The American Bar Association has some updated suggestions for the appropriate distribution of work to paralegals. Here are the current guidelines:
Guideline 1: A lawyer is responsible for all of the professional actions of a paralegal performing services at the lawyer's direction and should take reasonable measures to ensure that the paralegal's conduct is consistent with the lawyer's obligations under the rules of professional conduct of the jurisdiction in which the lawyer practices.
Guideline 2: Provided the lawyer maintains responsibility for the work product, a lawyer may delegate to a paralegal any task normally performed by the lawyer except those tasks proscribed to a non-lawyer by statute, court rule, administrative rule or regulation, controlling authority, the applicable rule of professional conduct of the jurisdiction in which the lawyer practices, or these guidelines.
Guideline 3: A lawyer may not delegate to a paralegal:
(a.) Responsibility for establishing an attorney-client relationship.
(b.)Responsibility for establishing the amount of a fee to be charged for a legal service.
(c.) Responsibility for a legal opinion rendered to a client.
Guideline 4: A lawyer is responsible for taking reasonable measures to ensure that clients, courts, and other lawyers are aware that a paralegal, whose services are utilized by the lawyer in performing legal services, is not licensed to practice law.
Guideline 5: A lawyer may identify paralegals by name and title on the lawyer's letterhead and on business cards identifying the lawyer's firm.
Guideline 6: A lawyer is responsible for taking reasonable measures to ensure that all client confidences are preserved by a paralegal.
Guideline 7: A lawyer should take reasonable measures to prevent conflicts of interest resulting from a paralegal's other employment or interests.
Guideline 8: A lawyer may include a charge for the work performed by a paralegal in setting a charge and/or billing for legal services.
Guideline 9: A lawyer may not split legal fees with a paralegal nor pay a paralegal for the referral of legal business. A lawyer may compensate a paralegal based on the quantity and quality of a paralegal's work and the value of that work to a law practice, but the paralegal's compensation may not be contingent, by advance agreement, upon the outcome of a particular case or class of cases.
Guideline 10: A lawyer who employs a paralegal should facilitate the paralegal's participation in appropriate continuing education and pro bono public activities.
For more advice in establishing the best lawyer-paralegal relationship, visit www.abanet.org.
By Neil Whitehall
Get Paralegal Jobs, Contributing Editor
Source: “ABA Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services,” Copyright 2004 American Bar Association. Reprinted by permission.