Knowing the line between a paralegal and attorney

(Ali Hassan) #21

now, it is about education to the public about the policy, we are in the way to get law about legal aid

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(Fatima Adamu) #22

Interesting discourse, I am of a different opinion though I completely agree with you 100% that we need to know our limit and let the people seeking our services know from onset that we are not lawyers. A paralegal is trained and equipped to give some level of legal advise For instance, if someone comes to you and says I want to buy a piece of land in this community but I do not know what to do or how to go about it. The response would be to point them towards the right procedure using your knowledge of the law and while doing that, you help them gain knowledge of the law and then they use it. In addition, the help them understand options available for various problems and how to engage with the law in finding solutions, that to me is giving advice. I still insist that what community based paralegals need to do which forms part of our ethnics is to state what your status really is. In advanced countries where people get a degree in paralegal studies and have a formal structures in the legal systems, the people already know their roles and functions.


(Ahmed Ismail) #23

Yes @eda I think that should be the nitty-gritty. Though the environments various but a Paralegal must stick on Empowering & Educating the Community taking them into light of what they don’t know about the Law√. And when it comes to represent a client in a Court Room, they can still offer assistance by breaking down some complex terms for him/her before the hearing begins.

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(Oudom Ham) #24

Should there be any rule or principle for paralegal? Are there some universal criteria for community paralegal? Regards, Oudom


(Fatima Adamu) #25

@Oudom_Ham Are there some universal criteria for community paralegals ? I believe there should be some common ethics which should be universal Impersonation: This has been the most common challenge with the Bar here in Nigeria. The fear that paralegals may go off parading themselves as lawyers and therefore, the first lesson a community paralegal learns is that they are not lawyers and they are not expected to act as one.

Confidentiality – A community paralegal is expected to keep the secrets of a person seeking help and matters divulged to them should be between them except when there is need for a third party to be in the know, then it should be with the consent of the need assistance.

Politeness and Respect: Life is about respect for one another and courtesy is what makes them come back. Prompt and Timeliness: effectiveness and efficiency is measured by how timely service was . Dont keep people seeking for help waiting unnecessarily

Impartiality – A community paralegal must always be unbiased and impartial. If a case of interest comes to you, refer it to a colleague

Fairness and Justice – Do not let your culture, emotions or religion weigh heavily in the decisions you make or advice that you give, make sure you guide is the law.

Extortion: Except the organization you work for asks that you collect money for services, No community based paralegal shall collect money from any client in form of fees for services rendered. There could be some others and the list goes on. I say these are universal because they can fit into any context in the world .


(Oudom Ham) #26

@fatimaadamu, it’s very helpful! Thanks a lot for your sharing :slight_smile: Kind Regards, Oudom

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(Eda Rosa) #27

In the United States of America there are organizations that paralegals can be certified under that have similar ethics guidelines as an attorney for example there is the National Association of Legal Assistance and one can receive certification per state as well. I am not aware of a universal or international organization(s).

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(Oudom Ham) #28

Thanks Rosa! Here in Cambodia we are trying to start developing a community lawyering model and see what community lawyer (non-lawyer) should be doing. And we will of course consult with the legal advocacy works have been done locally, regionally and globally.
Regards, Oudom


(Ali Hassan) #29

Community lawyering? Will be different with paralegals


(Oudom Ham) #30

Yes community lawyering is just a flexible term to call to avoid consequences at local context. We are actually looking for adopting some model from this global network in terms of paralegal. We are still developing the so-called community lawyering.


(Ali Hassan) #31

Thanks, but you need to examine it very deep for the aim of avoiding confusion. My experience in my country some paralegals pretend as a lawyer something that is not, therefore community get confusion. We try to provide awareness to the public about the role of paralegals. The line of difference should be provided between Advocates, lawyers, paralegals, and now so called community lawyering in your region

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(Eda Rosa) #32

If you need any further assistance I would be more then happy to lend a hand.

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(Oudom Ham) #33

Thanks. I will let you know if I have further question.

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(Alexandar Pavlov) #34

Very interesting discussion! In Canada giving legal advice is strictly regulated which is aimed to provide quality legal services. However due to the high fees very often the parties self-represent them in the court, especially in the family law cases. The paralegal profession is regulated in Ontario as well. I graduated from a Law Clerk program in November and hope my certification will help me. I am interested with handling international legal issues moreover from my reading of the posts in the NAMATI I see there is huge need from legal help in many countries around the world, for example many people don’t have ID which is really big problem for them. I am attracted by the social aspect of the law, surprisingly there are so many poor people in Canada The legal corporate culture is more or less frustrating for me so I am looking for towards humanitarian aspect of the legal industry. I will be very happy to stay in touch with the participants of this chat. Take care. Alexandar.


(Charles Mubula Mopho) #35

Nigeria is the place where everyone is doing what he or she feels it’s right for them. Many organizations do not work on what their mandates are, so the paralegal takes money from the clients, even professional lawyer working on the organization who are on salary yet they collect money from the client. I have personally referred some people to them, and money was collected, the other could not pay, and his brother was left in the prisons. But I also know that if you don’t have fund to carry on the work as not under a financing organization, it will affect the matter badly. Therefore, the client could contribute to the facilitation of the matter but not the person whom his or her organization pays salary. There are many things about the services of a paralegal, though not a lawyer but makes the lawyer’s work earlier.

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(Alexandar Pavlov) #36

Is Nigeria a common law jurisdiction? Truly yours, Alexandar


(Charles Mubula Mopho) #37

Yes, Nigeria is a common law jurisdiction! Yet they still do not follow the principle of Human Rights.


(Alexandar Pavlov) #38

I know some people from Nigeria here in Canada. Hopefully the future will bring a change to the country.


(Charles Mubula Mopho) #39

Right! What law is there in Canada for the right to education, child’s right to free and compulsory education? Of the primary and secondary schools. Here in Nigeria, this law which is universal, became a national law, then became Rivers State law in 2010. With this it’s domesticated. Since 2014/15 academic year, school fees has been imposed on the children, with torture. The institutions are very corrupt as such it is giving me hard time getting the authority to uphold the rule of law. The next option is to sue the ministry of education, the board, principals and head teachers, and it’s agents. But even the NBA would not stand up to Speak against this illegal collections of school fees of the government schools in Rivers State of Nigeria, as I sent a request letter of support for litigation on this issue of corruption in the schools. Kindly take action from there to call the governor of Rivers State, Mr. Wike to uphold the rule of law as concerns the right to education of the children, of free and compulsory education.

Also support for a court action against the violators of this free and compulsory education, as they are collecting money from the pupils/student.

Am truly calling on the International justice defenders to take action now.

How about that?



(Fatima Adamu) #40

Interesting perspective Mubula, Infortunately, you have just used your experience as a yardstick to measure us all. I dare to say " Nigeria is a place blessed with people who hope to see it work appropriately some day and who are consciously working towards that". I am a paralegal and my organization has worked with paralegals for many years and receiving gifts and money is not something that happens.
Some organizations provide legal aid at a discount while others do it probono. Some identify case types that they respond to for free and those they charge for. I know JEI has a great presence in Rivers State working with paralegals and ethics isn’t something they treat carelessly @AndrewMaki is on the platform he may like to add. I also know that JEI has been doing alot of work around hidden costs in Basic Education in Rivers and they have plans to charge the Government too. I suggest you look inwards and identify local partners who are doing similar work as yours and collaborate to make a much greater impact instead. I’m aware of national level platforms working on criminal justice reforms as well as coalitions on Education, identify those in your state and join them.


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