It may come as a surprise to many to know that, in most states, disbarred attorneys are permitted to work as paralegals. Only Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Wisconsin have a total ban against disbarred and suspended attorneys working as paralegals.
A lot of the work that is performed by paralegals is also practiced by attorneys. This means that there is a potential for disbarred and/or suspended attorneys to cross the line into the illegal practice of law. Allowing disbarred and suspended attorneys to practice as paralegals condones unethical behavior, puts the public at risk and creates further negative perceptions of the legal profession. Allowing disbarred and suspended attorneys to work as paralegals minimizes the severity of the act that caused their disbarment and/or suspension
Those in favor of allowing suspended attorneys to work as paralegals or law clerks argue that working in the legal profession will allow the attorney to maintain legal skills and competency while addressing the issues that caused his/her suspension or disbarment. When someone applies for reinstatement, the testimony of an attorney employer can be persuasive.
The role of a paralegal has evolved over time from glorified secretary to quasi-lawyer. Paralegal duties include drafting pleadings and discovery documents, conducting legal research, interacting with various courts and court personnel and heavy client contact. A paralegal is placed in a role of trust both with the employer and the public. That trust is jeopardized when the “paralegal” is a suspended or disbarred attorney.
Would you want a disbarred attorney working on your case in any capacity?