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Paralegal Licensing and Regulation: Part II-The ''Cons''

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Statutory licensing and regulation efforts don't sit well with many paralegals. For some of those already in the profession, the idea of being compelled to go through testing, education, or other licensing regulations seems like an unnecessary hassle. "Some paralegals may not like that, unless they could see some benefit from it," says Nancy Roney, legal assistant and former Co-Director of Continuing Education of the Massachusetts Paralegal Association. In fact, some paralegals may be so dissatisfied with licensing requirements that they will refuse to undergo regulation efforts; rather, they will simply continue doing their present tasks under a different title.

Costs to employers, clients, and the general public are yet another reason some oppose licensure. "(One) reason for having paralegals is to keep legal costs down," says Marge Dover, Executive Director of the National Association of Legal Assistants. "There are increased costs (to) licensing and the recurring costs of re-licensing." Attorneys may have to pay more to hire a licensed paralegal, and while at first this seems like great news to legal assistants, some experts warn that increased employer costs may actually lead to a tighter race to be hired. "The true regulation may (prove to) be the job market," says Frederick T. Golder, Professor at the Massachusetts School of Law, employment attorney, and author. There is even the possibility that attorneys will simply hire legal secretaries, law clerks, or others to perform the paralegal's tasks, all to keep overhead down.

Another argument against licensing says regulations are unnecessary because paralegals already work under the supervision of licensed attorneys. Attorneys are often accountable for their employees' conduct. As such, some believe that paralegal licensing may be going too far. "In some respects, (licensing) may be over-regulating paralegals, as they are supervised by attorneys," Mr. Golder says. "On the other hand, consider the doctor-nurse relationship: even though doctors are licensed and regulated and nurses work under their supervision, (there are still licensing and regulation requirements imposed on nurses as well)."

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