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Reader Question: Are Independent Paralegals More Likely to get Unethical Requests from Attorneys?

Reader Question: Are Independent Paralegals More Likely to get Unethical Requests from Attorneys?

I know most attorneys are ethical, but do you think unethical attorneys would be more likely to ask an independent paralegal that they do not work with on a regular basis to do something unethical than they would a regular employee?  If so would it also be true the other way around?  Would an independent paralegal be more willing to do something unethical for the business, or would they be more on guard?Curious Paralegal Student

Practical Paralegalism’s Answer:

The hypothetical you’ve raised is interesting. Without having any actual data, but having worked in the legal field for over 25 years, I’d have to opine that an unethical attorney is likely not going to differentiate between employees and freelance paralegals.


But I’d think an unethical attorney would look for untrained and uninformed employees if he needed a cohort in misconduct. Any paralegal that knows the ethics rules is going to know what constitutes misconduct, but some paralegals may be caught between a rock and a hard place if their sole source of income rests on a supervising attorney who’s willing to bend or break the rules to suit his needs. So, maybe an unethical attorney would also look for someone that is vulnerable and whose financial needs will make her more malleable.

As for flipping it to the other side, again I don’t think an independent paralegal is any more or less likely to breach ethics rules than anyone else. But someone with insufficient training, inadequate supervision, poor judgment and/or purely financial motivation would probably be more willing to participate in an act of misconduct, knowingly or unknowingly.

Readers, what say you?

3 Responses to Reader Question: Are Independent Paralegals More Likely to get Unethical Requests from Attorneys?

  1. Interesting question! I have been a freelance paralegal for a long time and have never had an unethical request from an attorney. If a client of mine made an unethical request, they would no longer be a client. One of the advantages in freelancing is being able to pick and chose what cases you work on and who you work with. Freelance paralegals must protect their reputation in the legal community. One client would not be worth jeopardizing your entire business.

  2. I think the inexperienced employee, dependent on a single source of income, would be the most vulnerable to coercion.

    As Misty Sheffield says, those of us who work independently choose our clients as much as they choose us. Our certifications are too valuable to risk association with any questionable practices.

Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]gmail.com

Telephone: 336-582-0003

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Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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