By Edna Wallace, Whitham Hebenstreit & Zubek LLP
After many years of discussion, drafting, writing, rewriting, plotting and planning, late last spring, the Affiliate Membership Committee of the Indiana State Bar Association (ISBA) announced that the ISBA had formally approved a voluntary paralegal registration program. The registration proposal was passed by the ISBA House of Delegates at its annual meeting in October 2014. In March of 2015, after a presentation by the Honorable Judge Edward W. Najam Jr., Indiana Court of Appeals and Chair of the ISBA Affiliate Membership Committee, the Board of Governors adopted the program with a target implementation date of July 1, 2015. The ISBA has worked diligently with the Affiliate Membership Committee as well as attorneys and paralegals across the state to establish a voluntary certification program. Requirements that are properly defined in a program that ensures the credential has value (and did not exclude those paralegals who are qualified through experience and training) was the underlying plan.Through education and experience, the certification plan is meant to assist lawyers and administrators in distinguishing paralegals who meet or exceed the skills required for certification.
Applicants seeking ISBA's Registered Paralegal status must be a member in good standing of the ISBA and meet certain education and/or credential criteria. Once approved, the paralegal will become an Indiana Registered Paralegal and identify their status with the initials IRP following his or her name. To maintain the IRP status, there is a CLE requirement consisting of 18 hours of substantive CLE, 3 hours of which must be Ethics over a 3-year period. A minimum of 6 hours of CLE, of which 1 hour must be Ethics, is required each year.
The Affiliate Membership Committee of ISBA is extremely enthusiastic about the development of this new phase in the advancement of the paralegal profession in Indiana. Paralegals aspiring to achieve a higher goal agree that the Indiana Registered Paralegal status will both recognize and convey a person's commitment to competence with the emphasis on professional education and minimum standards for the profession.
To date there are 20 Indiana Registered Paralegals who have been approved by the ISBA for inclusion into the program. Paralegals statewide are encouraged to take advantage of the two-year grandfathering clause, promote the development of paralegal standards, raise the profile of the paralegal profession and standardize the expectations of the public and other legal professionals.
As multi?skilled professionals, paralegals have a diverse knowledge base and must practice effective interpersonal communication skills to maintain collaborative relationships within the legal team. Attorneys will continue to be held accountable for the supervision and actions of their paralegals, however, the IRP will be trained to strive to excel to the highest of ethical and professional standards.
For more information, go to http://www.inbar.org/?RegisteredParalegal
This article was written by Edna Wallace of Whitham Hebenstreit & Zubek LLP. If you would like to submit content or write an article for the Paralegal Committee page, please email Rachel Beachy at firstname.lastname@example.org.