In Maryland, those who are interested in becoming paralegals have the option to pursue certificate programs or degree programs in paralegal studies. These programs help new paralegals prepare for the voluntary national certification exams, and can also help them stand out in a competitive job market. It is important to note that not all programs are approved by the United States Bar Association (ABA) or offered by accredited educational institutions. Many lawyers are aware that law clerks, paralegals, clerks, and paralegals cannot “practice law ethically”, but it can be difficult to determine what constitutes the unauthorized practice of law versus the appropriate and ethical role that support staff members may play.
The attorneys at Eccleston & Wolf explain this difference in more detail. Becoming a paralegal in Maryland requires obtaining the proper education and credentials to make yourself a valuable asset to any employer. If an agreement is reached, paralegals can confirm the resolution with the parties, advise “your client” to sign the authorization, and prepare the settlement sheet and other related documents. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NCAPA) has been working since 1974 to develop and expand the paralegal profession by representing the interests of public and private sector paralegals in the broader legal field, encouraging education and voluntary certification of paralegals, and providing networks, support, and resources to its members.
In certain situations, clients can ask paralegals about the law, liability issues in their case, the value of their matter, and what settlement demands should be issued. Paralegals can play an important role in many different practice areas. Certificate programs often offer a specialized focus on paralegal studies without general education requirements. It is important to note that salaries tend to be higher in corporations and large firms, as well as urban areas where employers must compete for qualified candidates.
The Maryland Court of Appeals made it clear that paralegals cannot resolve lawsuits without specific authorization from an attorney. After graduation, paralegals can work in private firms, corporations, banks, and government agencies. Although there is no mandatory certification for paralegals in Maryland, they can choose to demonstrate their mastery of the field by becoming certified paralegals. Any law firm that allows its staff to practice law without proper supervision is violating applicable ethical standards in Maryland.
The Maryland Paralegal Association (MAP) offers membership to students and professional paralegals who live or work in Maryland. Those who are interested in becoming a paralegal can still prepare for their career with on-the-job training.