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ABA Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services©, 2012 Revision

The Standing Committee on Paralegals of the American Bar Association drafted, and the ABA House of Delegates adopted, the ABA Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Legal Assistant Services in 1991. Most states have also prepared or adopted state?specific recommendations or guidelines for the utilization of services provided by paralegals.All of these recommendations or guidelines are intended to provide lawyers with useful and authoritative guidance in working with paralegals.

The ABA’s Standing Committee’s intent in updating the Model Guidelines is to include legal and policy developments that may have taken place since the last update in 2003. A Table of Contents and a Table of Authorities have been added, and the Commentary is now phrased in a “reader?friendly” style. The Standing Committee is of the view that these and other guidelines on paralegal services will encourage lawyers to utilize those services effectively and promote the continued growth of the paralegal profession.2

The Standing Committee has based these 2012 revisions on the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct (hereinafter “Model Rule”) but has also attempted to take into account existing state recommendations and guidelines, decided authority and contemporary practice. Lawyers, of course, are to be first directed by Model Rule 5.3 in the utilization of paralegal services, and nothing contained in these Model

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In 1986, the ABA Board of Governors approved a definition for the term “legal assistant.” In 1997, the ABA amended the definition of legal assistant by adopting the following language: “A legal assistant or paralegal is a person qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.” To comport with current usage in the profession, these guidelines use the term “paralegal” rather than “legal assistant;” however, lawyers should be aware that the terms legal assistant and paralegals are often used interchangeably.

While necessarily mentioning paralegal conduct, lawyers are the intended audience of these Guidelines. The Guidelines, therefore, are addressed to lawyer conduct and not directly to the conduct of the paralegal.