Where the law is concerned, there’s a certain level of integrity and ethics that is required. For paralegals, it’s important to remember that while you don’t personally represent the client, you are still handling their property, careers, personal freedom and their livelihood.
Adherence to certain ethics is vital.
Ethics can be defined as the moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior; also, the moral correctness of specified conduct.
Essentially, the clients of your firm trust you with all things. When working with clients, and handling their personal and professional cases, paralegals have to maintain their integrity and fairness. In every aspect of life a violation of ethics can be a serious issue. Entire courses are taught on ethics, but it’s never more important than in law.
It’s unfortunate that we can read articles on the web and see regular news about ethical violations in finance, government and law. A paralegal should consider these things as they study ethics over the course of their program.
Basic Violations in Paralegal Ethics The most basic violation of ethics among paralegals is the unauthorized practice of law. While it may seem obvious why you should avoid this type of violation, some paralegals make this mistake because they don’t accurately understand the limitations on their scope of practice. In many cases, this happens because a paralegal naturally wants to help a client. Even helping friends and family with advice in a particular area of law can turn into an ethics violation. It’s best to know the limitations on your scope of practice, and refer questions or clients to a licensed attorney if you’re unsure.
The Ethics of Client Confidentiality among Paralegals
It’s not just paralegal ethics that require you maintain confidentially, but virtually all professional services – especially law. Paralegals and lawyers find themselves handling trade secrets, estates with mass amounts of wealth, bankruptcy information, debt information that could negatively impact client reputation and corporate branding, etc.
Confidentially is essential with every case, no matter how public that case may be or how it is reported by the media. Violation of confidentially can lead to the end of your career while jeopardizing your attorney’s practice.
The only people to share the information of clients are the parties directly involved – mainly the paralegal and the attorney. No information should be shared with the opposing counsel, client’s family, the media or the judge.
Full Disclosure Between Paralegals and Clients
When a client works with an attorney’s office or firm, and meet with a paralegal, they may automatically assume that a paralegal is an attorney. Clients need to understand that you are a paralegal. If you do not, and they assume you are, there could be confusion about your roles and responsibilities. This can lead to miscommunications and poor interpretations of how they should react to events pertaining to their case or actions they should take.
Remember that as a paralegal, you’re not only responsible for your own actions and behavior, but those of the people around you. If you have knowledge about ethics violations and negligence pertaining to a case or an individual within your profession) including dishonesty, misrepresentation or fraud) then it must be reported to your supervising attorney or state Bar Association.
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