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We hired a "Legal Clerk" to support our internal legal department.  However, our Corporate Lawyer resigned and we essentially outsource anything of significance.  Our Legal Clerk is fantastic, but the question came up that this individual can't be called a "Legal Clerk" unless they are working under the supervision of a lawyer.  I can't find anything online that clearly supports this as accurate.  Curious to know if it's something I need to be concerned about, or not.  If so, what is the best solution, retitle them to "Legal Associate" or something along those lines?

Employees is still in Law School currently as general FYI.

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Probably a good research project for your Legal Clerk.  ;)

In my opinion, the issue is less about what the position is called, and more about what the law student is doing.  Specifically, the law student should not engage in anything that could be construed as the practice of law unless they are being supervised by an attorney or have some other exception.  A law student may provide legal advice under the supervision of an attorney because the attorney essentially accepts responsibility for the law student’s work product.  A law student providing legal advice on his/her own is most  likely practicing law without a license.

Look to your state bar association for rules on what constitutes the practice of law in your jurisdiction as well as the limits of what a law student or paralegal is permitted to do.

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There is more to life than acquisition regulations.

Again, you have to take a look at the rules of professional responsibility for the state you are located.  What you consider to be "true legal support" is irrelevant.  As an example, see the "Unauthorized Practice Rules"  in the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct (https://www.vsb.org/pro-guidelines/index.php/unauthorized-practice-rules/)

They state in part:

  1. PROHIBITION AGAINST UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE OF LAW: No non-lawyer shall engage in the practice of law in the Commonwealth of Virginia or in any manner hold himself or herself out as authorized or qualified to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia except as may be authorized by rule or statute. The term “non-lawyer” means any person, firm, association or corporation not duly licensed or authorized to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Any person or entity who practices law without being licensed or otherwise authorized to practice law shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Va. Code § 54.1-3904.
  2. GENERAL DEFINITION: A person or entity engages in the practice of law when representing to another, by words or conduct, that one is authorized to do any of the following: 
    1. Undertake for compensation, direct or indirect, to give advice or counsel to an entity or person in any matter involving the application of legal principles to facts. 
    2. Select, draft or complete legal documents or agreements which affect the legal rights of an entity or person.
    3. Represent another entity or person before a tribunal.
    4. Negotiate the legal rights or responsibilities on behalf of another entity or person. 

I'm not telling you your legal clerk is practicing law, but research (especially if the clerk is applying that research to a specific scenario) and editing and redlining contracts/agreements may come close depending on the exact nature of the work performed and the definition of legal work in your state.

This is one of those cases where you shouldn't try to have your cake and eat it too.  Either, the law student is doing "legal work" (i.e., practicing law) in which case s/he should be supervised by an attorney and may be called a legal/law clerk.  Or, the law student is providing administrative and business support, in which case call them an Acquisition Clerk or Business Intern or something along those lines.  Calling the law student a legal clerk, but arguing the law student does not do "legal work" seems like a needlessly confusing arrangement.

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It looks like the person is performing duties similar to a “paralegal specialist”. A “law clerk” Is generally someone who has completed law school and is working under the supervision of a licensed attorney. 

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Paralegals have some college legal training- many are law students. Cheap lawyers use law grads as paralegals while they study for the bar exams. Pay less than law clerks I think 

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I agree that "Law Clerk" is usually reserved for a law school graduate that assists a Judge (usually) or Attorney (less often).  "Legal Assistant," or "Paralegal" refers to someone that is qualified to perform substantive legal work under the supervision of an attorney.  Per the American Bar Association:

  • A legal assistant or paralegal is a person, qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible. (ABA House of Delegates, 1997)
  • The titles "paralegal" and "legal assistant" are generally synonymous. One state, California, has a law specifying who may use the title "paralegal," and other states, such as North Carolina and Wisconsin (PDF) are considering similar proposals. Maine, Indiana (PDF) and South Dakota have defined the terms. Maine's definition also carries fines for misuse.
  • Paralegals are qualified to perform their responsibilities by completing an educational program, receiving training on the job, or through actual work experience. They are not licensed as attorneys are.
  • Paralegals perform substantive legal work that would otherwise be done by attorneys. Clerical work is not substantive legal work.
  • Attorneys remain responsible for legal work delegated to paralegals and must supervise paralegals' work.
  • Paralegals work under the supervision of attorneys and are not "document preparers" working directly with the public.

Also this from the ABA:


Paralegals and nonlawyer staff should be able to perform many of the services that lawyers perform, so long as they do so under lawyer supervision and that the lawyer maintains responsibility for the work. 


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In the 1970's, probably before there were paralegal programs, l think that many new law grads went to work as law clerks while preparing for state bar exams. An Air Force attorney buddy of mine in California, Kelly Reid, left the Air Force after his mandatory service period at the height of Vietnam Nam protest movement.  Melvin Belli was a very prominent attorney in San Francisco. He hired Kelly as a law clerk while Kelly studied for the California Bar Exam, then as attorney.

My ex-wife was lead paralegal in the US Bankruptcy Court in Mobile, AL for years, working for the Judges.

After graduation as a paralegal, it was very difficult for paralegal grads to find work in the early 1980's in Mississippi.  New law grads were plentiful and would work for meager pay until they passed the Bar. 

I guess there is variety in how law clerks and and paralegals are used. Both types work under the direction of lawyers, who are responsible for the work. 

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From the Service Contract Act Directory of Occupations......

30360 PARALEGAL/LEGAL ASSISTANT (Occupational Base) The Paralegal/Legal Assistant performs a variety of legal assistance duties in an office providing legal assistance to attorneys or litigation teams. The Paralegal Assistant analyzes the legal impact of legislative developments and administrative and judicial decisions, opinions, determinations, and rulings, conducts research for the preparation of legal opinions on matters of interest; performs substantive legal analysis of requests for information under the provisions of various acts; or other similar legal support functions which require discretion and independent judgment in the application of specialized knowledge of laws, precedent decisions, regulations, agency policies, and judicial or administrative proceedings. Such knowledge is less than that represented by graduation from a recognized law school and may have been gained from formalized, professionally instructed agency, educational institution training, or from professionally supervised on-the-job training. While the paramount knowledge requirements of this occupational class are legal, some positions may also require a practical knowledge of subject matter areas related to the agency's substantive programs.

30361 PARALEGAL/LEGAL ASSISTANT I The Paralegal/Legal Assistant I works under close supervision with required assistance readily available. Persons in this position typically perform the following: a. Consult prescribed sources of information for facts relating to matters of interest to the program; 112 b. Review documents to extract selected data and information relating to specific items; c. Review and summarize information in prescribed format on case precedent and decisions; d. Search and extract legal references in libraries and computer-data banks; e. Attend hearings or court appearances to become informed on administrative and/or court procedures and the status of cases, and where necessary, assist in the presentation of charts and other visual information.

30362 PARALEGAL/LEGAL ASSISTANT II At this level, the Paralegal/Legal Assistant II exercises more independent judgment than at the level I position. In this capacity the incumbent: a. Reviews case materials to become familiar with questions under consideration; b. Searches for and summarizes relevant articles in trade magazines, law reviews, published studies, financial reports, and similar materials for use of attorneys in the preparation of opinions, briefs, and other legal documents; c. Prepares digests of selected decisions or opinions which incorporate legal references and analyses of precedents involved in areas of well-defined and settled points of law; d. Interviews potential witnesses and prepares summary interview reports for the attorney's review; e. Participates in pre-trial witness conferences, notes possible deficiencies in case materials (e.g., missing documents, conflicting statements) and additional issues or other questionable matters, and requests further investigation by other agency personnel to correct possible deficiencies or personally conducts limited investigations at the pre-trial stage; f. Prepares and organizes trial exhibits, as required, such as statistical charts and photographic exhibits; g. Verifies citations and legal references on prepared legal documents; h. Prepares summaries of testimony and depositions; i. Drafts and edits non-legal memoranda, research reports and correspondence relating to cases. 30363

PARALEGAL/LEGAL ASSISTANT III At this level, the Paralegal/Legal Assistant III participates in the substantive development of cases. In this capacity, the incumbent performs the following: a. Analyzes and evaluates case files against litigation worthiness standards; b. Notes and corrects case file deficiencies (e.g., missing documents, inconsistent material, leads not investigated) before sending the case on to the concerned trial attorney; c. Reviews and analyzes available precedents relevant to cases under consideration for use in presenting case summaries to trial attorneys; 113 d. Gathers, sorts, classifies, and interprets data to discover patterns of possible discriminatory activity; e. Interviews relevant personnel and potential witnesses to gather information; f. Reviews and analyzes relevant statistics; g. Performs statistical evaluations such as standard deviations, analyses of variance, means, modes, and ranges as supporting data for case litigation; h. Consults with statistical experts on reliability evaluations; i. May testify in court concerning relevant data. 30364

PARALEGAL/LEGAL ASSISTANT IV At this level, the Paralegal/Legal Assistant IV assists in the evaluation, development, and litigation of cases. In this capacity, the incumbent performs the following duties: a. Examines and evaluates information in case files, for case litigation worthiness and appropriate titles of law; b. Determines the need for additional information, independent surveys, evidence, and witnesses, and plans a comprehensive approach to obtain this information; c. Through on-site visits, interviews, and review of records on operations, looks for and evaluates the relevance and worth of evidence; d. Selects, summarizes, and compiles comparative data to examine and evaluate respondent's deficiencies in order to provide evidence of illegal practices or patterns; e. Reviews economic trends and forecasts at the national and regional level to evaluate the impact of successful prosecution and potential remedial provisions of ongoing investigations and litigation; f. Identifies types of record keeping systems and types of records maintained which would be relevant. Gathers, sorts, and interprets data from various record systems including computer information systems; g. Interviews potential witnesses for information and prepares witnesses for court appearances; h. Develops statistics and tabulations, such as standard deviations, regression analyses, and weighting, to provide leads and supportive data for case litigation. Prepares charts, graphs, and tables to illustrate results; i. Analyzes data, develops recommendations and justifications for the attorney(s) who will take the matter to court. Continues to work with the attorney(s) during the progress of the case, obtaining and developing further evidence and exhibits, providing administrative assistance, and maintaining custody of exhibits, documents, and files; j. May appear in court as a witness to testify concerning exhibits prepared supporting plaintiff's case

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