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Purpose of Guidelines: The Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) is charged with numerous responsibilities which include responding to questions and matters involving ethical conduct, obligations, utilization and/or discipline of paralegals. As such, NFPA may be asked to provide its opinion or interpretation of the NFPA Model Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility and/or respond to related inquiries from members and outside individuals and entities.

The intention of these guidelines is to (a) ensure the confidentiality of the inquirer's identity; (b) ensure that the opinion or recommendation is offered by NFPA as an organization based upon NFPA's positions and research in the ethics arena; and (c) provide NFPA members with a permanent record of all ethics and disciplinary opinions it issues to ensure that they are (1) consistent, (2) provide a historical perspective and (3) provide a membership benefit.

Composition: The NFPA Board of Directors appoints a coordinator(s) for the Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee at the Board of Directors meeting immediately following each Annual Meeting. This coordinator(s) shall serve as a member of the Ethics Board. (See Endnote 1.) Additionally, the NFPA President and Vice Presidents shall be considered ex-officio members of the Ethics Board. The Ethics Board is formed for the purposes of accepting and responding to inquiries concerning ethical conduct, obligations, utilization and/or discipline of paralegals.

Jurisdiction: NFPA may accept inquiries from any paralegal; attorney, corporate or governmental entity employing a paralegal; court; legislature; or bar association. The Ethics Board shall accept inquiries from a member of the legal profession as it pertains to ethical conduct, obligations, utilization and/or discipline of paralegals. (See Endnote 2.)

Confidentiality:

1. The identity of the inquirer, employers, attorneys and clients involved in the matter shall be confidential and not disclosed or published to anyone with the exception of those individuals comprising the Ethics Board and the Managing Director.

2. Except by leave of court granted on good cause shown, or in response to a subpoena to appear in court to testify, neither the members of the Ethics Board nor the Managing Director shall release the inquiry, supporting documentation or identity of the inquirer, employers, attorneys or clients involved in the matter to any person, investigator, attorney or other individual or entity.

3. The Coordinator(s) of the NFPA Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee may consult with outside individuals, entities or sources which they deem appropriate and necessary to conduct research and render an opinion on the inquiry, but may not disclose the identity of those referred to in Paragraph One above.

4. The final ethics opinions shall not disclose the identity of the individuals and entities described in Paragraph One above.

Form of Inquiry: All inquiries shall be addressed to the NFPA Vice President/Director of Positions and Issues who shall transmit them to the members of the Ethics Board and, for the purpose of maintaining a permanent record, to NFPA Headquarters.

Disposition of Inquiries: NFPA may respond to and/or offer an opinion or recommendation on inquiries concerning the ethical conduct, obligations, utilization and/or discipline of paralegals as follows:

1. Upon receipt of an inquiry concerning ethical conduct, obligations, utilization and/or discipline of paralegals, the inquirer will be referred to the NFPA Vice President/Director of Positions and Issues.

2. The NFPA Vice President/Director of Positions and Issues shall request that the inquirer submit the inquiry in writing setting forth the question or factual situation in detail. This may be accompanied by a memorandum citing the rules of court or canons of ethics involved and any other pertinent authorities and may provide supporting documentation, if appropriate. (See Endnote 3.)

3. A certificate stating that any opinion of the Ethics Board will not affect the interests of the parties to any pending action shall be provided by the inquirer with all inquiries. (See Endnote 4.) The Ethics Board shall not address an inquiry which may affect the interests of any party to any pending action.

4. Upon receipt of the inquiry, all documents shall be stamped "confidential." Thereafter, the Vice President/Director of Positions and Issues will refer the inquiry to the Coordinator(s) of the NFPA Professional Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee to be researched and to draft a response to the inquiry on behalf of NFPA.

5. NFPA may respond to an inquiry and offer its opinion which may be based on, but not be limited to, the following as adopted and amended as of the date of the inquiry:

* The NFPA Model Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility;
* Other policy statements and/or positions by NFPA;
* The ABA Model Guidelines for Utilization of Legal Assistant Services;
* The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and as said Rules may be adopted and/or amended by the state from which the inquiry arose;
* The ABA Model Code of Professional Responsibility and as said Code may be adopted and/or amended by the state from which the inquiry arose;
* Any formal and/or informal ethics or disciplinary opinion published in any jurisdiction; and
* Any published decision concerning paralegal and/or attorney ethics or discipline.

6. The Coordinator(s) of NFPA Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee shall submit to the Vice President/Director of Positions and Issues a written response which includes a basis for the opinion or recommendation with citations to authoritative sources, as appropriate.

Format of Opinion:

1. The format of NFPA's final opinion shall include the question, the facts, a discussion which may include reference to prior opinions and/or authoritative sources and a conclusion.

2. As stated above, NFPA ethics opinions shall not identify the individuals nor entities involved in the inquiry.

3. All NFPA ethics and disciplinary opinions shall bear the following preliminary paragraph:

"National Federation of Paralegal Associations
Informal Ethics and Disciplinary Opinion No. [insert year and opinion number, e.g., 94-1]

The following ethics and disciplinary opinion of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) is offered based upon its positions and research in the area of paralegal ethics. It should not be construed as binding and must be interpreted in conjunction with the applicable state's Supreme Court rules and opinions governing the professional conduct of members of the legal profession. This opinion may be used for guidance, and by the appropriate entity, as a persuasive argument in favor of the findings of NFPA."

4. All NFPA ethics and disciplinary opinions shall bear the following clause after the last paragraph of the opinion:

"Indemnification of NFPA: By making a request to the National Federation of Paralegal Associations for an opinion and/or recommendation concerning proper conduct for a member of the legal profession as it pertains to ethical conduct, obligations, utilization and/or discipline of paralegals, the inquirer and his/her employers, employees, agents, and representatives agree to indemnify, hold harmless, and defend the NFPA, its Officers, Directors, Coordinators, Ethics Board and Managing Director from any claims arising from any act or omission of NFPA except those occasioned by NFPA's wilful or deliberate acts."

Publication of an Opinion

1. The NFPA President and Vice Presidents will finalize the opinion or recommendation and cause it to be provided to the inquirer. If an opinion is not unanimous, the President shall make the final decision as to the opinion to be rendered.

2. The Vice President/Director of Positions and Issues will cause to be published the NFPA ethics opinion in Inside NFPA within 60 days of it being provided to the inquirer. Published opinions shall not identify the party or parties making the inquiry.

3. Published opinions of the Ethics Board shall be binding upon the NFPA Ethics and Professional Responsibility in their disposition of all matters subsequently before the Ethics Board, and may be modified upon recommendation of the Ethics Board based on good cause shown.

Maintenance of Record: The NFPA Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee shall maintain a cross-referenced index of NFPA's final ethics opinions and cause a full copy of said opinions to be stored at NFPA Headquarters and provided to NFPA members and outside individuals or entities as directed by NFPA Procedures.

Indemnification of Ethics Board: NFPA agrees to indemnify, hold harmless, and defend the members of the Ethics Board and Managing Director from any claims arising from any act or omission except those occasioned by the individual's wilful or deliberate acts.

Endnote 1: For the purposes of these Guidelines, the individuals who comprise the committee responsible for rendering an ethics or disciplinary opinion will be referred to as the "Ethics Board." This will distinguish those individuals from the members of the NFPA Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee on which any NFPA member may participate.

Endnote 2: Nothing in these Guidelines should be interpreted as a prohibition on the Ethics Board or NFPA issuing an opinion on its own initiative if a matter involving ethical conduct, obligations, utilization and/or discipline of paralegals comes to the attention of NFPA through another means.

Endnote 3: A request in writing for an opinion may be waived for good cause by the Ethics Board.

Endnote 4: The certificate stating that the matter is not the subject of a pending matter before the court shall not be waived under any circumstances.

Adopted by the NFPA Board of Directors June 10, 1995; revised November 19, 1995.
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Copyright 1995, National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. All rights reserved. e-mail: info@paralegals.org

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