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Most sizable companies and organizations — not just law firms — understand that paralegals are essential to their success. Paralegals provide invaluable assistance by researching, gathering facts and monitoring pending transactions or filed lawsuits. According to a survey by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, nearly a third of all paralegals work in companies, government and organizations — not in law firms (See 2003 Paralegal Compensation and Benefits Report, Executive Summary). Therefore, all legal employers must pay attention to laws and ethical rules that bear on the employment of paralegals.

Legal issues affecting paralegals are much more extensive than the frequently expressed concern over the unauthorized practice of law. The Department of Labor often addresses the application of wage laws to paralegals. And it may surprise many attorneys that, in 2000, the California Legislature passed laws establishing minimum qualifications for the occupation. Revised statutes took effect in 2004.

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