Florida Paralegals Request State Licensing

Florida State Senator Garrett Richter and state Representative Richard Steinberg have sponsored a new bill that, if passed, would have the Florida Supreme Court creating a route of higher education towards becoming licensed paralegals.

The Florida Alliance of Paralegal Associations is responsible for writing the bill. According to Law.com, the group is seeking to put a legal restriction over the paralegal title. They are concerned that legal secretaries are illegitimately identifying themselves as paralegals.

''We're a group of professionals that want to protect the integrity of the profession and feel legislation is the way to do that,'' said Mark Workman, a former president of the group. ''There are people out there that say to the public that they have those professional designations they don't have, and they dupe the public. We feel if we have the legislation in place, we'll have a means to avoid that and assist in defining who can and can't be a paralegal.''

Maryanne Downs, the president of the Florida Bar, is not backing the initiative, stating that there is already a sufficient process set up for identifying paralegals.

''We have a very successful paralegal registration program with The Florida Bar and have had a high number of participants,'' said Downs. ''We don't believe that this is the climate for additional regulation, nor do we feel that this is a necessary regulation. We understand legislation is often the starting place for talking points, and we welcome an opportunity to be a part of that discussion.''

Currently, in Florida, there is a voluntary certification for paralegals that is sponsored by the Florida Bar. It comes at a cost of $150 per year and must be obtained through a national association for paralegals.

According to Workman, the certification program is ''a cash cow for them.''
Workman said, ''None of the money is going to programs that assist paralegals or paralegal education. It's going back to the general fund of The Florida Bar.''

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