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September 05, 2021

Message from New ABA Standing Committee on Paralegals Chair, Thomas E. McClure

Thomas E. McClure, JD, MS, Professor, Pre-Law Advisor, & Director of Legal Studies, Illinois State University

I plan to build on the success of the 2020-21 Standing Committee. I have six goals I will present to this year’s Standing Committee for its consideration.

First, we should encourage more states to adopt the Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services (revised August 2021). Twelve states and at least seven state bar associations have adopted earlier versions of the guidelines or their own versions. I would like to see at least a majority of the states (independently or through their bar associations) adopt the guidelines.

Second, with the Approval Commission’s input, we should revise the site visit process for conducting post-pandemic visits of paralegal education programs.  By reflecting on the experience of virtual site visits during the pandemic, we can improve the manner in which visits can be conducted in the future.

Third, the Standing Committee should advocate for Lawyers’ Assistance Programs (LAPs) to provide services to paralegals.  LAPs are not-for-profit organizations that provide a variety of mental well-being  services to lawyers, judges, law students, and their families concerning substance abuse or stress-related issues such as anxiety, burnout, and depression. Paralegals often experience similar challenges and, therefore, would benefit from receiving LAP services.

Fourth, we should recognize noteworthy pro bono activities carried out by paralegals and paralegal education programs. With the privilege of being a legal professional comes the responsibility to promote justice and to make justice equally accessible to all people. Thus, paralegals should aspire to provide some services without fee or expectation of fee for the good of the community. The Standing Committee’s recognition of outstanding pro bono efforts will publicize the importance of providing unpaid public service.

Fifth, we should increase our efforts to educate states, contemplating licensing Limited Legal Professionals, about ABA approved paralegal education programs. The Standing Committee promotes quality in paralegal education through its administration of the ABA Guidelines for the Approval of Paralegal Programs. Several educators and legal commentators refer to ABA-approved paralegal education programs as the “gold standard” in the discipline. Thus, it would behoove states approving LLP licensure to consider the ABA paralegal education approval process.

Sixth, the Standing Committee should collaborate with entities within the ABA as well as national paralegal organizations.  We can accomplish more when we coordinate our efforts with others who are committed to achieving similar objectives.