The Florida legislature is now dealing with one of the most hotly disputed issues in the history of the paralegal profession: whether paralegals should be licensed. On March 3, 2011, House Bill 1149 and Senate Bill 1612 were filed, proposing that the Florida Supreme Court create a licensing requirement for anyone wanting to use the paralegal title – and making it a felony for people without licenses to call themselves paralegals.
Florida is one of only a handful of states that currently offers a voluntary paralegal certification program, the Florida Registered Paralegal Program. The licensing bills were written by the Florida Alliance of Paralegal Associations (FAPA). Law.com, in a detailed feature report well worth the read, reports that the group is pursuing licensing to protect the profession and the public:
The group wants to prevent legal secretaries and others from using the title of paralegal to market themselves and to formally define what a paralegal is.
“We’re a group of professionals that want to protect the integrity of the profession and feel legislation is the way to do that,” said Mark Workman, a Miami-based Gunster paralegal who is past president of the Florida Alliance of Paralegal Associations and the South Florida Paralegal Association. “There are people out there that say to the public that they have those professional designations they don’t have, and they dupe the public. We feel if we have the legislation in place, we’ll have a means to avoid that and assist in defining who can and can’t be a paralegal.”
Others strongly oppose licensing, arguing that it would allow paralegals to have their own clients, and that it would create unnecessary and expensive regulation.
Paralegals all over the county are anxiously watching Florida to see what happens next. You can follow the latest action on the bills at MyFloridaHouse.gov, using these links: HB 1149 – Regulation of the Paralegal Profession and SB 1612 – Regulation of the Paralegal Profession. You can also follow the bills’ progress at FAPA’s LinkedIn Group and/or Facebook Page, where the group has promised to post news updates as they occur.
Are you for or against paralegal licensing – and why?