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HomeRule One
Rule One: Scope of Professional Duties

(a) The paralegal shall be familiar with and heed the directives found in the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct or the Illinois Code of Paralegal Ethics. A paralegal shall not undertake any behavior which the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit the supervising attorney from doing.

(b) A paralegal shall refrain from engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.

(1) The paralegal shall not work with a lawyer's client unless the paralegal's work is supervised by an attorney.

(2) The paralegal shall not draft pleadings or papers on behalf of a lawyer's client unless the paralegal's work is supervised by an attorney.

(3) The paralegal shall not sign pleadings or papers filed in a court or other judicial tribunal on behalf of a lawyer's client.

(4) The paralegal shall not appear as an advocate in a representative capacity in a court or other judicial tribunal on behalf of a lawyer's client.

(5) The paralegal shall not set legal fees.

(6) The paralegal shall not provide legal advice to a lawyer's client.

(c) A paralegal shall work under the direction of an attorney and shall abide by the decisions of the lawyer concerning the representation of a lawyer's client.

(1) The paralegal shall immediately consult the supervising attorney and defer to the decision of the attorney when questions regarding the scope of the client's representation arise.

(2) A paralegal who discovers that the client has, during the course of representation, perpetrated a fraud upon a person or tribunal, shall immediately report the fraud to the supervising attorney. A paralegal who discovers that a person other than the client has perpetrated a fraud upon a tribunal shall immediately report such fraud to the supervising attorney.

Commentary

The paralegal's supervising attorney has an obligation to supervise the paralegal so that the paralegal avoids engaging in action which violates the rules of ethics. IRPC Rule 5.3. Therefore, the scope of the paralegal's professional responsibilities is circumscribed by the rules of ethics found in this Code and the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct. This means that the paralegal may not undertake to provide any services which the lawyer is forbidden from undertaking. The scope of the paralegal's work is further limited by the rules defining the practice of law.

In Illinois, the practice of law has been defined to "embrace the preparation of pleadings, and other papers incident to actions and special proceedings, and the management of such actions and proceedings on behalf of clients before judges and courts. "People v. Alexander (1964), 53 Ill. App. 2d 299, 202 N.E.2d 84, quoting People ex rel. Illinois State Bar Association v. People's Stock Yards State Bank, 344 Ill. 462, 476, 176 N.E. 901, 907. This does not include administrative agencies, where the paralegal would be bound by that agency's rules of procedure, because such agencies are not considered as a court of law. The interpretation of the limits of the practice of law is broader in Illinois than it is in many states, however. Unlike most other jurisdictions, Illinois allows nonlawyers to appear in court to present a routine motion. The nonlawyer cannot, however, participate in any activity which could be considered as "managing the litigation." Alexander, 53 Ill App. 2d at 303, 202 N.E. at 843.

Because the supervising attorney is presumed to be familiar with the rules of ethics marking the scope of the paralegal's duties, the paralegal is advised to turn to the supervising attorney when questions regarding the extent of the paralegal's role arise. For this reason, the rules direct the paralegal to defer to the advice of the attorney and not the client when seeking guidance regarding proper legal behavior.