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Conspicuous Hole in [Paralegal] Ethics Training

This commentary in Law.com by an experienced paralegal surprised me. What's your reaction?

"For all the talk of the need to prevent ethics transgressions in the legal profession, a glaring education gap exists for one group: paralegals.

"Usually, it does not rise to the level of a topic to be covered -- until there is a problem. It generally crops up after an unintentional violation of the attorney-client relationship by support staff members who have received no ethics training.

"As a paralegal for more than seven years, I often get questions from colleagues asking what to do in certain situations. Those of us who have been educated in an American Bar Association-accredited program have some knowledge of ethical issues. However, some support staff are not even aware of the ethical issues to avoid, yet they are on their firms' front lines every day, in danger of unintentionally violating ethics rules.

"In a poll taken on Jan. 3 by NJParalegal, we asked our members the following: Have you ever received training or instruction by your attorney-employer on how to handle ethical issues, specifically, maintaining attorney-client relationships and the confidentiality of your clients?

"The answer: Of the 42 who responded, 80 percent said no."

Author Cindy Lopez is a paralegal in the office of Charles Byrnes in Toms River, N.J., and is founder of NJParalegal, a career resource. She's also a speaker for Estrin LegalEd Paralegal SuperConferences.

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