“A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world.” ~ Manly Hall
Robert Mongue of The Empowered Paralegal blog does a much better job than I do of covering paralegal careers in other countries, including Canada. But when I read that the Law Society of Upper Canada denied Maureen Boldt, of North Bay, Ontario, a paralegal license because “she conducted herself in such a manner that she posed a risk to the public and the administration of justice,” I wondered if Ontario might be on to something good in its regulation of the paralegal profession. Why not require individuals to meet basic educational requirements and to comply with “Paralegal Rules of Conduct” in order to provide legal services?
Another story in this week’s news linked a legal assistant to her supervising attorney’s federal charges of tampering with evidence and witnesses, and possessing cocaine. The legal assistant is charged with tampering and distribution of cocaine, too. If her boss is found guilty of these charges, he could be disbarred. If she is found guilty, she can’t be “dis-paralegaled,” at least not in America. Jailed perhaps, but not prohibited from working as a paralegal, except for those savvy employers who conduct thorough background checks.
Lately, I’ve become almost painfully aware of the highly sensitive information I have access to as a paralegal. Maybe it’s the intense ethics research I’ve been doing, or maybe it’s seeing one too many HIPPA notices, but I don’t think I’d want me to be able to work in any legal setting as long as I could find someone to hire me, if I’d demonstrated evidence of poor character, such as practicing law without a license, stealing money, or distributing illegal drugs from the office.
I know paralegal regulation a highly divisive issue among legal professionals, and that it’s complicated. But I’d be happy to meet a licensing requirement, especially if I knew that qualifying for that license would result in background checks and annual reviews for every single applicant – and would help prevent those individuals that have been found to pose a risk to the public and the administration of justice from working as paralegals anywhere.