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The  Florida  Bar will begin administering a voluntary program to allow qualified paralegals to receive the designation of Florida
Registered Paralegal. Lori  Holcomb,  head  of  the  Florida  Registered Paralegal program at The Florida  Bar, said  already  about 300 people have requested applications, which will be sent out once the program officially begins. Holcomb said she is expecting  an avalanche of applicants wanting to download the form from The Florida Bar Web site on kick-off day, March 1.

“We  ask  those  downloading the form to be patient,” said Holcomb. “If you have a delay, please try again.”

Paralegals are employed by attorneys to perform substantive tasks for which the lawyers are responsible.

Approved  by  the  Supreme  Court  in November 2007, the Florida Registered Paralegal  Program provides for registration of paralegals who meet minimum educational,  certification or work experience and who agree to abide by an established  code  of  ethics.  The  goal  is to better serve the public by establishing  high  professional standards. The program provides a registry of paralegals but does not establish regulation of paralegals or define the work paralegals may do.

Those  seeking  to  become  a Florida Registered Paralegal must fill out an application  form  that can be downloaded from the Bar’s Web site beginning March   1   (www.floridabar.org/frp)   or   request  the  form  by  e-mail.
Additionally,   there  is  a  $150  application  fee.  Holcomb  said  after registration papers are filed and if everything is in order, it should take a  couple  of  weeks to process an application. Applicants who are approved will be notified by mail with certificates and welcome packets.The  program  sets  up  a two-tier system for paralegals and also creates a disciplinary system and a Code of Ethics and Responsibility.

The  first  tier  encompasses  paralegals  with education, training or work experience  and  who,  under the supervision of lawyers, perform delegated, substantive work for which the lawyers are responsible.

Tier two paralegals have to meet education and work experience requirements or  be  certified by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).

Additionally,  for the first three years of the program, paralegals who are able  to  show  substantial experience, but who don’t meet the education or certification  requirements,  will  be  able  to  become Florida Registered Paralegals under a grandfathering provision.

Those  who  receive  the  designation will be listed on The Florida Bar Web site.

To  remain a Florida Registered Paralegal, 30 hours of continuing education courses will be required over a three-year period, with five of those hours having to be in professionalism or ethics courses.

The new Chapter 20 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar establishing the program  does  not set forth the duties paralegals may perform or deal with the  fees  that  can  be charged or awarded for the work they do. As is the case  now, the primary responsibility for monitoring the work of paralegals — whether Florida Registered Paralegals or not — rests with the attorneys who employ or supervise them.

Holcomb  said  the  program will give the public additional assurance about the quality of legal services they receive.

“When  someone  is  a  Florida  Registered  Paralegal,  you  know they have education  or  training  to  provide a higher level of service in assisting attorneys to serve their clients and the public,” said Holcomb.

To  request  a  copy  of  the application electronically, send an e-mail to frp@flabar.org. The form will also be available on The Florida Bar Web site
(www.floridabar.org/frp)  beginning  March  1.  Those with questions should
call (850) 561-5840.




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