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Bill would regulate paralegals

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first_img April 1, 2005 Senior Editor Regular News Bill would regulate paralegals Provides disbarred attorneys can’t be paralegals either Gary Blankenship Senior EditorA bill to set up a state board to regulate paralegals has been filed by Sen. Nancy Argenziano, R-Crystal River.SB 2054, filed early in March, would also define paralegals mostly as those working for lawyers or government offices and make it a felony to violate the law.Argenziano said she’s concerned with people who call themselves paralegals, who don’t work under attorney supervision and who are opening up clinics in Florida, including at shopping malls.“What it does is professionalizes the profession,” she said. “It puts in some protections for the consumer.”It also clarifies that only those working in the traditional paralegal setting can call themselves paralegals, and that paralegals and the unsupervised clinic operators may not provide legal services. In addition, it provides some regulation of the services that the clinics can legally provide, Argenziano said.The bill, called the Paralegal Profession Act, defines a paralegal as someone “who is employed or retained by a licensed attorney, law office, governmental agency, or other entity, and who performs substantive legal work for which a licensed attorney is responsible that, absent the paralegal, the licensed attorney would perform.”Alternatively, according to the bill, the paralegal is “[a] person who is. . . authorized by local, state, or federal statute, rules of court, or administrative rules to perform substantive legal work without the supervision of a licensed attorney.”The bill provides that a disbarred attorney or a convicted felon may not be a paralegal, and that no one can call himself or herself a paralegal or similar name unless they are regulated by the act or exempted by the paralegal board created by the act.The bill also sets education training standards for paralegals, CLE requirements, and provides for grandfathering of those who are already working as paralegals. Those who would be grandfathered must have a high school diploma, worked full time as a paralegal for five years, have two hours of ethics and professionalism, and apply to the board for a license.The Paralegal Regulation Board would have 15 members. Initially, 10 would be appointed by the Florida Alliance of Paralegal Associations, Inc., for staggered three year terms, and then those 10 would be elected by licensed paralegals. Three members would be paralegal educators appointed by the paralegal members of the board.One would be a public member. The last would be an attorney who is also a member of the Bar’s Standing Committee on the Unlicensed Practice of Law, and appointed by the committee chair.If passed, the law would go into effect October 1, and the members of the board would be appointed 60 days before that date. The board is authorized to prepare a budget for paralegal regulation, and also authorize reciprocity with other states.The bill also makes practicing without being licensed a third degree felony, the same punishment the legislature approved last year when it toughened the penalties for the unlicensed practice of law.The bill would also amend F.S. § 57.104 and F.S. § 744.108 on awarding attorneys fees, to provide that the sections referring to legal assistants will now be paralegals as defined in the proposed new law.As this News went to press, the bill had not been scheduled for a hearing. A similar bill, HB 1519, was filed by Rep. Juan Zapata, R-Miami, but has yet to be scheduled at any committees. Bill would regulate paralegalslast_img


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