Are we Ethical?

For as long as I can remember there have always been “lawyer jokes.”  However, it appears that when lawyers can do something to change the way they are perceived by the public they choose to do nothing instead.   On May 3, 2007, Cindy Lopez, a New Jersey paralegal, and founder of NJParalegal published an article in the New Jersey Law Journal regarding paralegal ethics and ethics training A Conspicuous Hole in Ethics Training.

In 1969, the ABA published what is known as the the Model Code of Professional Responsibility.  Since then the Code has been revised may times.  Thirty amendments have been made to the Model Rules and I am sure more will follow.  Because paralegals work under the supervision of the attorneys, they are bound by the same ABA Code as the attorneys.  All the ethics regulations that apply to the lawyer also apply to the paralegals.  Therefore, make sure you are fully familiar with the Code.

NALA “The National Association of Legal Assistants” developed the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct to guide the conduct of its members.  The Code was revised on various occasions and the last revision occurred in 1995 as it now stands. NFPA“The National Federation of Paralegal Associations” first adopted its Affirmation of Responsibility.  The Affirmation was revised in 1981.  NFPA finally adopted a completely new Code in 1993.  

In her article with the New Jersey Law Journal, Cindy Lopez states that in a poll taken on January 3, 2007, by NJParalegal 80% of the paralegals that responded to the poll had not received training by their attorney on ethics rules.  It is sad to say, but when a paralegal works in such closeness to the clients and the attorney, wouldn’t it benefit both to have some type of ethics training?  Do we not see the writing on the wall?

As a veteran paralegal, I am not surprised.  I have personally witnessed, on various occasions, some “new” paralegals not disclosing their title when on the telephone, giving out legal advice in response to a question. 

Some large firms in New Jersey briefly speak with new hires and ask them to sign a confidentiality agreement, smaller firms, however, rarely do anything stating instead that “they do not specifically address the issue; it has only caused a problem occasionally, and the behavior was corrected when needed.”  A Conspicuous Hole in Ethics Training.

One thought on “Are we Ethical?

  1. In California, there is a certain amount of continuing CLE required for paralegals, and ethics is one of the mandatory requirements.

    I’ve seen the type of behaviour you describe by some new paralegals, I’ve also seen some pretty questionable ethics from new attorneys as well, e.g., discussing ongoing cases in places other than the law firm they are employed by.

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