A Florida paralegal refers to an individual has education, training or experience that performs various duties under the supervision of an individual who is a member of The Florida Bar. The individual should perform delegated legal work for the individual who is a member of The Florida Bar. It is vital for the paralegal to meet the minimum requirements for the registration as a paralegal as outlined in the Florida Registered Paralegal Act. The Act came into being after an extensive study by The Florida Bar. The Bar opposed certain proposed legislation on a regulatory scheme for paralegals that was introduced to the Florida legislature in 2005. They believed that any proposed changes should be instituted by the judiciary instead of the legislature branch of the government. The President of the Board, Alan Bookman, thereafter appointed a special committee to undertake an extensive study of paralegal regulation and determine the status of paralegals in Florida. After conducting a meticulous study of the status of paralegals, the committee filed a petition that led to the addition of Chapter 20 – Florida Registered Paralegal Program – to the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar (Statsky, Diotalevi and Linquist 23).
Unlike most states, one does not have to pass any test to become a certified Florida Registered Paralegal. However, one must meet the education requirements and work experience requirements. One may also be certified through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), a nationwide organization whose main function is to certify paralegals. An individual may also be certified Northeast Florida Paralegal Association (NFPA) to become a Florida Certified Paralegal. Florida also has a grandfathering to become a registered paralegal. Grandfathering enables an individual to use experience only as a basis for eligibility for registration as a certified paralegal. However, this provision is only applicable to paralegals that were registered before March 2011.
If one meets the minimum requirements for eligibility, the application process is very fast. One must complete an application form and pay a $145 fee, which should be accompanied with the application letter. The check should be payable to the Florida Bar. Applicants should acknowledge the fact they have read Chapter 20 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. They should also state they would comply with the Code of Ethics and Responsibility, which governs the activities of Florida paralegals. It is vital to note that people cannot apply to become registered paralegals electronically. The application letter must be mailed to the Florida Bar. An applicant should also be currently working with a supervising attorney. The current or previous supervising attorney should attest to the fact that you are or have worked with them.
For an individual to continue being a certified Florida Registered Paralegal, one must complete at least 30 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) after every three years. The individual should also complete at least 5 hours of ethic or professionalism every three years. One should also be continuously employed as a paralegal by a certified attorney. Paying the annual renewal fee is also vital for an individual to maintain the paralegal status.
Some of the pros of being a registered paralegal include the fact that one is likely to be hired since being registered shows that one has attained the minimum education, training, or work experience required to become a paralegal. In addition, the contact information of certified Florida Registered Paralegal is listed on the website of the Florida Bar. This increases the chances of certified Florida Registered Paralegal being hired. Certified Florida Registered Paralegals have benefits that are similar to those of attorneys who are members of The Florida Bar. These benefits include having unlimited access to Fastcase and discounted CLE programs. The grandfathering process also enables an individual to become a paralegal without having to attain the education requirements.
One of the cons of being a paralegal is the fact that one has to work under the supervision of a certified attorney. It is impossible for an individual to work independently. To become a certified Florida Registered Paralegal one should also mail the application. One cannot submit the application electronically. Mailing the application is more inefficient than submitting the application electronically. The mail may get lost. The mail also takes a longer time to reach the recipient than if it is submitted electronically. One also has to pay an annual renewal fee to remain a paralegal. For people to maintain their paralegal status, they should complete at least 30 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) after every three years. The wages of paralegals are also significantly lower than those of certified attorneys.
It is illegal for any individual to engage in an unlicensed practice of law (UPL). Engaging in UPL is a crime. People who engage in UPL in Florida may be fined $500 or jailed for five months. However, the court has the discretion of determining the punishment to UPL offenders. If an individual is charged with different instances of UPL the punishment and fine may be significantly higher (Miller and Meinzinger 107).