Supreme Court Rule 3.700 states as follows: Rule 3.700. Provisions relating to paralegals.
The availability of legal services to the public at a price it can afford is a goal to which the bar is committed, and one which finds support in Canons 2 and 8 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The employment of paralegals furnishes a means by which lawyers may expand the public’s opportunity for utilization of their services at a reduced cost.
For purposes of this rule, a paralegal is a person under the supervision and direction of a licensed lawyer, who may apply knowledge of law and legal procedures in rendering direct assistance to lawyers engaged in legal research; design, develop or plan modifications or new procedures, techniques, services, processes or applications; prepare or interpret legal documents and write detailed procedures for practicing in certain fields of law; select, compile and use technical information from such references as digests, encyclopedias or practice manuals; and analyze and follow procedural problems that involve independent decisions.
Rapid growth in the employment of paralegals increases the desirability and necessity of establishing guidelines for the utilization of paralegals by the legal community. This rule is not intended to stifle the proper development and expansion of paralegal services, but to provide guidance and ensure growth in accordance with the Code of Professional Responsibility, statutes, court rules and decisions, rules and regulations of administrative agencies, and opinions rendered by committees on professional ethics and unauthorized practice of law.
While the responsibility for compliance with standards of professional conduct rests with members of the bar, a paralegal should understand those standards. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the lawyer employing a paralegal to inform him of the restraints and responsibilities incident to the job and supervise the manner in which the work is completed. However, the paralegal does have an independent obligation to refrain from illegal conduct. Additionally, and notwithstanding the fact that the Code of Professional Responsibility is not binding upon lay persons, the very nature of a paralegal’s employment imposes an obligation to refrain from conduct which would involve the lawyer in a violation of the Code.
Sub-rule 1. A lawyer shall ensure that a paralegal in his employment does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law.
Sub-rule 2. For purposes of this rule, the unauthorized practice of law shall not include any service rendered involving legal knowledge or legal advice, whether representation, counsel or advocacy, in or out of court, rendered in respect to the acts, duties, obligations, liabilities or business relations of the one requiring services where:
- The client understands that the paralegal is not a lawyer;
- The lawyer supervises the paralegal in the performance of his duties; and
- The lawyer remains fully responsible for such representation, including all actions taken or not taken in connection therewith by the paralegal to the same extent as if such representation had been furnished entirely by the lawyer and all such actions had been taken or not taken directly by the lawyer.
- The services rendered under this Rule shall not include appearing formally in any court or administrative tribunal except under Sub-rule 3 below, nor shall it include questioning of witnesses, parties or other persons appearing in any legal or administrative action including but not limited to depositions, trials, and hearings.
Sub-rule 3. For purposes of this Rule 3.700, the unauthorized practice of law shall not include representation before any administrative tribunal of court where such service or representation is rendered pursuant to a court rule or decision which authorizes such practice by nonlawyers.
Sub-rule 4. A lawyer shall instruct a paralegal employee to preserve the confidences and secrets of a client and shall exercise care that the paralegal does so.
Sub-rule 5. A lawyer shall not form a partnership with a paralegal if any part of the partnership’s activities consists of the practice of law, nor shall a lawyer share on a proportionate basis, legal fees with a paralegal.
Sub-rule 6. The letterhead of a lawyer may include the name of a paralegal where the paralegal’s status is clearly indicated: A lawyer may permit his name to be included in a paralegal’s business card, provided that the paralegal’s status is clearly indicated.
Sub-rule 7. A lawyer shall require a paralegal, when dealing with a client, to disclose at the outset that he is not a lawyer. A lawyer shall also require such a disclosure when the paralegal is dealing with a court, administrative agency, attorney or the public, if there is any reason for their believing that the paralegal is a lawyer or is associated with a lawyer. (Amended January 8, 1981, effective January 8, 1981; amended July 12, 1989, effective August 28, 1989.)