Catering to the special
needs of its paralegal members, MSBA has created a new Paralegal Committee to
examine the key issues impacting today's paralegal. In 2000, paralegals, legal
administrators and law students were invited to join MSBA as Associate members.
This relatively new membership category already boasts 280 members. Now,
paralegals have a new MSBA Committee to address their specific issues and
promote the valuable role they play in Maryland's legal community.
On January 24, 2006,
MSBA's Board of Governors approved the creation of the Paralegal Committee,
which will consist of both paralegals and attorneys. MSBA's Paralegal
Committee, chaired by attorney Alan F. M. Garten, plans to enhance the
visibility of paralegals and promote their value in today's legal profession. On
February 21, the Committee held its first meeting and set its priorities, which
include educating attorneys on the utilization of paralegals and educating the
public on the role of paralegals.
certification of paralegals are also high on the Committee's list, as are
communication vehicles for paralegals, including a paralegal link on MSBA's
website and a paralegal MSBA Email List. It hopes to post a job bank, too. The
Committee will also work closely with MICPEL to develop educational programs
addressing key paralegal issues and offer networking opportunities for
"We will promote
paralegals as an integral part of the delivery of legal services," asserts
Garten. "The Committee consists of key people in the paralegal and attorney
professions who offer different vantage points and represent a broad section of
the legal community. Together, we hope to bring higher recognition for
paralegals, emphasizing their importance in the legal system."
According to the
American Bar Association, the term "paralegal" is defined as a person who is
"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 lawyer. This person may be retained or employed by a
lawyer, law office, governmental agency or other entity or may be authorized by
administrative, statutory or court authority to perform this work."
Another priority of the
Committee is fine-tuning the definition of paralegals so the public, and
attorneys, better understand the paralegal's role in the legal profession. "The
public just doesn't understand what we do," laments Traci Michelle Radice, a
paralegal member of the Committee. "First and foremost, we need to educate the
public about our role and educate lawyers about ways paralegals can assist them
in the delivery of legal services."
"Many attorneys in
Maryland do not understand what paralegals can do and what we cannot do," Radice
continues. She hopes the Committee will accentuate the numerous functions
paralegals fulfill in law firms. "We need to show attorneys how law firms can
profit from using paralegals."
In addition to tackling
the definition, the Committee will also delve into certification, accreditation
and regulation for paralegals. Garten believes "certification and proper
accreditation will bring more credence to the paralegal profession." Regulation
may also undergo scrutiny. "Right now," Radice stresses, "we are self-regulated
The Paralegal Committee
offers a number of advantages to MSBA members. "One of the most important roles
it will play is addressing the lack of recognition that paralegals receive,"
declares attorney Karen Cook, professor of legal studies and coordinator of Anne
Arundel Community College's Paralegal Internship Program. "Often, attorneys are
not aware of the breadth and depth of a paralegal's legal research skills. When
law firms discover the true value of paralegals and their range of skills, they
The Committee will also
provide CLE opportunities for paralegals. "Paralegals need to stay up-to-date on
changes in the law and other cutting-edge issues, just like attorneys," explains
Dorothy Howell, a paralegal member of the Committee. "Paralegals must walk the
ethical line, know their particular areas of the law and support their
Howell sees great value
in the Committee "because it offers paralegals everything from networking and
education to mentoring." Cook adds "the Committee offers paralegals a networking
vehicle so they may interact with each other and with attorneys." She hopes the
Committee will "raise awareness of the high level of legal expertise in the
paralegal profession, bringing the extensive training, education and advanced
skills of paralegals to the forefront."
Howell believes the
Committee "will encourage more paralegals to join MSBA so, like the attorneys,
they too may take advantage of the many services MSBA offers to its members."
This Committee will actively recruit additional paralegals as Associate members
of MSBA. Paralegals interested in becoming Associate members of MSBA should
contact MSBA's Membership Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.