A legal assistant or paralegal is a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible. (ABA definition)
Currently in New York State there is no voluntary or mandatory certification or regulation of the paralegal profession.
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Regulation is defined as a principle, rule, or law designed to control or govern conduct. More specifically, paralegals may be defined or regulated by state legislatures, state agencies, state supreme courts, state bar associations or by individual court decisions.
Criteria as required by the governmental or other entity would include meeting predetermined qualifications such as: a) an educational requirement; b) the passage of a proficiency-based examination; c) continuing legal education; and d) adherence to a code of ethics.
Forms of regulation include:
Certification: • validates an individual's specific skill and knowledge at or above an established performance level • may be voluntary or mandatory• includes specific standards, testing and/or updating/renewal• administered through private organizations or public agencies
Licensure: • process by which an agency or branch of government grants permission to persons meeting predetermined qualifications to engage in a given occupation or use a particular title • is a mandatory legal condition for employment • is generally enacted by legislation for the purpose of protection of the public.