by Michael Djavaherian

In case you missed it, the California State Bar has provided updates on several initiatives that lawyers on XIRA should be aware of. One related to the working group exploring changes to the paralegal profession. That group is looking into creation of a “paraprofessional” licensure and certification program that would, in theory, improve access to justice. Utah and several other states have similar systems in place for paralegals.

We do not believe that lawyers, including solos and those in small firms, need to have concern about the possibility of competition from paralegals. Rather, those professionals will complement the work performed by lawyers, by filling in and assisting the public in legal matters where a full law degree is not necessary, but some legal knowledge is required. Paralegals will be able to provide those services to people who would otherwise not be able to hire a lawyer, and perform tasks that lawyers would not be able to economically complete.

Paraprofessionals would meet educational requirements including courses in ethics and professional responsibility, evidence and procedure. They would take additional coursework and have to be knowledgeable about the specific areas of law where they provide services, such as unlawful detainer or family law. They would be required to have 1000 hours of training and pass exams specific to their specialty. They would be subject to the same character requirements as attorneys, and would undergo the same background check. They would be required to carry bond coverage of $100,000 and are subject to the same rules of professional conduct and discipline as lawyers. These are fairly stringent requirements.

The Bar has not specified the types of activities that licensed paralegals would be able to perform, but it is likely to be similar to those allowed in Utah. They would be limited to defined practice areas, and within those areas, would only be able to assist clients with certain types of tasks, like filling in forms or assisting in understanding the legal process.

Lawyers on XIRA will benefit by the addition of paraprofessionals to the XIRA marketplace. They will be able to create ad hoc law firms for specific cases, consisting of other lawyers as well as paralegals, and handle it all through XIRA. Coming iterations of the XIRA platform will allow an attorney to add others to their cases, and provide unified billing and automatic payment for all participants. Once again, we are at the forefront of major changes in the legal industry!

A second notable announcement from the Bar involves changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct that became effective on March 22, 2021. Rule 1.1 [Competence] was revised to provide that a lawyer’s duty of competence includes the obligation to stay up to date on changes in law practice, and to be aware of the benefits and risks associated with technology. It is interesting to contemplate that the law has evolved to the point that now, to meet ethical requirements of competency, lawyers might be required to utilize a video conference solution for their clients, might be required to have an automated billing system, an online document storage system (especially in light of Jones Day’s on-site storage system being hacked) and use other modern methods for handling their law practice. A comparable situation undoubtedly arose with the invention of the typewriter and telephone. Just as a competent lawyer in 1890 would no longer write his briefs to the court by hand, and in 1930 needed to have a telephone, so lawyers in 2021 must use technology to adequately serve their clients.

XIRA users can rest assured that, in addition to joining the platform with the latest in video conferencing and practice management tools, they are also provided the safest technology available today. XIRA provides end-to-end encryption of all transmissions to and from its users, and its software has passed rigorous security reviews from industry leading third party security experts. Using XIRA will ensure you never need worry about meeting Bar standards for use of technology.