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Board of governors approves voluntary paralegal certification program

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//June 15, 2016//

Board of governors approves voluntary paralegal certification program

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//June 15, 2016//

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The State Bar’s Board of Governors on Wednesday approved a proposal to establish and administer a statewide paralegal-certification system.

But not everyone who cast a vote was in favor of the proposal.

Douglas Buck, a governor and Madison attorney, said he could not give his support without first seeing an estimate of the likely costs and benefits of such a certification system.

“I don’t see this as protecting the public in a meaningful way,” he said.

Also before the vote, Andrew Chevrez, a lawyer out of Milwaukee and another governor, noted that some his colleagues had asked for a “fiscal impact” statement, yet never received one.

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 went 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.

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 then turned to the State Bar to put forward a proposal that would have the Supreme Court justices administering a voluntary certification program. But the justices turned down the request, citing several reasons, in 2008, for not adopting the proposal and suggesting 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.

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