The term "paralegal" (a person qualified through education, training or work experience, to perform substantive legal work that requires knowledge of legal concepts and is customarily, but not exclusively, performed by a lawyers) was coined in 1968. Since then the legal profession has developed, encouraged, increased the training and utilization of nonlawyer assistants, PARALEGALS, to enable lawyers, the court system, and the criminal an civil justice system to discharge their professional responsibilities more effectively and efficiently.
Paralegals are employed or retained by lawyers, law offices, governmental agency, or other entity or may be authorized by administrative, statutory or court authority to perform this work." (National Federation of Paralegal Associations, 1987.)
In November 1995, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) adopted the term Paralegal as the preferred term for the profession. Several court decisions award higher fees to attorneys employing paralegals instead of legal assistants.
Freelance paralegals perform work on a case by case basis. Iindependent paralegals provide services to consumers such as helping to prepare bankruptcy, divorce, incorporation, immigration, simple patent, copyright, matters Paralegals can act as Special Advocates authorized by the court to participate in court proceedings involving specified classes of parties or cases. Agency Representatives- authorized by statute or agency rule may represent clients in agency proceedings such as IRS and immigration matters, Court of Claims, and Court of Military Appeals.
Curriculum for paralegals was first developed in 1971 and 1972 along with standards for accreditation of formal educational programs directed to the training of legal paraprofessionals which included guidelines, evaluative criteria, and program evaluation procedures.
The Mission College Paralegal Studies Program is one of the many, excellent vocational certificate programs offered by Mission College which is an accredited 2 year community college, accredited with the Department of Education, and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Since 1987, L.A. Mission College, under the able leadership of the Department Chair for Professional Interdisciplinary Studies, Alex R. Yguado, and the Paralegal Program Director, L. Edmund Kellogg, Esq., a respected plaintiff personal injury litigator, and revered paralegal educator, has offered a vocational Paralegal Program Certificate, which consists of 12 classes or 36 units, an outstanding curriculum including the following law classes & subject matter - introduction to the law, civil litigation, contracts, partnerships, corporations, landlord-tenant, bankruptcy, family law, wills, trusts, probate administration, torts, and claims investigation, civil and criminal evidence, legal research, legal writing, creditor and property rights.
Since 1997, David Jordan, Esq. another respected plaintiff personal injury litigator and paralegal educator, whose mentor was L. Edmund Kellogg, Esq. and only the second director in the paralegal program history, in colloboration with the new 7 million dollar Mission College Learning Resources Center which has over 300 state of the art computers all linked up to the internet, established the home webpage for the Paralegal Program and put the entire paralegal program on the internet bringing the program and the paralegal students into one of the few "state of the art - computer age" paralegal certificate programs in the nation.
In the early to mid 1960's, law firms provided in-house training to experienced legal secretaries.
In the 1970's to the mid 90's there emerged diversified paralegal educational programs including in August of 1997, the state of the art, internet-world wide web page of L.A. Mission College Paralegal Studies Program which now allows students to work on their assignments from home, email their work to their law instructors, to take exams, receive and review the answers to exams, and see their exam grades, all posted, daily, and sometimes hourly, on the home webpage for the Paralegal Studies Program. Paralegal Students can access all of the current and past California cases and codes, federal codes, recent U.S. Constitutional case decisions. They can review summaries of legal topics, along with the syllabus for their course, class assignments which include interactive links to current cases and codes, and they can even register for their law classes on the home webpage.
In 1974 the National
Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) a non-profit
professional organization made up of state and local paralegal associations throughout the United States and Canada., was founded. It is a federation of 60 member associations with over 17,500 individual members.
In 1975 the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), an organization made up of individual members and affiliated associations was founded.
In the early 1980s: the American
Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE) - a
professional association for paralegal education programs and the individual
educators who are associated with paralegal training was founded . The AafPE publishes the Journal of Paralegal Education, an annual publication with articles addressing paralegal issues.
In Los Angeles, we have our own Paralegal Associaiton, the
Los Angeles Paralegal Association
Demand for Paralegals: In the early 1980s the U.S. Department
of Labor told the nation that the paralegal profession was the
fastest growing profession and that by the year 2000, there would
be 100,000 paralegals in the nation. According to
predictions released in 1995 by the Department of Labor, by the year 2005 there will be between 150,000 and 176,000 paralegals in this nation.
Types of Employers: law firms, corporations and corporate legal
departments, financial institutions, insurance companies, real
estate and title agencies, state and federal governmental agencies,
courts, public defenders' and prosecutors' offices,
public utility companies, publicly, funded legal service projects and community legal service programs. The number of contract paralegals is on the rise on a national level, but more dominant in large metropolitan cities. Mission College Paralegal Program works very hard to place its graduates in the "best suited" paralegal jobs
.An American Bar Association 1984 survey indicated that the average paralegal salary was $20,500 in the public sector and $27,700 for those employed by the federal government. Also for more updated information check out http://www.profj.us/salary/
Paralegal specialists hired by the federal government in 1991 had starting salaries from $17,000 to $21,000 a year, depending upon their education and experience.
NFPA 1993 survey results revealed that salaries range from $10,000 to $84,000 with the average $29,607. Entry level salaries averaged 18,000 to $20,000, with paralegals possessing three to five years experience at $28-31,000. Bonuses averaged $1,565. Employers paid life and health insurance benefits as well as paralegal professional dues.
1995 Findings of Paralegal Compensation and Benefits Survey revealed the following national average: Salary - $32,875; bonus - $ 1,869; 86% of the respondents receiving benefits including: 91% vacation; 80% paid sick leave; 70% life insurance; 54% fully paid medical; 45% pension or retirement plan; 63% 401K-type savings plan. The average billing rate of the respondents is $41-80.
Results from a recent Compensation in Legal and Law Related Jobs (non-law firms) survey conducted by Abbott, Langer & Associates stated the median salary for paralegals is $36,500, with 10% making over $51,000.
As attorneys understand the nature of education that qualifies paralegals to perform legally substantive tasks, attorneys can delegate more challenging tasks and increased responsibility to paralegals. As attorneys understand the complex level of legal work paralegals are capable of performing, attorneys can utilize paralegal services better and recognize paralegals as respected members of the legal team. If attorneys understand that through providing continuing legal education to paralegals means, their knowledge and capabilities will improve, the CLE can be linked directly to the quality and quantity of work produced.
When paralegals perform specifically delegated and supervised legally substantive work, attorneys are able to concentrate on more complex legal work. Productivity is increased through utilizing paralegal services. Cost efficiency is maximized through utilizing paralegal services -- attorneys save their clients money by utilizing paralegal services.
As standards for the paralegal profession -- qualifications,
responsibilities and regulation -- are established and recognized,
paralegal roles and responsibilities will be expanded. Technological
advances such as the Internet will create new roles for paralegals
in assisting attorneys to conduct more cost-efficient research
and produce more specialized presentations.
Credits and acknowledgements:
All substantive information, facts and figures excerpted from an outline of a 1996 presentation made by: Susan D. Kligerman, Paralegal/President Paralegal Enterprises Inc.