have been looking for. What other field can hold so many opportunities for doing a type of work that is absolutely essential, playing a large role between an attorney and the public, while giving you job satisfaction, the chance to advance in your career if you wish to do so, and personal enjoyment, all at the same time? The paralegal field offers all of this and more to you!
Posted: Tue, 02 Aug 2011 09:43:19 +0000
You may have heard of CLE, but are not sure of what it is or why it is important. It is not difficult to find the answers to everything you need to know on this subject. For a paralegal and, for that matter, anyone in the legal profession.
Continuing Legal Education is indeed important! Whether or not you are actually required to earn CLE credit on a regular basis due to such factors as it being a requirement for the job that you hold, mandatory where you reside, or based on a term of your certification, Continuing Legal Education should be considered essential for every paralegal, even when it is not required.
The main purpose of Continuing Legal Education is not so much to gain more education in general, but to keep your knowledge and information updated on a regular basis. In turn, the main reason for this is for the paralegal to always be as current as possible regarding all of the important aspects of the legal field. As most people who have any part in the legal field are well aware, there are frequent changes in many aspects of the field, and it is essential to stay current in order to do one’s job effectively. There are a number of ways in which you can earn your CLE credits. If you wish, you can take classes at a college or university in your location.
Most good schools offer these classes. However, if your job or other everyday responsibilities make time a factor for you, you can easily earn your CLE credits even within your time limitations. Many paralegal associations and groups that you can easily find online offer you the option of taking the classes or seminars. When you elect to earn your credits through this online method, you will find that it is not difficult at all to fit it into your busy schedule. In addition to providing you with the most up-to-date relevant information, CLE will also give you the opportunity to brush up on your basic knowledge and skills.
Especially in the instance of skills which you do not use on a consistent basis, this is a good way of ensuring that you do not fall behind in things that you need to know how to do. For example, even if you do not use a specific office program on a regular basis, it is important to keep your skills polished for when you will need to use it.
Whether earning CLE credit is required for you to continue in your job or not, everything that you will learn from these classes or seminars make Continuing Legal Education a very relevant part of a paralegal’s work life. Both in terms of keeping your basic skills in ready shape and being current with the frequent changes in the legal field, Continuing Legal Education is well worth the time and effort that you will put into it. It is by far the best way for a practicing paralegal to be the most effective at his or her job.
Posted: Tue, 02 Aug 2011 08:42:51 +0000
Conflict of interest is a very serious subject for attorneys; it is a very serious subject for paralegals, as well. Unfortunately, problems can sometimes occur if a paralegal is not aware that she is bound by the same regulations as an attorney– including the regulations surrounding this subject.
It is very important for a paralegal to know the facts, so that she will be much less likely to make these mistakes. For an attorney, conflict of interest is the term that is usually used in reference to representing two or more opposing parties in any legal proceeding. An example would be representing both the husband and the wife in a divorce case, or both the buyer and the seller in a property transaction. While a paralegal is not in the role of representing a client in a proceeding, there are a few ways in which conflict of interest can occur.
One mistake a paralegal can make is conflict of interest when working for more than one attorney. Sometimes this occurs within one law firm; in other instances it can happen if the paralegal is working for more than one law firm. Although it is not usually done intentionally, the problem can occur if she is working for two or more different attorneys who are representing the opposing parties.
The primary reason for such strict regulations against conflict of interest is that it is assumed unfair for the attorney, the paralegal, or anyone else who is working on a case on the behalf of one client to have access to the confidential information of the other client. Although this problem can occur within a single law firm, it is even more important that a paralegal make certain to avoid it if she is working for more than one firm.
The easiest way to go about this is to simply inform the attorney that she cannot assist with a case because it would be conflict of interest. It is imperative that the paralegal who finds herself in this situation not discuss one supervising attorney’s case with another attorney.
For a paralegal who elects to work by freelancing, it is of the utmost importance to keep this in mind at all times. Not only can a paralegal who either willingly or unintentionally makes this mistake face losing her legal capacity to practice, the attorney who has knowledge of this can also lose his license if he either promotes or allows it. The specifics regarding conflict of interest are not very difficult to understand; and, with the facts in hand, the regulations surrounding this subject are also not very difficult to adhere to.
Even though conflict of interest is one of the most serious breaches of professional conduct, and can result in severe penalties, the problem would not occur as frequently if every paralegal is knowledgeable about the facts. This does not simply mean the facts about this particular subject, but also that most regulations which an attorney is bound to adhere to are equally applicable to paralegals.