In preparing for an ethics presentation to the Paralegal Association of Florida this Saturday for their 2009 Spring Seminar, we came across the interesting article, Four Trends Will Change the Face of the Paralegal Profession, at The Complete Lawyer.
Since there may not be time to discuss the article at the seminar, we might as well open the forum to the Net. To summarize, the four trends are social networking websites, offshore outsourcing, paralegal regulation, and e-discovery.
First stop, however, is our dissent on the issue of outsourcing legal/paralegal work. This is pure opinion, since I do not use offshore paralegals. But even in the face of clients reportedly asking law firms to send out work (which I can’t imagine), I just don’t see this being an industry changing trend.
The rest of the article is dead-on. A paralegal who does not know Web 2.0 skills has a dim future. Lawyers can get away with it, since, after all, we have paralegals to do our internetting. But even the lawyers are feeling the tech pinch. I recall, over 10 years ago, a lawyer questioning whether “in the future” it would be malpractice to not have Westlaw. I reminded him, even at that time, that the compentency and diligence requirements mandated good research, no matter what the source. Depending upon the situation, if it is reasonably accessible information, a court might find it to be malpractice not to know it is out there/get it.
Regulation of paralegals is probably here to stay — and hopefully will get more efficient. Researching “paralegal ethics” on the Internet leads to multiple model rules and association “opinions” with many inconsistencies… paralegals need more structure to know right/wrong.
e-Discovery is here to stay also and, for the next 5-10 years, will be a boon to lawyers and paralegals since the e-Discovery rules overdo quite a bit, thus generating a lot of work. At some point, after everyone finishes going e-frantic, the e-Discovery term will be an annoying cliche and massive data-dumping discovery requests will be passe. Until then, bill your time.