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Canny: CLE enables paralegals to learn, grow

July 3, 2013
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Indiana Lawyer Focus

By Cathy D. Canny

We hear a great deal about attorneys attending continuing legal education courses and how important it is to their practices. In fact, attorneys are required to attend at least six hours of approved CLE per year and at least 36 hours of approved CLE per three-year cycle. When it comes to the paralegals they employ, why is it any less important for them to obtain continuing legal education, too?

canny Canny

The purpose of CLE is for attorneys to maintain or improve their skills. As important as that is for the attorneys, they benefit a great deal from having paralegals who continue to learn and grow their skills through CLE. The paralegal profession has seen significant and progressive growth through the last several years. Paralegals are an integral part of the legal services team, and under the supervision of an attorney, paralegals perform substantive legal work that would otherwise be done by attorneys. It is, therefore, extremely important that paralegals also maintain their knowledge of changes in the law and continue to maintain and grow their skills and expertise as professionals. Indeed, attorneys’ effective use of paralegals allows the attorneys to deliver faster and more efficient legal services to the client.

What are some of the reasons to attend CLE?

Paralegals who are affiliate members of the Indiana State Bar Association are required to maintain 18 hours of CLE, of which three hours are an ethics component over a three-year period. If paralegals maintain a national credential (such as a PACE Registered Paralegal or CORE Registered Paralegal through the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, or the Certified Legal Assistant or Certified Paralegal certification from the National Association of Legal Assistants) they must complete a required number of CLE hours per year to maintain that certification. Regardless of whether it is a requirement to maintain a certification or for professional growth and education, paralegals and the attorneys who employ them benefit from CLE.

Why should attorneys encourage their paralegals to attend CLE?

First of all, Guideline 9.9 of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct regarding the use of non-lawyer assistants states: “A lawyer who employs a non-lawyer assistant should facilitate the non-lawyer assistant’s participation in appropriate continuing education and pro bono activities.”

The Indiana Supreme Court supports paralegal CLE. In approving Guideline 9.9, the court saw value in CLE and directed lawyers to facilitate paralegals participating in continuing legal education. Many attorneys, law firms and associations also see the benefit of paralegal CLE. An example of this came at the Indiana State Bar Association Solo & Small Firm Conference. I had the pleasure of being a speaker at the first-ever “Staff Track” for the conference, which also was the first of its kind tied to a solo & small firm conference anywhere in the country. The seminars included paralegal skills, ethics for staff and the lawyers who employ them, professionalism and the ethics of cloud computing.

How do I find quality CLE?

There are a number of ways to find quality CLE in your area. The Indiana State Bar Association, as well as its Affiliate Membership Committee, provide CLE. Local bar associations, including the Indianapolis Bar Association, also provide numerous CLE programs. Professional associations, such as the Indiana Paralegal Association, provide CLE, and there are also for-profit CLE providers.

Do paralegals attend attorney CLE programs?

Absolutely. Attorney CLE programs on a substantive area of law or practice-related topics such as litigation skills or technology and e-discovery can be valuable. In fact, it is not uncommon for CLE programs to be designed for both attorneys and paralegals to attend, some of which present how paralegals and attorneys can work together as a team and how attorneys can best utilize their paralegals.

Whether it is for professional development or for a membership or credentialing requirement, paralegals need to attend continuing legal education. Attorneys should support paralegals seeking CLE. The law is ever-changing. As a paralegal, you want to be at the top of your game and continue to evolve and learn new skills in your area of practice, enhance technical proficiencies and develop as a professional. As an attorney, you want to employ paralegals who are at their highest level and support their efforts to continue to learn and grow. CLE provides an easy and effective means of achieving these mutual goals.•

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Cathy D. Canny is a senior paralegal at Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP in Indianapolis. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  2. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  3. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  4. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  5. I totally agree with John Smith.

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