Paralegals would be able to obtain official state certifications under a proposal the State Bar plans to consider Friday.
The bar’s Board of Governors gave its approval in January to start work on a draft proposal calling for the establishment of a paralegal-certification program. Board members are scheduled to meet Friday to talk about the plan in greater detail. Among the things up for discussion are the extent of the State Bar’s involvement in the resulting program and the areas of law that would receive emphasis in the program’s educational standards.
Bar members, though, have no plans to make an official decision Friday. They are looking to take action no sooner than June.
Various participants in Wisconsin’s legal system have been calling for decades for giving paralegals a voluntary means of obtaining official state certifications. The Paralegal Association of Wisconsin, a voluntary organization, first pursued that end by going to lawmakers with a proposal that would have had the certifications overseen by the Department of Regulation of Licensing, an arm of state government that has since become the Department of Safety and Professional Services.
• Chief Justice Pat Roggensack will address the board.
• The board will hear more details about a proposal calling for the State Bar to administer a voluntary-certification program.
• The bar’s criminal-law section will propose that the bar officially take the policy stance of supporting changes to statutes related to compensating and supporting people exonerated from criminal convictions.
• The board will hear a presentation on new vision and mission statements and vote on whether to adopt them.
• The board will take action on its budget.
Despite the strong support within the legal profession, the plan met with resistance from the State Bar and the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Officials at both argued that paralegal work involves the delivery of legal services, which are usually left to the Supreme Court to regulate. The Paralegal Association of Wisconsin next went straight to the State Bar to put forward a proposal that would have the Supreme Court justices administering a voluntary certification program.
Once again, the proponents’ efforts were to no avail.
They cited several reasons in 2008 for not adopting the proposal. For one, they said they had no authority to regulate non-lawyers. Beyond that, they argued that the court’s budget could not support paralegal certifications. The justices’ suggestion was that the bar instead take up the responsibility.
The idea of voluntary certifications was revived last year by the bar’s continuing legal education committee, which has been working on the proposal ever since. In January, committee members presented a general overview of what voluntary certifications would entail if the bar took on the responsibility of administering them.
Friday’s Board of Governors meeting will meanwhile include the discussion of several other matters.
One policy recommendation is calling for changes to statutes related to the compensation and support of people who have been exonerated from criminal convictions. The Board of Governors will also hear a presentation on new vision and mission statements that have been proposed by the board’s strategic-planning committee.
Friday’s meeting is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. at the State Bar Center, 5302 Eastpark Blvd., Madison. Follow @erikastrebel