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HomeRule Four
Rule Four: Disclosure of Status

A paralegal shall disclose his or her status.

(1) A paralegal's status shall be disclosed in all business and professional communications to avoid misunderstandings and misconception about the paralegal's role and responsibilities.

(2) A paralegal's status shall be included if the paralegal's name appears on business cards, letterhead, brochure, directories, and advertisements.

(3) A paralegal shall promptly clarify any misunderstanding when there is a reasonable belief that the paralegal's status is misunderstood.

Commentary

To avoid misleading clients, opposing counsel, court personnel, and judges, paralegals must disclose their nonlawyer status. Disclosure designates communication of information reasonably sufficient to avoid misleading others.

As the rule makes clear, disclosure of nonlawyer status should be made in all written communications, such as in paralegals business cards, law firm letterhead that includes the names of paralegals, or other law firm advertisements. See e.g., ISBA opinion No. 449 (1974). The rule also states that paralegal status should be divulged upon a paralegal's face to face meeting with others during the course of the paralegal's employment. Inclusion of the latter rule was heavily debated by the Task Force, however. Some members of the Task Force drafting this rule believed that it was not necessary for paralegals to identify themselves as such when the subject of the communication was a routine matter and could not be confused as involving the practice of law. This matter was resolved by looking to the other codes in existence. For example, in Guideline 4 of the American Bar Association Guidelines for Legal Assistant Services, attorneys are directed as follows:

"It is the lawyer's responsibility to take a reasonable measure to ensure that clients, courts, and other lawyers are aware that a legal assistant, whose services are utilized by the lawyer in performing legal services, is not licensed to practice law".

Many paralegal codes, likewise, direct that legal assistants should disclose their status as nonlawyers at the beginning of any communication. See e.g., National Association of Legal Assistants Model Standards and Guidelines for Utilization of Legal Assistants Annotated, V; National Federation of Paralegal Associations Model Code of Ethics and Professional responsibility, Cannon 6.

In the view of the Task Force, then, the justification for this rule is to avoid confusion. A paralegal who does not identify himself or herself as a nonlawyer can create the appearance of engaging in the practice of law.