O L U M N S
is with honor and pride that I assume the duties of President of the
Legal Assistants Division of the State Bar of Texas. I have been a
member of the Board of Directors since 1997 and have served in
various capacities prior to my appointment to the board. It has been
one of the most rewarding experiences to have served as a member of
the board, and now as your president. Our board members, committee
members, and other volunteers are so very gifted and I am infinitely
proud to be a member of the Division. And I am privileged to have
them by my side as we work together to build upon the foundation
laid by our predecessors.
In preparing for the year, I have set some
specific goals to work towards achieving. My highest goal is to
increase public awareness of our profession by targeting the heart
of the legal profession—attorneys. But in the words of Herbert
Hoover, “We can not hope to succeed in directing this increasingly
complex [association] unless we can draw all the talent of
leadership from the whole people.”
Working with the State Bar and the members of the Division to
continue the development of a higher standard for the paralegal
profession is my top priority. To achieve this goal, we need your
help. Are you educating the attorneys in your firm about the legal
assistant profession and about the Division?
I challenge you to talk with associates and partners alike,
pass this issue of the Journal to them. Increase their awareness and
our worth with increase exponentially.
On October 23, 1981, the board of directors of
the State Bar of Texas approved the establishment of a Legal
Assistants Division, based upon the recommendation of the Legal
Assistants Committee of the State Bar. In looking through past
issues of the Texas Bar Journal, I came across an article reporting
the approval of the Division. The president of the State Bar at that
time was Wayne Fisher of Houston, who strongly supported the
creation of the Division. President Fisher stated, “Legal
assistants in Texas look to the State Bar for leadership and
support. Part of this comes from the desire to be recognized, but
mostly from a sincere desire to develop professionally.”
Indeed our profession has come a long way since 1981. We have
continued to develop professionally, but our membership has not
increased as it should have. Educating the attorneys could be a way
to increase our membership. Be a part of the drive to increase our
membership by educating our attorneys. Help them see what President
Fisher saw —that “the time has come for the legal profession to
recognize the paralegal profession and for us to move forward in
cooperation and mutual support to provide better services to the
public we serve.”
20th Legal Assistants Division!
by Debra Crosby
A Pause for Reflection:
2001 is the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Legal
Assistants Division; we should all be proud to be members of such an
active and progressive professional association. Those of us who have
been around since its inception have seen many changes, not only in the
Division, but in the legal assistant profession as a whole. I am pleased
at what the Division has accomplished and look forward to seeing what
challenges lie ahead of us.
As part of the continuing celebration of this
anniversary, we are including in this issue a copy of the 1993
proclamation that established Legal Assistants Day in Texas. Remember
that this day would not have been created without the efforts of the
Division. Reflect also on your chosen profession on October 23 and try
always to do honor to it.
By serving the Division, I have always hoped that I
could, in some small way, give something back to the profession that I
have been a part of for 25 years. If we each take on a task, help on a
committee, make our voices heard, we can, together,
make a difference. Get a friend to join, volunteer to help with a
project, let your board members know what you think!
You, too, can make an impression, can have a say in the future of
your chosen profession!
Speaking of having a say: we are also printing, in
its entirety, the results of the Division’s first state-wide
Employment Survey. The results were compiled for us by the State Bar.
Take a few moments to review the data and if you didn’t respond this
year, please do so next time! This
information is important no only to legal assistants but also to
employers and the larger a response, the more valid the data.
us hear from you if you have any requests or suggestions for future
issues, or if you wish to submit an article. We can always use more
ideas. Thanks so much for your continuing support.
The Ethics of Reporting Unethical Behaviorby Ellen Lockwood, CLA—Ethics
Paralegals often mention to me that they have
witnessed or heard about another paralegal’s unethical behavior. After
they describe the unethical act, I ask why they did not report it for
investigation. The usual responses I receive are listed below:
I Didn’t Think It Was That Important
I have had several acquaintances tell me about the
apparently unethical actions of a legal assistant in their city. They
allege she continued to use her Westlaw password even when she was no
longer with that employer, that she used the firm postage meter for
association mailings without the firm’s permission, and several other
acts. Nevertheless, none of
these people, even the ones who have firsthand knowledge, including the
law firm, have filed a complaint. Perhaps the law firm thinks it is too
much trouble or doesn’t know it can file a complaint. The others may
be concerned about having their names listed as the complainant.
This is just another version of the standard
excuse, “I didn’t want to get involved.”
However, if no one chooses to get involved, unethical acts will
continue by that person and others since there will be no consequences
to their actions. If someone’s actions make you uncomfortable, you
should contact me or the current Ethics chair to ask if the incident
It Has Been Too Long Since The Event
Then why didn’t you report it sooner?
I agree that actions that occurred a couple of years ago are
probably too old to report, but it depends on the offense. If it was
egregious, such as UPL, then two years is probably not too long. It is
always important to report offenses as soon as possible so they can be
investigated while the information is still fresh in everyone’s minds.
We all know how time dulls our memories. Again, waiting does not solve
the problem. Instead it may encourage people to continue their unethical
behavior since they got away with it before.
I Don’t Have Firsthand Knowledge
If you do not have firsthand knowledge of the
unethical behavior, urge the person who does to report it. Remind them
that by not reporting it, they are not helping the profession or the
person involved. In some cases, the appropriate person to report it is
an attorney or a law firm administrator. If they need more information,
I (or the current Ethics chair) am available to discuss the issue and
help determine whether it is appropriate to have it investigated.
I Don’t Know Whether He/She is a Member of the
If you are unsure whether the person is a member of
the Division, contact me or the LAD Coordinator, Norma Hackler, and we
will confirm the person’s membership.
Unauthorized Practice of Law
If you suspect a LAD member or anyone of UPL,
please report it to the general counsel of the State Bar. If the person
is a LAD member, please report it to me as well. If the person is found
to have committed UPL, we will take the appropriate steps regarding that
person’s membership in the Division.
members of a profession that is not regulated in Texas, we must do
everything we can to maintain high ethical standards. This includes
reporting even suspected unethical behavior to the chair of the
Professional Ethics Committee. If you have any questions regarding the
process or any other ethical issue, please feel free to contact me at
email@example.com or at 210/832-3382.
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