CONCLAVE 2019 Wrap-up
By: Jane Anne Gross, Paraprofessional Coordinator, Reed Smith LLP
I represented the IPMA at the April meeting of the Conclave, a gathering of associations representing, educating or connected with paralegals. The associations had been meeting on a regular basis until about ten years ago. The American Association for Paralegal Education hosted the meeting which was also attended by representatives from the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Paralegals, NFPA, NALS and ALA.
We first brainstormed to see what common concerns and issues could be highlighted. We wrapped up many issues (i.e., licensing, utilization, education) under the rubric of promoting the paralegal profession. The educators noted that many small town and rural attorneys are still not cognizant of the many ways a paralegal could benefit their practice and increase its profitability. We discussed how we could best get that word out and considered an article highlighting effective paralegal and attorney teamwork, perhaps to run in the ABA or state bar publications. The educators were concerned with the recent demise of a number of paralegal educational programs, but the ABA representatives pointed out that as some programs closed, others opened. It was noted that attendance at paralegal programs is typically better in a poor economy than in a good one.
The educators asked whether their programs were focusing on what was actually needed in the workplace. Do they need to emphasize soft skills more? Are graduates prepared from a technology standpoint? Are graduates realistic about job opportunities, responsibilities and salaries? I did note that real estate, corporate and trusts and estates paralegals were currently in high demand. I contributed the paralegal management perspective to the discussion.
A proposal has been made by NFPA that the ABA remove the term “legal assistant” from its definition of paralegal. The group’s conclusion was that the use of both terms as synonyms could be creating a confusion in the public as to just what the professional “Paralegal” job classification entails. If any of you have an opinion about the deletion of the term “legal assistant” from the ABA definition, please pass your concerns on to me and I will forward them to the ABA committee for consideration. They plan to take up the proposal in the near future. In terms of revamping the definition of paralegal and raising the profession’s profile, would minimum standards be helpful? A minimum education standard? Minimum experience or both? How would this be handled across 50 states or should it be handled on a state by state basis?
What will be the long- and short-term impact of Limited Liability Technicians who are now practicing in the state of Washington? These LLTs are able to handle simple divorces or real estate transactions but if the matters become contested, they must be handed off to an attorney. Are most LLTs former paralegals? We agreed that this LLT position is so new that meaningful data is not yet available but that we need to keep an eye on the impact of LLTs in the legal marketplace.
We all agreed that we had spent a fruitful time together discussing these areas of common concerns and agreed that we would like to cooperate in the future sharing of ideas and work to a closer collaboration between our respective organizations.
"It was a mission to find common ground and discuss ways of promoting the paralegal profession. Although each organization serves the paralegal community in different ways, we all learned from one another and gained some understanding of how we can better work together. This was the first of these meetings since 2008. The conversation has been reignited!"