SIDEBAR Spring 2017 - 15

MONTGOMERYBAR.ORG

SIDEBAR FEATURE

ETHICS, INTEGRITY
AND THE LAW
By Annette M. Long-Tulio, CRP, Pa.C.P.

A

ccording to the Oxford Dictionary, ethics is defined as
a moral principle that governs a person's behavior, and
integrity is the quality of being honest and fair; having
strong moral principles. Paralegals are currently not governed by
a uniform adopted code, but by statutes and codes declared by
professional associations and State Bar Associations. In 1997, the
National Federation of Paralegal Associations, which represents
over 9,000 individual members and 50 associations, adopted a
Model Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility1. These
standards have been adopted by the member associations and
serve as a foundation for paralegal conduct and discipline.
Canons include standards regarding competence, personal and
professional integrity, conduct becoming a paralegal, public
service, including improvement of the legal system and pro
bono public services, preservation of confidential information,
the avoidance of conflicts of interest, and rules regarding the
unauthorized practice of law. Paralegal competency is linked
to education, training and work experience. Paralegals who
have obtained certifications through the state and national
associations are required to maintain CLE hours and are
encouraged to annually aspire to 24 hours of pro bono work.
In 1991, the American Bar Association adopted the Model
Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services2. These
guidelines help to provide guidance to attorneys regarding the
proper use of paralegal services. However, much to the surprise
of many attorneys, the highest standard of paralegal ethics
lies within the Model Code of Professional Responsibility for
Attorneys3 and State Rules of Professional Conduct. Changes
in the provision of legal services due to economic necessity and
the evolution of the legal practice have resulted in a profession
that requires access to cost effective, competent services. The
expanded role of the paralegal includes more substantive work
and client contact than mere secretarial functions. As such,
when a paralegal moves to another firm, conflicts of interest may
arise. Just as attorneys have fiduciary duties to their clients, so
do paralegals. The Ethical Wall must remain intact to ensure the
clients' interests will be protected. Attorneys and paralegals alike
must refrain from engaging in conduct that offends the dignity
of the profession and avoid impropriety and the appearance of
impropriety.

While paralegals are not legally bound to the Canons and
Rules, in order to maintain the state of the profession, these are
voluntarily adhered to and respected. The Montgomery County
Paralegal Association holds monthly CLEs in an effort to take
appropriate steps to educate every member of the standards
expected - competent, thorough, honest and accurate. We
encourage attorneys to attend our CLEs, visit our website and learn
more about the utilization of paralegals.
https://www.paralegals.org/files/Model_Code_of_Ethics_09_06.pdf
http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/paralegals/ls_prlgs_modelguidelines.authcheckdam.pdf
3
http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/cpr/mrpc/
mcpr.authcheckdam.pdf
1
2

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SPRING 2017 15


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of SIDEBAR Spring 2017

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https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/MontgomeryBarAssociation/SIDEBARSpring2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/MontgomeryBarAssociation/SIDEBARWinter2019-2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/MontgomeryBarAssociation/SIDEBARFall2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/MontgomeryBarAssociation/SIDEBARSummer2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/MontgomeryBarAssociation/SIDEBARSpring2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/MontgomeryBarAssociation/SIDEBARWinter2018-19
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/MontgomeryBarAssociation/SIDEBARFall2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/MontgomeryBarAssociation/SIDEBARSummer2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/MontgomeryBarAssociation/LRSINSIGHT
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/MontgomeryBarAssociation/SIDEBARSpring2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/MontgomeryBarAssociation/SIDEBARWinter2017-18
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/MontgomeryBarAssociation/SIDEBARSummer2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/MontgomeryBarAssociation/SIDEBARSpring2017
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