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PRDV301: Introduction to Paralegal Studies

Unit 9: The Regulation and Ethical Duties of Paralegals   Clients come to law offices relying on lawyers and paralegals to be trustworthy and to exercise their best efforts on behalf of the client.  In the example in the introduction to Unit 7, we spoke of an entrepreneur in business.  What if that client’s husband calls seeking information on the case?  You might presume that their interests are the same, but what if they are not?  Should you provide information to the client’s husband?

This unit will address the law regulating paralegals and the ethical duties involved in this profession.  While the laws directly regulating paralegals are not generally as fully developed as those regulating lawyers, it is important to remember that lawyers generally employ paralegals.  Attorneys you will be working for are governed by both Model Rule developed by the American Bar Association as well as state-specific codes of Professional Responsibility.  Each has rules relating to paralegals and legal administrative staff. As a result, the legal and ethical duties of lawyers are impacted by the actions of their paralegals.  Like a lawyer, a paralegal is going to be expected to maintain confidentiality, avoid conflicts with the interests of the client, and know the limits of the paralegal’s representation of the client.  This unit will provide a firm foundation for understanding the paralegal’s duties.

Unit 9 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 3 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 9.1: 1.75 hours

☐    Subunit 9.2: 1.25 hours

Unit9 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - Describe the laws regulating lawyers and paralegals. - Describe the ethical duties of paralegals.

9.1 Laws Regulating Lawyers and Paralegals   - Reading: American Bar Association’s “Model Rules of Professional Conduct” Link: American Bar Association’s “Model Rules of Professional Conduct” (HTML)

 Instruction: This link provides access to the American Bar
Association’s “Model Rules of Professional Conduct” for lawyers.
 Nearly every state has adopted some variation of the Model Rules.
 Take the opportunity to explore the rules, particularly focusing on
Rule 5.3, 5.5, and 5.7.  In addition, you will want to review the
rules under the section entitled “Client-Lawyer Relationship,”
relating to confidentiality and conflicts of interest.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 5: Legal Ethics” Link: B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program: Keith Nordyke’s Intro to Law and the Paralegal Profession: “Chapter 5: Legal Ethics” (PDF)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above and read Chapter 5, which begins on page 39.  This reading will provide you a broad overview of the topic of legal ethics.  You will notice that much of the ethical responsibility of paralegals originates in the specific ethical requirements applicable to lawyers.  In addition, in various jurisdictions and situations, there may be more specific statutes and court rules as well as the ethical requirements of the various paralegal membership organizations.  Note in particular the discussion on the unauthorized practice of law, and remember that paralegals are not lawyers and acting as lawyers can lead to penalties for paralegals.

    Reading this chapter should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted by the kind permission of the B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn Correctional Center College Correspondence Program and Keith Nordyke.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

  • Reading: American Bar Association’s “ABA Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services” Link: American Bar Association’s “ABA Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services” (PDF)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above, which will take you to a webpage entitled “Information for Lawyers: How Paralegals Can Improve Your Practice.”  Scroll down to Item 4, and click on the link to “ABA Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services.” These ABA Guidelines provide the perspective of the country’s largest association of attorneys with regard to effective use of paralegal services.  As you read, keep in mind that the provision of basic legal services by paralegals independent of the supervision of attorneys provides a challenge to the virtual monopoly licensed lawyers have on the provision of legal services.  Note the emphasis on the central responsibility of the attorney for the actions of paralegals.

    Reading this article should take approximately 45 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.2 Duties of a Paralegal   9.2.1 Confidentiality and Privilege   - Reading: Central Florida Paralegal Association: Thomas E. Spahn, Esq.’s “A Basic Guide for Paralegals: Ethics, Confidentiality and Privilege” Link: Central Florida Paralegal Association: Thomas E. Spahn, Esq.’s “A Basic Guide for Paralegals: Ethics, Confidentiality and Privilege” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and then select “Click
this link to view the guide.”  This document provides important
ethical guidelines for paralegals to follow, particularly with
regard to the issues of confidentiality and privileged
communications.  This reading also provides information about the
paralegal’s responsibility in avoiding conflicts of interest,
avoiding the unauthorized practice of law, and knowing the limits of
zealous representation.  Note that this reading will also cover
material you need to know for sub-subunits 9.2.2-9.2.4.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

9.2.2 Avoiding Conflicts of Interest   Note: This topic is covered by the reading assigned below sub-subunit 9.2.1.  Focus on the discussion on the issue of conflicts of interest and how a paralegal should handle any conflicts on pages 23–27.

9.2.3 Avoiding the Unauthorized Practice of Law   Note: This topic is covered by the reading assigned below sub-subunit 9.2.1.  Focus on the discussion on the issue of unauthorized practice of law, especially as this applies to paralegals, on pages 4–11.

9.2.4 Limits of Zealous Representation   Note: This topic is covered by the reading assigned below sub-subunit 9.2.1.  Focus on the discussion on zealous representation of clients and its limits on pages 34–37.

9.2.5 Competency and Malpractice   - Reading: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “Competence” Link: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “Competence” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the entire
article.  This article discusses the paralegal’s responsibility to
do all they do with appropriate competence.  This means that if a
paralegal does not have the education, training, experience, or
skills to do a certain task, this must be communicated to the
supervising attorney.  In addition, you will learn about the
importance of education and working with experience attorneys to
avoid problems with competence.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 10 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
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9.2.6 Handling Money   - Reading: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “Client Trust Accounts” Link: NetPlaces: Steve W. Schneider’s “Client Trust Accounts” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this entire
article.  This article discusses the handling of client trust
accounts, an activity with which paralegals are often involved.
 Handling client money comes with specific ethical obligations for
the lawyer, and, by extension, the paralegal.  Notice that a
paralegal takes on an important responsibility when he or she
oversees a client trust account and must insist on good accounting
practices.  Be sure to familiarize yourself with the four different
types of client trust accounts.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 10 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.