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HomeRule Seven
Rule Seven: Communications with Non-clients

(a) In those instances in Rule One, when appearing in a professional capacity before a tribunal, a paralegal shall not:

(1) make a statement of material fact or law which the paralegal knows or reasonably should know is false;

(2) make statements or arguments that would constitute the practice of law;

(3) violate applicable rules of procedure;

(4) engage in conduct or use language that offends the dignity or decorum of the tribunal; or

(5) intentionally degrade a witness or other person by stating or alluding to personal matters concerning that person which are not relevant to the case.

(b) During the course of any adversarial proceeding, a paralegal shall not communicate, or cause another to communicate, as to the merits of the cause with a judge or an official before whom the proceeding is pending, except:

(1) in the course of official proceedings in the cause;

(2) in person or over the telephone, upon adequate notice to opposing counsel, or to the adverse party if such party is not represented by counsel; or

(3) as otherwise authorized by law.

(c) When appearing in a professional capacity other than before a tribunal, a paralegal shall not:

(1) make a statement of material fact or law to a third person which the paralegal knows or reasonably should know is false;

(2) fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client, unless disclosure is prohibited as a privileged communication under the applicable rules of professional conduct for attorneys; or

(3) be rude, disrespectful or demeaning in communications with others.

(d) During the course of representing a client, a paralegal shall not communicate or cause another to communicate on the subject of the representation with a party the paralegal knows to be represented by a lawyer in that matter unless the paralegal has obtained the prior consent of the lawyer representing that party or as may otherwise be authorized by law.

(e) In dealing on behalf of a client with a person who is not represented by counsel, a paralegal shall not state or imply that the paralegal is disinterested. When the paralegal knows or reasonably should know that the unrepresented person misunderstands the lawyer's role in the matter, the paralegal shall make reasonable efforts to correct the misunderstanding.

(f) In assisting in representation of a client, a paralegal shall not engage in conduct for the purpose of embarrassing, delaying, or burdening a third person. A paralegal shall not engage in obtaining evidence that may violate the legal rights of such person.

Commentary

As paralegals enjoy ever-growing acceptance and use within the legal community, they face increasing opportunities to interact with individuals who are not considered to be the clients of the supervising attorneys.

For example, paralegals may interact in some capacity with opposing counsel, adverse parties, judges, court clerks, jury members, or other paralegals. Certainly, this list is not exhaustive.

Because paralegals do interact with so many others that are not clients of the supervising attorneys, paralegals need a rule to define the parameters of that interaction. This rule is intended to instruct paralegals to avoid misleading communications and communications designed to take advantage of the other parties' positions. The rules apply equally to paralegals who work in litigation settings or handle transactions that might properly be considered more of a transactional nature.

Therefore, Rule 7(b) sets forth limitations on a paralegal's communications with a judge during the course of adversarial proceedings. This rule is not confined to communications made only in courtroom settings or during hearings but extends to all communications with a judge or other official, from the moment an attorney accepts the representation of a client. The reason for such a rule should be apparent. When a judge is charged with making an informed decision about the outcome of a proceeding pending before him or her, allowing communications to that judge untested by opposing counsel's input and argument defies all notions of justice and prevents the judge from competently doing the job at hand.

Rule 7(c) defines the scope of paralegal communications when the paralegal is handling matters that do not involve adversarial proceedings. Paralegals may interact with others while acting in their professional capacity when they are doing such things as attending real estate closings, attending depositions with their supervising lawyer, or handling the intake interview of a client who seeks to have a will drafted or an estate administered. It is especially important to note that a paralegal who becomes aware of potential fraudulent or criminal conduct by a lawyer's client must disclose that information to the paralegal's supervising attorney.