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Can a Paralegal Give Legal Advice?

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As a teen and young adult, I was with lawyers. My mom attended law school. She was a paralegal for some time in two different states where we lived. My sister was employed at the courthouse when the famous O.J. Simpson case in Los Angeles was taking place before her departure for law school. I was wondering whether paralegals could give legal advice?

What Is a Paralegal?

A paralegal is an expert trained to assist lawyers in various capacities. They have multiple responsibilities, for example, clerical work, and also perform an extensive amount of substantive legal work.

They will conduct legal and factual research, write legal documents that have to be signed or issued in direct contact with clients to assist in any way the lawyer requests, and assume responsibility for the cases.

A paralegal can also speak with witnesses, clients, and others, gather and analyze information, make a summary of depositions and other documents, prepare pleadings and briefs and assist lawyers in trial preparation and preparation. In certain states, paralegals may be permitted to create wills, deeds, and trusts and help with estates and the management of property and tax returns for estates.

A Paralegal Is Not Allowed to Practice Law

The practice of paralegal law is a breach of Model Rule 5.5 Model Code DR 3101 and is a crime in all states.

Appear in Court Before a Judge

A majority of states won’t allow legal professionals to be present before administrative tribunals or other adjudicative bodies unless the rules of the adjudicatory entity’s procedure permit a paralegal to appear.

In addition, no state law permits paralegals to supervise depositions. But, they can oversee deposits. Particular state or federal laws allow paralegals to offer representation to clients in certain administrative proceedings.

Give Legal Advice

Paralegals aren’t permitted to offer their opinions or provide legal advice. Clients have the right to access their legal counsel’s professional judgment and guidance as it is as being in the best interest of the public that lawyers only offer an expert opinion on the matter that is being dealt with. If the attorney grants, paralegals can communicate legal advice to clients. They aren’t allowed to interpret or extend the direction.

Establish the Attorney-Client Relationship

While paralegals may talk to potential clients, gather details about a possible case, and, in some states, can draft an agreement to retain their client’s signature, they can’t decide whether to accept the case, thus establishing the relationship between the attorney and the client. This decision is entirely up to the lawyer.

Sign Legal Papers and Pleadings on Behalf of the Lawyer Without Disclosing Their Paralegal Status

Many states allow paralegals to sign documents if their position as a paralegal is identified. Furthermore, the paralegal’s status as a nonlawyer has to be made clear to the client, and the lawyer has to ensure that this information is made known. This is to prevent confusion, where a person could be deceived into thinking that the paralegal is, in fact, an attorney.

Set and Collect Fees for Legal Services Rendered

In 2010 there was a controversy that involved a lawyer named Stephen Hrones, who operated an office of law in Boston. His work was in the field of civil rights and criminal defense.

Porter and the company agreed to sign an agreement for a contingent fee with Porter’s clients. All retainers and fees will pay to Hrones’ company. Hrones would provide Porter with two-thirds of the fees collected and keep one-third.

Porter’s name was mentioned on the company’s letterhead as a paralegal. Porter was permitted to wear the firm’s business card, which was also noted as a paralegal. While Hrones had been tasked to supervise Porter, the company did not deal with cases of discrimination in the workplace and had limited expertise in this field of law. Hrones intended that Porter was to work in a manner that was independent of any supervision from the firm. So, no one would supervise Porter’s activities.

In this case, Porter, a paralegal who was not licensed as an attorney, advertised the service as his own. He formulated fees, signed fee agreements, and collected payments. In addition, he filed complaints. Prepared the pleadings as well as conducted discovery. He also advised clients about their rights as legal and settled disputes and did all other work for the case.

At some time, Porter got into trouble; however, Hrones did not initiate any actions against Porter or take any action to defend the rights of discriminated clients. He didn’t even end his association with Porter.

In Conclusion

The work of a paralegal is exceptionally crucial. Lawyers do not rely only on their skills but also on their aid in mundane but crucial tasks. A skilled paralegal can be an essential asset for any lawyer – so long as they stay within the confines of the law.

Brian Santiago

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