In no other profession is there such confusion over who the individuals are within it like the paralegal profession. Paralegals have been around for centuries providing critical assistance within the legal field from interviewing clients to drafting complex complaints. So why is there so much confusion about who a paralegal is and what they do? Below are three issues that contribute to this identity crisis within the paralegal profession.
1) Lack of standard educational requirements
2) Lack of commitment to excellence
3) Lack of regulation
All professions that have been clearly defined have standard credentials that must be obtained before an individual is considered to be a part of that particular profession. Doctors have them. Even nurses have them. A person cannot walk into a hospital or doctor’s office and arbitrarily announce themself as a nurse. They must first meet certain criteria. The attainment of the specified credentials then allows that individual to become a nurse. This not only defines the nursing profession it also protects patients from receiving treatment from unqualified individuals. The commitment by the individual to obtain the necessary education or credentials shows their commitment to their profession, and allows the individuals actions to be regulated.
Until paralegals strive to obtain a certain level of education, credentials and/or regulation across the board this lack of commitment to the paralegal profession will continue to undermine the identity of all paralegals. As this lax attitude pervades the profession the identity crisis will persist and the stereotypical label of the glorified secretary will remain.