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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. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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