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When the time to stand up and fight presents itself to a person who is called to a cause: the soldier picks up his rifle; the boxer, his gloves; and the paralegal blogger, her keyboard. And we do not stop, until we have either silenced our opponent, or there is nothing of ourselves left to give. That time is today. The keyboard is locked and loaded. The House of Collins’ banner flies on high in the legal sector. The stallions stand at the ready. People are flocking to the streets holding poster boards boasting brightly colored glitter (well, they will be soon, anyway). Buckle up, people. Grab a beverage. Take a seat and grab your breakfast bar. It’s. About. To. Go. Down. (And if you just sang that, you earned a coveted spot on the front lines to my right, along with a virtual fist bump from the fearless founder. I’m not playing around today.)
“A single whisper
can be quite a disturbance
when the rest of the audience
My message, only a whisper. I am but one. My voice rings out as the one I am, into the darkness, before giving way to silence. But, I have the ear of many all across the nation: respected leaders, seasoned paralegals, impassioned educators, hard-working newbies, and aspiring paralegal students. Together, that one voice has the power to rise up. Together, we can become a unified voice of many. One loud voice, echoing out, no longer falling into silence. And that unified echo, no longer quiet, now loud, begins to stir and fills the corridors and hallways of law firms and social media sites all across the county. And together, we are better for it. Together, we begin to shift the paradigm. Together, we take a stand. Unified, we speak out. Together, our voices rise up, becoming one strong voice, as we lift with it, the profession we each hold dearly. (Even on the bad days.) Welcome to The Uprising, my friends! By the time you get to the end of today’s post, you will be asked to decide whether you’re in, or out. The choice is yours. The Uprising is here. The time is now.
Here’s the deal, I love what I do as a paralegal. I learned my way in to this profession and solidified my place with beads of sweat upon my brow, gripped in moments of utter internal panic, environmentally-induced chaos, accompanied by esquire-driven work-related terrors, and deadlines & demands galore. I was a wide-eyed, 20-year-old-lady in search of a career path, when I landed my first job answering phones at a law firm. I worked my way up in the years that followed. There was so much to learn along the way. It’s been an epic journey so far. I’m proud to be a paralegal. I’m proud of the arduous climb that carried me here, in heels, hungry for more, and clothed in dignity, hilarity, and professionalism. And I’m honored to now run this blog, where so many of you congregate to read these posts, discuss important topics, and learn from one another. I take what I do seriously. I take this profession and my role within it seriously. As a blogger, I feel a certain sense of obligation to say the things that matter to ALL of us that must be said. It’s serious business. (As serious as an attorney with a statute at 5:31 p.m. on a Friday.)
I love the topic of paralegal ethics. I served on NFPA’s Ethics Board for two years. I’m currently the Ethics Director of the Indiana Paralegal Association. I’ve blogged about six years now. As a paralegal in the field, I don’t feel we are seeing nearly enough articles written about paralegal ethics, or what constitutes an utter lack thereof. It’s a fundamentally imperative topic getting far too little coverage.
In recent months, I cannot even begin to tell you the number of discussions I’ve seen on social media sites involving “paralegals” brazenly doing things that appear to not only be unethical, but also likely rising to the level of the Unauthorized Practice of Law (That’s UPL, to the experienced peeps among us.) I’ve come across some students who are obviously not being properly educated or trained on paralegal ethics, out there attempting to do things they should not do.
Now, upon noticing these glaring public displays of paralegal ignorance occurring outside my own jurisdiction, my initial default setting was simply to ignore it, as most of us, as human folk, do. It didn’t involve me. Or did it? It wasn’t my problem. Or was it? That is a question I really had to stop and turn inwardly to ask myself. Is another paralegal doing something REALLY stupid, unethical, and potentially illegal my problem? The answer to that question is YES! It took me a few months to arrive there, but you better believe it’s my problem. Guess what? It’s YOUR problem, too. Whether you’re happy to hold that professional obligation, or not, does not make a bit of difference. It’s still yours to carry.
We toil in the legal trenches. The Internet continues to run. The sun rises and sets. Still, these rogue types solicit their “legal work” to members of the general public without non-lawyer designations, and in states where they are not allowed to do so (which is darn near all of them). They write “articles” and “books” (I’m using both terms incredibly loosely here, folks) to encourage others to do the same. They prominently place things on their ridiculous “paralegal business” websites that undoubtedly rise to the level of ethics violations, and likely UPL. (The freelancers I know and love are careful, diligent people who would never do such a thing. They have disclaimers out the wazoo and market themselves appropriately.) And while I do believe this to be a rather small faction of “paralegals” doing these types of things, they are a glaring problem for the profession, at large.
Experienced paralegals will occasionally comment on these types of discussions on social media sites, here or there, to tell these rogue types they are engaging in unethical conduct. They try to advise students they are misinformed or not properly educated about ethical matters. Still, I read these discussions. Almost. Every. Single. Damn. Day. And yes, I am slowly being driven into a state of self-professed insanity. (This one, ethics driven, not attorney-driven. It’s shocking, I know. I couldn’t believe it, either.)
SO today, I am here to officially announce the launch of a brand spankin’ new social crusade for paralegals we’re calling, “The Uprising.” Yes, THE UPRISING. [Cue the dramatic paralegal with something important to say here.] Our key demographic is paralegals with ethics, integrity, and vision. We want you on our “team.” Yes, YOU! We want you to become the next ride-er-die paralegal to fly alongside the fearless founder and countless others who give a damn about our profession as a whole, our collective reputation, and our ability to do more cool things in the future, as paralegals. As the individuals of professionalism and integrity we CHOOSE to be. As steadfast members of the paralegal community: leaders, experienced paralegals, newbies, educators, and students, alike. We are THE UPRISING.
Let me be clear. This movement may not be for you. If you feel okay seeing unethical discussion on social media sites, this movement isn’t for you. If you are conducting yourself, as a paralegal (with no non-lawyer designation and not in the state of California) and operating your paralegal business in an unethical manner, trust me, this movement is NOT for you. If you choose to intentionally remain blind to pertinent ethical issues plaguing paralegals, this post is NOT for you. If you are a student who does not want to learn the ethics that apply to you, this movement is NOT for you. If you are totally pleased with how little you see currently being promoted on paralegal ethics in the legal world, this movement is NOT for you. And lastly, if you are a Dark Cloud a/k/a Keeper of the Misery masquerading here on The Paralegal Playground and dwelling among the rest of us friendly folks slinging paper and glory in the legal trenches, this movement is totally NOT for you.
In recent weeks, I’ve been flying on Facebook with Jacqueline King, one of our Contributing Writers here on TPS (you may remember her recent posts, always spot on and entertaining). She and I now pop onto discussions we see on Facebook pertaining to unethical issues to post insightful comments. (At this point we aren’t sure who’s Batman and who’s Robin under this fun scenario. The jury is still out. I assure you we each are both desperately dying to utter the words, “I am Batman…”) But nevertheless, we contribute, and we make one heck of a pseudo-ethics-implementation team. It’s empowering to be aligned with another paralegal professional who cares about other paralegals as much as I do. There’s a spirit of commonality. The desire to make a difference for all of us. There’s a bit of magic in it.
You know what I’ve noticed? With just TWO of us entering these discussions on Facebook—a whopping TWO—it has already shifted the dynamic of these discussions. Students and newbies see us telling others this stuff is unethical. They read our diplomatic advice. Heck, who knows, maybe they even go look the stuff up to confirm we’re actually right. Perhaps they stalk our social media profiles for pictures to print out and place onto dart boards; who knows. But they see our comments. People who may not otherwise know better and realize this stuff to be unethical and/or UPL, uh, and even those who totally SHOULD and DON’T seem to care—can see the EXPERIENCED paralegals on these discussions, loud and proud, saying the question being asked or work being proposed is believed to be…[wait for it]…yep….cue the drum roll….UNETHICAL. Because IT IS. Not maybe. Not it could be. It is unethical. You can see it from a mile off, okay, maybe even farther, if you’re being chased by an esquire hopped up on a triple shot of espresso, with a 38-page brief in his hands, and inadequate respect for the weekend, when you, the paralegal, are holding a one-way ticket to Hotel de Bye-Bye, an all-inclusive hot spot, with a bottle of margarita mixer, and a broken dream.
So what can YOU, my fabulous paralegal reader, do to join the movement? That’s an excellent question! You can PLEDGE to help us snuff out this type of unethical behavior online by personally and publicly pledging to aid in our efforts as THE UPRISING. By joining us on social media discussions. When you see people seeking advice that constitutes UPL, or seems to be unethical, you say something. You can do so using kind words. It can be 100% professionally stated. You don’t have to check your respect at the door, people. In fact, we recommend that you bring it to the reality check party.
If you’re WITH us—and we mean really and truly WITH us—“PLEDGE” to join us by hitting that comment button, conveniently featured on this post, to declare your intention of joining us in this new ethical movement for paralegals, THE UPRISING. Do so, to state that you agree that you will sit idly by no longer. Not one more day. That you will remain a professional paralegal with ethics, integrity, and vision. That you will cover your own corner on social media to provide insightful advice to the rogue types, as warranted—and for the love of all that is legal—you will help us to educate others on the important topic of ethics, or an utter lack thereof.
“I, Jamie Collins, do hereby solemnly pledge that I will no longer sit idly by while any paralegal in my midst on social media is engaging in unethical conduct. I have a personal and professional obligation to educate other paralegals and students about unethical conduct. When I see it, I will say something about it.”
The only question is: Will YOU?
If so, hit that comment button. Pledge your support. Join THE UPRISING. (My husband called the title of our new movement “dramatic.” You bet it is! It’s a dramatic title for a dramatic movement we hope will shift the ethical paradigm all across the nation.) Sign me up!
We’re paralegals. The proud. The insane. The over-worked. The under-caffeinated. The brave. The called. The crazy. The professional. The mindful. The organized. The diligent. The droves of legal tactical assault ninjas standing desk-side, firm-wide, and nationwide. Paralegals with ethics, integrity, and a bright vision for the future.
And today, we’re taking our profession back. We’re standing in the ring to go a few rounds. And then a few more. One ethics discussion, one comment, one posted ethics article, and one paralegal at a time. Together.
Join the movement…
“If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.” ~ Albert Einstein
“When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” ~ Abraham Kuyper
“I will act now. I will act now. I will act now. Henceforth, I will repeat these words each hour, each day, everyday, until the words become as much a habit as my breathing, and the action which follows becomes as instinctive as the blinking of my eyelids. With these words I can condition my mind to perform every action necessary for my success. I will act now. I will repeat these words again and again and again. I will walk where failures fear to walk. I will work when failures seek rest. I will act now for now is all I have. Tomorrow is the day reserved for the labor of the lazy. I am not lazy. Tomorrow is the day when the failure will succeed. I am not a failure. I will act now. Success will not wait. If I delay, success will become wed to another and lost to me forever. This is the time. This is the place. I am the person.” ~ Og Mandino
THE UPRISING HAS BEGUN.
THE BUTTON IS BELOW.
THE CHOICE IS YOURS.
We are THE UPRISING. The whisper, the voice, the echo, the movement.
Only one question remains:
Are you in, or are you out?
Hit that button and PLEDGE, paralegals! Tell other paralegals about this new ethical movement by liking and sharing this post on social media. You know what to do – FAR and WIDE, my paralegal friends. FAR AND WIDE. Facebook. LinkedIn. Twitter. Email. Our humanity (and sanity) depends upon it.
We’ll see you soon, with many more ethics posts coming your way!
The Paralegal Society @TPSparalegals