The second step to becoming an indispensable paralegal is accountability. This is an integral piece in becoming an indispensable paralegal because it is not inherent within the profession. Unlike attorneys whose actions are regulated by state bars a paralegal’s actions are dictated by their employer and their own personal ethics. If a paralegal was trained on the job by a less than ethical attorney or has a shaky ethical foundation those same shoddy ethics will go with them to any position they ever work in. On the other hand if a paralegal chooses to adhere to a set of ethics that they build into their career over time these ethical standards become part of their personal repertoire of professional characteristics.
Most paralegals will consider themselves to be ethical, but usually when you dissect their ethical standards it is usually tied to the policies, procedures and do’s and don’ts of their current employer. A paralegal that goes the extra mile to build ethics into their career will perform the tasks of their job with a concern about how their actions impact their career and not just their current job. This usually translates into better job performance than a paralegal that is just doing what is necessary to keep the boss off their back and keeping a job. Most employers will never know that a paralegal is cutting corners, over billing clients, or not returning client calls until they get slapped with a bar complaint or a malpractice suit. This is too high of a price to pay for an employee that is probably being paid a fraction of the cost that it will take to defend against a bar complaint or malpractice suit, and some employers take the necessary precautions to prevent these situations. Although, there are numerous debates about what is necessary for someone to be considered a paralegal, what will never be debated is an employer’s concern about exposing itself to ethical breaches. When a job post reads “Looking for paralegal with ABA approved certificate” that employer is not just looking for someone with a certain body of knowledge they are also looking for a way to weed out paralegals that may not have the professional standards that they require. At the end of the day there are numerous paralegals vying for one job and who gets it can simply be the ability for an employer to measure the professional standards of its prospective employee.
Written by Lakisha Bealer of Paralegal Rainmakers