The National Association of Legal Secretaries states that members of their association shall maintain a high standard of ethical conduct and shall contribute to the integrity of the association and the legal profession.
? The ABA’s rule 8.3 requires lawyers to report ethics violations of other lawyers or judges in order to maintain the integrity of the profession. Also known as Fink Rules, these rules require any legal professional who possesses unprivileged knowledge or evidence that is not confidential to reveal that knowledge to the appropriate authority when asked.
When it comes to paralegals, The NFPA requires a legal professional to report professional misconduct even when there is no inquiry. The Fink rules still apply to the non-lawyer, so information that is protected or confidential should not be reported. The NFPA Model Code states that a paralegal shall advise the proper authority of any non-confidential knowledge of any action of another legal professional which clearly demonstrates fraud, deceit, dishonesty, or misrepresentation.
Ultimately, there is no statutory or case authority that specifically extends this duty to a non lawyer legal professional. However, there may be times when you feel that reporting some ones misconduct is the right thing to do. When deciding if it’s the right choice you may want to consider if you have all of the facts about the situation, if your state protects whistleblowers, and how much do you really need your job.
? If the decision is made to report misconduct, it’s important to go to the right authorities. Within a firm or corporation there may be someone in charge of handling allegations of misconduct, and the problem can be resolved within the firm. Otherwise, the state bar, district attorney, or attorney general may be the proper authority depending on the extent of the misconduct t and who the wrongdoer is. Never disclose alleged misconduct to the client, only to the proper authorities to ensure that the public interest will be protected.
? Also under the duty of integrity is the duty to make the law better. ABA’s model rules encourage legal professionals to be active in law reform and legal services organizations. Working in the legal field you’ll come across case law that is outdated or doesn’t serve the public’s best interests. You’ll come across statues that are vague and may have unintended consequences. As a legal professional you not only have a duty but you have an opportunity to make the current laws better for the good of the public.
The primary goal of the rules of ethics and the duty of integrity is to protect the public. As paralegals we are required to maintain the high standards of professional conduct and encourage others to do the same. As a legal professional you should be controlled and dignified and refrain from all illegal and morally reprehensible conduct, to maintain public confidence in the legal profession. Although it is not mandatory or considered the duty of a non lawyer to report misconduct, we all have the duty to protect the public trust.
Source: Ethics for the legal professional (Deborah K. Orlik)