Even a dog catcher has a license, and even a paralegal should be licensed too(?), according to the intrepid Julie Kay:
“I do believe eventually The Florida Bar is going to require mandatory certification, which it should,” said Linda Cruz, a paralegal with Miami-based Pardo & Gainsburg and vice chair of the Dade County Bar’s paralegal committee. “It’s coming. I work hard to learn my craft, and I think I should be respected for it.”
However, some paralegals would prefer to set up their own licensing body and self-regulate rather than be under The Florida Bar umbrella. That’s how California’s paralegal licensing program is run under an agreement between the National Association of Legal Assistants and the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations.
“We’re not sure being run by The Florida Bar is the way to go,” said Mark Workman, a Miami-based Gunster lawyer who serves as president of the South Florida Paralegal Association and the Florida Alliance of Paralegal Associations. “Paralegals need some autonomy. In its current form, we don’t have that. We don’t have as much say as we think we should about our own profession.”
Paralegals should at least be able to choose the three paralegals sitting on the committee, Workman said. Paralegal associations also take issue with the $150 annual fee collected from certified paralegals by The Florida Bar. “The money is not being spent on our profession.”
Workman hinted the paralegals may wind up breaking away from The Bar, “but I don’t want to go there yet.”
In general, paralegals assert mandatory certification would weed out legal secretaries calling themselves paralegals, establish educational and ethical guidelines, and raise their standing and possibly their pay. It also could benefit attorneys because they can typically bill extra for a certified paralegal’s time. Currently, two national associations offer paralegal certification tests, but many paralegals want a state test with Florida-specific questions about its court system.
It’s hard to tell if regulation and certification would be a good thing for paralegals, or not. I suppose it’s inevitable that some form of institutionalized recognition occur, and with that the regulation that goes with it, or what exactly distinguishes a paralegal anyways?
What say you, dear plebes?