Currently, obtaining paralegal certification is not a mandatory requirement; in fact, for most states (California is the only exception to this rule), the paralegal field is not required to be regulated at all. However, many paralegals choose to be self-regulating, following standards and codes of ethics of local or national paralegal associations.
Some may argue that the legal field itself has ways to monitor paralegal activities, such as the prohibition against engaging in the practice of law. Although, paralegals cannot participate in the unauthorized practice of law, that law against non-attorneys practicing law pertains to every person, whether you're working as a paralegal or even a house keeper. However, since paralegals have more chance to take part in activities that may cause harm to clients with legal problems and issues, the question that is being bounced around now is whether paralegals should be forced to be certified.
Proponents of mandatory certification think that mandatory certification will bring the deserved respect for the profession by eliminating individuals who work essentially as secretaries from being referred to as paralegals. Also mandatory paralegal certification would set up educational and ethical guidelines, thereby raising paralegals' standing and hopefully their pay.
Mandatory certification could also prove to be beneficial for attorneys because generally, they will be able to bill clients extra for the certified paralegal's time than they can for a paralegal that has not received certification. Those same law firms can utilize certified paralegals in lieu of hiring entry-level associates to do some of the same types of work, such as conducting research, interviewing witnesses, and drafting responses to discovery requests.
Some, that do not believe that certification must be mandatory believe that government intervention in this way will harm the paralegal industry. It's believed that mandatory certification will likely impose limits on what work paralegals can do. Also, you will find there's a belief that mandatory certification is nothing more than a licensing hoax and a way of controlling who attorneys are allowed to hire. Instead of mandatory certification, many think that regulation can be accomplished through effective supervision through the the employing attorney.
Whether paralegal certification ought to be mandatory is a question that may continue to be debated for a while. Paralegals who would like to be proactive may decide to get ahead of the trend (that is probably inevitable) and go ahead and get certified because certification can be beneficial for those wanting to further their career, increase their knowledge base, or increase their income.
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