Ethics for Legal Assistants
Paralegals and Legal Assistants have the ability and education to perform certain legal functions and duties under the supervision of an attorney. When working within the legal field, there are countless directives and rules that govern the way lawyers, legal assistants and paralegals must act in the best interests of their clients. Ethics are of the utmost concern, as a legal representative’s actions may have a strong influence on the outcome of a court case and whether or not justice is properly served.
Many of these ethical requirements for paralegals and legal assistants are defined by the NALA (National Associal for Legal Assistants) and follow the ethical codes that apply to lawyers. Paralegals and Legal Assistants must always disclose their status as a paralegal or legal assistant, and must adhere to all aspects of attorney-client privilege. Paralegals may perform tasks delegated by an attorney but ultimately, the responsibility for those actions lays with the attorney in charge of the legal case.
Beyond the guidelines set forth by NALA, there are also special considerations that paralegals and legal assistants much keep in mind when communicating through the Internet or by cellular or mobile phones. Since many states may consider the legal advice given online as the establishment of a legal representation by an attorney, it is imperative that caution is taken when communicating outside of the attorney’s office. Other issues, especially privacy concerns, are also needed to keep under consideration, since electronic communication can be easily intercepted, either online or via mobile technologies and phones. For instance, Massachusetts prohibits sending e-mails to a client’s work address without the express consent of the client, since employers have the legal right to review employee messages.Paralegals and legal assistants are able to perform many of the functions of licensed attorneys, but must always adhere to the guidelines set forth by their education, employer and their state. Following these guidelines will best serve clients and maintain the sanctity of the legal system.