What is a Paralegal?

Paralegals, also known as legal assistants, are a distinguishable group of persons who assist attorneys in the delivery of legal services. Through formal education, training and experience,  paralegals have knowledge and expertise regarding the legal system and substantive and procedural law which qualify them to do work of a legal nature under the supervision of an attorney.

The terms legal assistant and paralegal are used interchangeably, much like the terms attorney and lawyer. The practice of law is regulated by each of the 50 states.

In all states, legal assistants/paralegals are prohibited from practicing law without a license. A legal assistant/paralegal cannot give legal advice, represent a client in court, set a fee, or accept a case, which functions are generally considered the practice of law. Working under the supervision of an attorney, the legal assistant's work product is merged with and becomes part of the attorney work product. In communications with clients and the public, the legal assistant' s non-lawyer status must be clear. A legal assistant may perform any function delegated by an attorney, including but not limited to the following:
  • Conduct client interviews and maintain general contact with the client, so long as the client is aware of the status and function of the legal assistant, and the legal assistant works under the supervision of the attorney.
  • Locate and interview witnesses.
  • Conduct investigations and statistical and documentary research.
  • Conduct legal research.
  • Draft legal documents, correspondence and pleadings.
  • Summarize depositions, interrogatories and testimony.
  • Attend executions of wills, real estate closings, depositions, court or administrative hearings and trials with the attorney.
  • Author and sign correspondence provided the legal assistant status is clearly indicated and the correspondence does not contain independent legal opinions or legal advice.
Professionally, a paralegal's time for substantive legal work (as opposed to clerical or administrative work) is billed to clients much the same way as an attorney's time, but at a lower hourly rate.


Arizona Paralegal Schools

The following is a list of the paralegal schools and/or programs offered in the Phoenix metropolitan area and whether the program is approved by the American Bar Association.  The APA does not promote or recommend any of the schools listed below, but provides them as a courtesy and for your convenience.

Rhodes College*
2525 West Beryl Avenue
Phoenix, Arizona 85021
(602) 942-4141
Arizona Paralegal Training Program*
111 West Monroe Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85003
(602) 252-2171
Lamson College*
1126 North Scottsdale Road, #17
Tempe, Arizona 85281
(480) 898-7000

Phoenix College*
1202 West Thomas Road
Phoenix, Arizona 85013
(602) 285-7216

* Programs are approved by the American Bar Association.


Legal Links

The following legal links are provided as a resource for paralegals, the APA does not take any responsibility for information obtained from these websites.

www.nala.org
National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc.

www.azleg.state.az.us
Arizona Legislative Information System ("ALIS") includes Arizona Revised Statutes, state legislature and much more

www.maricopa.gov
Maricopa County Superior Court, includes on-line docket

www.recorder.maricopa.gov
Search the Maricopa County Recorder's Office and get copies of recorded documents from your desktop

www.cc.state.az.us
Arizona Corporation Commission, search for Arizona corporations and limited liability companies

www.azcentral.com
Arizona Republic, Phoenix Gazette and Arizona Business Gazette

complete list:


Code of Ethics

It is the responsibility of every legal assistant to adhere strictly to the accepted standards of legal ethics and to live by general principles of proper conduct. The performance of the duties of the legal assistant shall be governed by specific canons as defined below in order that justice will be served and the goals of the profession attained. The Canons of Ethics set forth are adopted by the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. as a general guide, and the enumeration of these rules does not mean there are not others of equal importance, although not specifically mentioned.
  • CANON 1 - A legal assistant shall not perform any of the duties that lawyers only may perform nor do things that lawyers themselves may not do.
  • CANON 2 - A legal assistant may perform any task delegated and supervised by a lawyer so long as the lawyer is responsible to the client, maintains a direct relationship with the client, and assumes full professional responsibility for the work product.
  • CANON 3 - A legal assistant shall not engage in the practice of law by accepting cases, setting fees, giving legal advice or appearing in court (unless otherwise authorized by court or agency rules).
  • CANON 4 - A legal assistant shall not act in matters involving professional legal judgment as the services of a lawyer are essential in the public interest whenever the exercise of such judgment is required.
  • CANON 5 - A legal assistant must act prudently in determining the extent to which a client may be assisted without the presence of a lawyer.
  • CANON 6 - A legal assistant shall not engage in the unauthorized practice of law.
  • CANON 7 - A legal assistant must protect the confidences of a client, and it shall be unethical for a legal assistant to violate any statute now in effect or hereafter to be enacted controlling privileged communications.
  • CANON 8 - It is the obligation of the legal assistant to avoid conduct which would cause the lawyer to be unethical or even appear to be unethical and loyalty to the employer is incumbent upon the legal assistant.
  • CANON 9 - A legal assistant shall work continually to maintain integrity and a high degree of competency through the legal profession.
  • CANON 10 - A legal assistant shall strive for perfection through education in order to better assist the legal profession in fulfilling its duty of making legal services available to clients and the public.
  • CANON 11 - A legal assistant shall do all things incidental, necessary or expedient for the attainment of the ethics and responsibilities imposed by statute or rule of court.
  • CANON 12 - A legal assistant is governed by the American Bar Association Model Code of Professional Responsibility and the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct.