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Standing Committee on Paralegals

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The Standing Committee on Paralegals, formerly Standing Committee on Legal Assistants, is a standing committee of the State Bar of Texas organized to promote and assist the legal profession in the use of paralegals. Below you will find links to other State Bar related sites, dates and places of interest, and the names and addresses of the current officers and members of the Committee.

What's Here

  1. Paralegal Definition
  2. Texas Paralegal's Creed
  3. Resources and Links
  4. Articles
PARALEGAL DEFINITION AND STANDARDS ADOPTED BY THE STATE BAR OF TEXAS

"In 2005, the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors, the State Bar of Texas Standing Committee on Paralegals, and the Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas, adopted a new definition for “Paralegal:”

A paralegal is a person, qualified through various combinations of education, training, or work experience, who is employed or engaged by a lawyer, law office, governmental agency, or other entity in a capacity or function which involves the performance, under the ultimate direction and supervision of a licensed attorney, of specifically delegated substantive legal work, which work, for the most part, requires a sufficient knowledge of legal principles and procedures that, absent such person, an attorney would be required to perform the task.

On April 21, 2006, the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors approved amending this definition by including the following standards, which are intended to assist the public in obtaining quality legal services, assist attorneys in their utilization of paralegals, and assist judges in determining whether paralegal work is a reimbursable cost when granting attorney fees:

A. Support for Education, Training, and Work Experience:

1.    Attorneys are encouraged to promote:

a.   paralegal attendance at continuing legal education programs;
b.   paralegal board certification through the Texas Board of Legal Specialization 
      (TBLS);
c.   certification through a national paralegal organization such as the National 
      Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of  
      Paralegal 
      Associations (NFPA); and
d.   membership in the Paralegal Division of the State Bar and/or local paralegal 
      organizations.

2.    In hiring paralegals and determining whether they possess the requisite education, 
       attorneys are encouraged to consider the following:

a.   A specialty certification conferred by TBLS; or
b.   A CLA/CP certification conferred by NALA.; or
c.   A PACE certification conferred by NFPA; or
d.   A bachelor's or higher degree in any field together with a minimum of one (1) 
      year of employment experience performing substantive legal work under the 
      direct supervision of a duly licensed attorney AND completion of 15 hours of 
      Continuing Legal Education within that year; or
e.   A certificate of completion from an ABA-approved program of education and 
      training for paralegals; or
f.    A certificate of completion from a paralegal program administered by any 
      college or university accredited or approved by the Texas Higher Education 
      Coordinating Board or its equivalent in another state.

3.    Although it is desirable that an employer hire a paralegal who has received legal instruction 
       from a formal education program, the State Bar recognizes that some paralegals are 
       nevertheless qualified if they received their training through previous work experience. In the 
       event an applicant does not meet the educational criteria, it is suggested that only those 
       applicants who have obtained a minimum of four (4) years previous work experience in 
       performing substantive legal work, as that term is defined below, be considered a paralegal.

B. Delegation of Substantive Legal Work:

"Substantive legal work" includes, but is not limited to, the following: conducting client interviews and maintaining general contact with the client; locating and interviewing witnesses; conducting investigations and statistical and documentary research; drafting documents, correspondence, and pleadings; summarizing depositions, interrogatories, and testimony; and attending executions of wills, real estate closings, depositions, court or administrative hearings, and trials with an attorney.

"Substantive legal work" does not include clerical or administrative work. Accordingly, a court may refuse to provide recovery of paralegal time for such nonsubstantive work. Gill Sav. Ass'n v. Int'l Supply Co., Inc., 759 S.W.2d 697, 705 (Tex. App. Dallas 1988, writ denied).

C. Consideration of Ethical Obligations (See Note* below):
  1. Attorney. The employing attorney has the responsibility for ensuring that the conduct of the paralegal performing the services is compatible with the professional obligations of the attorney. It also remains the obligation of the employing or supervising attorney to fully inform a client as to whether a paralegal will work on the legal matter, what the paralegal's fee will be, and whether the client will be billed for any nonsubstantive work performed by the paralegal.
  2. Paralegal. A paralegal is prohibited from engaging in the practice of law, providing legal advice, signing pleadings, negotiating settlement agreements, soliciting legal business on behalf of an attorney, setting a legal fee, accepting a case, or advertising or contracting with members of the general public for the performance of legal functions.

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*Note: a more expansive list is included in the "General Guidelines for the Utilization of the Services of Legal Assistants by Attorneys" (pdf) approved by the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas, May, 1993.

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Texas Paralegal's Creed

Download the Texas Paralegal's Creed [PDF].

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Resources and Links

Publications and Guides

Links

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Articles

If you have an article of interest relating to paralegals, utilizing paralegals in a legal setting, etc., please contact Paralegals Committee Vice Chair Darla Fisher at dfisher@lcalawfirm.com.

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