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|Utilizing Paralegals in Kansas|
Utilizing Paralegals in Kansas: What Lawyers and Paralegals Must Know
Prepared as a public service by the Kansas Bar Association and the Kansas Bar Foundation.
Instructions: click any of the labels below to expand/hide each topic.
Who is a Paralegal?
A paralegal is defined by the Official Standards and Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegals in Kansas as follows:
Persons not meeting the definition of a paralegal as defined by the Official Standards and Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegals in Kansas are discouraged from identifying themselves as paralegals. Lawyers are also discouraged from identifying non-lawyer support staff as paralegals unless he/she qualifies as a paralegal.
What is "Substantive Legal Work?”
"Substantive legal work” is work that requires knowledge of legal concepts and is customarily, but not exclusively, performed by a lawyer. Examples of substantive legal work performed by a paralegal include: case development and management; interviewing clients; fact research and analysis; legal research and analysis; and drafting legal documents.Substantive legal work performed by a paralegal under the supervision of a licensed lawyer does not constitute the unauthorized practice of law.
Paralegal vs. Legal Assistant
Historically, the terms "paralegal” and "legal assistant” have been used interchangeably. The term "legal assistant” is now being used to refer to positions outside the paralegal definition, including legal secretaries and other law office support staff, and is no longer synonymous with the term "paralegal.” Within the last few years, the term "paralegal” has become the preferred term across the United States to identify highly trained legal support staff that perform substantive legal work.
What are the Qualifications for a Paralegal in Kansas?
Any lawyer employing a paralegal should establish guidelines as to the expertise, educational background, and any other special requirements needed for the position. The KBA Paralegal Committee recommends the following standards:
What Conduct is Prohibited by a Paralegal?
A paralegal shall not:
The paralegal is directly accountable to the lawyer. The lawyer maintains ultimate responsibility for and has an ongoing duty to actively supervise the paralegal’s work performance, conduct and work product.
What is a Paralegal’s Duty to the Public?
A paralegal shall:
A paralegal shall perform services for the public only under the supervision of a lawyer unless otherwise authorized by law.
Are Paralegal Fees Recoverable?
Paralegal hours are billable to the client and those fees are recoverable if the paralegal is performing substantive legal work that would otherwise be performed by an attorney.
In Missouri v. Jenkins, 491 U.S. 274 (1989), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the practice of billing paralegal hours at market rates, stating that "[b]y encouraging the use of lower cost paralegals rather than attorneys wherever possible, permitting market-rate billing of paralegal hours encourages cost-effective delivery of legal services...”
Further, courts are increasingly prone to reduced fee awards when they determine that the work performed should have been done by a paralegal instead of a lawyer. See, e.g., Lipsett v. Blanco, 975 F.2d 934 (1st Cir. 1992).
Can a Paralegal’s Name Appear on Firm Letterhead?
The KBA Professional Ethics Advisory Committee authorizes the listing of the name of a paralegal on the firm’s letterhead if the paralegal’s non-lawyer status is clearly indicated.
Paralegals may also have business cards that clearly indicate their non-lawyer status and include the name and address of the lawyer or firm for whom they work.
What is the Lawyer’s Responsibility?
A lawyer who supervises a paralegal:
For more information regarding education and professional development for paralegals contact:
National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)