Paralegals and legal assistants are largely considered the backbone of every law firm and fulfill critical roles within the legal community. From conducting research, drafting pleadings, contracts, and more, these legal professionals are integral in preparing attorneys for trial. Without the support and critical functions that they provide to law practices, it’s safe to say that many individuals and consumers would not see justice.
This October 23, 2021, is National Paralegal Day, an annual event that celebrates the mountain of legal work paralegals and legal assistants tackle each year to help law firms and their clients succeed.
Before we recognize and celebrate the profession as it is today, let’s take a brief look back at its history.
Overall, the paralegal and legal assistant profession is rather young and its origins can be traced back to the late 1960s (however, the first “lawyers” can be traced back to Ancient Athens.) The profession was created when Congress, law firms, local bar associations, and the American Bar Association recognized that issues with access to legal services and more complex laws necessitated action. The concept was rooted in the goal of offering greater access to justice, and that educated non-lawyers could help fill the gap.
Over time, these early non-lawyers became experienced legal secretaries who had acquired advanced on-the-job knowledge and training and began performing many complex legal tasks. By 1967, the American Bar Association had issued a formal ethics opinion that outlined the role of legal professionals and helped to solidify and expand their function and prominence within law firms.
Since 1967, the profession has only continued to grow as more individuals have considered a career as a paralegal or legal assistant. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that in 2020 there were 345,000 paralegal and legal assistant jobs in the United States, a figure that in the next ten years is expected to expand by 12 percent.
With the establishment and expansion of legal professionals, groups like the FJA have focused on creating opportunities for individuals to connect with their peers, share resources, and expand on ideas within the profession.
“Being a PI paralegal comes with great responsibility. We are tasked with helping clients obtain justice after being harmed by negligence and our reward at the end of a case is knowing that our hard work made a significant impact in their lives. Having a support system like FJA’s Paralegal and Legal Assistant Section is key to making us shine as paralegals! We receive important case law updates, have access to listservs to ask questions and share information and, most importantly, we are connected with a group of paralegals who understand the importance of the work we do.”
– Carol Goraczko, Florida Registered Paralegal, Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain P.A.
FJA’s Paralegal and Legal Assistant Section provides support for professionals located across Florida and connects members with resources to learn, excel, and grow in their careers now and into the future. Some of the benefits of membership include access to networking opportunities, exclusive email discussion groups, CLE webinars and events, and career resources.
“The Florida Justice Association allows me to be a more valuable resource for my office and our team. The Paralegal and Legal Assistants section specifically provides me with the opportunity to learn, network, and share with my fellow paralegals and legal assistants to better serve our clients.”
– Meg Hartnett, Florida Registered Paralegal, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC
Although the FJA supports its members through a series of virtual resources and offerings, our in-person exclusive events for paralegals and legal assistants are by far the most popular. From the Civil Litigation for Paralegals and Legal Assistants Seminar at Annual Convention to Section networking breakfasts held throughout the state, members are active in sharing stories, learning from one another, and overall, deepening their love for the field.
In celebration of National Paralegal Day, the FJA Paralegal and Legal Assistant Section will be holding a Regional breakfast on Friday, October 22nd, 2021 at the Orange County Bar Association, Grand Cypress Room located at 880 North Orange Avenue in Orlando. This event will include a networking breakfast at 8:30, a program at 9 a.m., and free CLE credits. Mark R. Lippman, Esq. Lippman Law Offices, P.A. will be speaking on The Eviction Moratorium, and all paralegal and legal assistant members are invited to attend (guests welcome!). RSVP to attend here.
As we celebrate National Paralegal Day this year, let us be reminded that paralegals and legal assistants are a growing force within the legal field. We hope you will take a moment to sincerely thank these hardworking individuals who are responsible gatekeepers in the legal profession. They are essential in strengthening and upholding Florida’s civil justice system and protecting the rights of Florida’s citizens and consumers!