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FRP Enrichment Committee raises the bar

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October 10, 2019

FRP Enrichment Committee raises the bar

By: Lori M. Spangler, FRP

Did you know that the paralegal profession first emerged during the 1960s?  During that time, there was a gap in the legal profession that needed to be filled in order to make legal services more accessible and affordable to the public.  In response to this need, the American Bar Association (ABA) established a Special Committee on Lay Assistants for Lawyers endorsing the use of paralegals. In August 1968, the ABA Special Committee on the Availability of Legal Services proposed that the ABA House of Delegates adopt the following resolution:

Recognizing that freeing a lawyer from tedious and routine detail thus conserving his time and energy for truly legal problems will enable him to render his professional services to more people, thereby making legal services more fully available to the public, this Committee recommends:

  1. That the legal profession recognize that there are many tasks in serving a client’s needs which can be performed by a trained, nonlawyer assistant working under the direction and supervision of a lawyer; [and]
  2. That the profession encourage the training and employment of such assistants.[1]

 

The language of the ABA Resolution is rather archaic as the profession has evolved exponentially during the past five decades. Although a small portion of work may be “tedious and routine detail” in nature, today’s paralegals perform substantive legal work under the supervision of a lawyer that would otherwise be handled  by a licensed attorney.  Not only are experienced paralegals in high demand, they have become an integral part of the legal profession.

After the Florida Supreme Court approved the Florida Registered Paralegal (FRP) Program in 2008, The Florida Bar established the FRP Standing Committee.  This was the first big step made in order to hold a paralegal registrant to a higher ethical and educational standard as well as regulate the growing profession.  Since its inception, the original Standing Committee has actively reviewed and tweaked the rules regulating Florida Bar Chapter 20.  The committee has done an outstanding job over the past eleven years, and it continues to ensure that all FRPs are in compliance with the rules set forth in Chapter 20.

In September 2018, as a means to address FRP members’ requests for more inclusion in Bar events, the Program Evaluation Committee bifurcated the FRP Standing Committee into two committees.  The new committees (The Florida Registered Paralegal Eligibility and Compliance Committee, and the Florida Registered Paralegal Enrichment Committee) were established so that each committee has its own distinct mission that it is charged to fulfill.

The Eligibility and Compliance Committee continues to oversee the eligibility of new member applications and renewal forms submitted by FRP applicants, propose rule amendments to Florida Bar Rule Chapter 20, and monitor compliance of the Bar’s 4,826 FRP members.  The mission of the FRP Enrichment Committee is to create awareness of the FRP program, enhance communication about the benefits of FRP membership, develop educational programming, and create networking and social events to foster camaraderie and cohesiveness of FRPs and other paralegals/legal assistants.

I am honored to have been appointed to serve as Chair of the inaugural FRP Enrichment Committee (Committee).  It has been an absolute pleasure working alongside Co-Vice Chairs Wendy Toscano, Esquire, and Margo Valenti, FRP, while Wayne LeRue Smith, Esquire, Liaison to the Board of Governors, and Frank Digon-Greer, Esquire, Assistant Program Director, have been instrumental in offering guidance and support to the new Committee.  Collectively, we comprise the driving force that guides the 39-member Committee as we continue to raise the bar for all FRPs throughout the State of Florida.

At the 2018 Fall Florida Bar Meeting, the Chair and Co-Vice Chairs structured the Committee into the four distinct subcommittees listed below.  (For a full list of the entire committee, please see the chart at the bottom of this article.)  At the first full committee meeting, each subcommittee met, elected a Chair, and established their own mission statement.  Each Subcommittee Chair is charged with overseeing their committee and facilitating certain functions that relate to the Committee’s overall mission.

  1. Communications Committee (Chair Margo Valenti);
  2. CLE Committee (Chair Michelle Arty);
  3. FRP Awareness Committee (Chair Patricia DeRamus); and
  4. Special Events Committee (Chair Laura Zakarian).

 

These enthusiastic and energetic Subcommittee Chairs host periodic telephonic meetings on a regular basis in order to conduct the work tasked to their subcommittee.  The entire 39-member committee meets in person three times a year and works cohesively as a group in order to fulfill the mission of the Committee.

The Committee has already embarked upon accomplishing its mission within less than a year of its inception by hosting its first “official” CLE Seminar and reception at the 2019 Florida Bar Annual Convention in Boca Raton.  Plans are currently in the formation stage as Laura Zakarian and her subcommittee continue to work on hosting events at the 2020 Florida Bar Annual Convention in Orlando.

The CLE Committee, chaired by Michelle Arty, has already planned an exciting CLE Seminar and reception for the 2020 Florida Bar Winter meeting in Orlando.  Please be on the lookout for upcoming registration information, and we hope to see you there!

2019/2020 Florida Registered Paralegal Enrichment Committee

Committee Chair:  Lori M. Spangler
Co-Vice Chair:  Wendy S. Toscano, Esquire
Co-Vice Chair:  Margo Valenti, FRP
Florida Bar Board of Governors Liaison:  Wayne LeRue Smith, Esquire
Assistant Program Director:  Frank Digon-Greer, Esquire

FRP sub-committees

[1] Proceedings of the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association, 54 A.B.A.J. 1017, 1021 (1968).