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Response from ABA: Definition of a Paralegal

The NFPA Committee to Market the Paralegal Profession sent a letter to the American Bar Association (ABA), requesting that they remove the term “legal assistant” from their definition of a paralegal due to the term’s ambiguity in the legal industry today. While “legal assistant” certainly is at times still used to denote someone who performs substantive legal work that would otherwise be done by an attorney, it is also often used today to describe what used to be known as legal secretaries or any other type of assistant working in the legal field. Due to this ambiguity, NFPA’s preferred term is “paralegal,” and we thus requested that the ABA stop using the terms interchangeably, removing the term “legal assistant” entirely from their definition of a paralegal.

The NFPA has received a response from the ABA, and while they didn’t immediately revise their definition of a paralegal, they do recognize that the legal industry is changing, and pursuant to NFPA’s request, they will be undertaking a survey of paralegal associations and ABA-approved paralegal education programs to determine whether it is time to, in fact, change their definition of a paralegal. We feel that this is a definite success, and we will keep you posted on further developments.

- Lori Boris, RP, MnCP, Vice President & Director of Positions and Issues
- Lisa Lynch, CRP, Vice President & Director of Marketing

To read the full response from the ABA,
click here.

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