Sunday, September 13, 2009

Resources for Paralegals: The American Bar Association

The American Bar Association isn't just about attorneys. Through some outstanding programs, the ABA promotes the paralegal profession and offers some excellent resources for paralegals.

The ABA's policy making body, the House of Delegates, adopted the current definition of "legal assistant/paralegal" in 1997. The definition reads as follows:

A legal assistant or paralegal is a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.
According to the ABA's Web site, "The current definition of "legal assistant/paralegal" replaces the definition adopted by the ABA Board of Governors in 1986. It adds the term "paralegal" since the terms "legal assistant" and "paralegal" are, in practice, used interchangeably. The term that is preferred generally depends on what part of the country one is from. The current definition streamlines the 1986 definition and more accurately reflects how legal assistants are presently being utilized in the delivery of legal services. "

The ABA has also adopted Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services. The Model Guidelines were originally adopted in 1991and are intended to encourage lawyers to utilize paralegal services effectively and promote the continued growth of the paralegal profession. The Guidelines were revised in 2004 to incorporate new case law, new advisory opinions, new and revised state guidelines and changes in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct since the original publication date.

Are you a paralegal who has recently lost their job? Want to know how to market yourself in today's economy? The ABA's Economic Recovery Resources portal contains resources and tips on a variety of topics for lawyers and paralegals. Gain access to invaluable information and resources for job search/networking, stress management, professional development and much more. Visit the new ABA Job Board to search for jobs, create a profile and upload your resume.

The Standing Committee on Paralegals develops and promotes policies relating to the education, employment, training and effective use of paralegals. The Standing Committee, through its Approval Commission, continues to serve as the body to set standards for paralegal education.

The Standing Committee monitors trends in the field and recommends for approval and reapproval to the House of Delegates (the ABA's policy-making body) those paralegal training programs that have met the standards and guidelines set by the ABA for quality paralegal education.

In addition to overseeing its approval program, the Standing Committee also monitors trends in the field. The Standing Committee maintains an information service for those persons interested in becoming paralegals. In an average year, the staff office processes more than 6,000 requests for information and responds to numerous requests for help.

The ABA also offers information for preparing for a career as a paralegal, where to get training and what it means to graduate from an ABA-approved paralegal education program. Read past articles from our Update newsletter. Here some additional resources produced by the ABA:

Your ABA: Ethics training for paralegals: a winning situation for clients
2005 Survey of Approved Paralegal Education Programs
Economic Benefits of Paralegal Utilization
Information for Lawyers: How Paralegals Can Improve Your Practice

Be sure to visit the ABA Web site to check out all of the information available there, including various publications and a list of paralegal blawgs.


Amanda said...

I am a new paralegal student. I find your blog and tweets very interesting. I do have one question. How important is it that paralegal education is ABA accredited? I am completing the GW MPS program, but it is not ABA accredited. Will this pose a problem with future employment? I plan to sit for the NALA exam upon completion of my program. Thank you for your advise.

Paralegal Mentor said...

Amanda...Thanks for visiting the Paralegal Mentor Blog and for leaving a comment. While ABA approval is very important, the GW MPS program is so new that I have no idea how it will be accepted in the workplace. That said, I assume that you have your Bachelor's Degree. This degree (in any subject area) is an important criteria that many firms are looking for in a job candidate. That, along with the NALA certification, will usually give you the credibility you need.