If I am a PA licensed attorney seeking only paralegal work, do I have an ethical duty (or employment law requirement) to disclose my license and JD to potential employers when I submit for an open paralegal position? I've worked the last 8 years as a paralegal and was just fired from my first and only attorney position. My former employer is fighting my UC benefits, so I'm unable to provide a good reference from my only attorney job. Since I have a stronger paralegal background and experienced paralegal pays better than newbie attorney, I'm seeking paralegal work. I fear, however, that I'm not being considered for paralegal positions because employers see my JD and think I'm not in it for the long haul. It's the only reason I can think of to explain why I'm not even getting called for interviews for jobs that I fully qualify for. One recruiter even confirmed this theory for me. Hence, I was thinking of omitting my J.D./attorney license from my resume and disclosing same in a cover letter or at the interview. In fact, that is exactly what I did and it landed me an interview. After emphasizing my willingness to commit to an employer for several years, the recruiter agreed to put me out there as a job candidate. So in other words, once I got face time with the recruiter to explain my situation, she was OK with it; but I never would have gotten the chance to explain if I had fully disclosed on my resume. A recent interview with another legal recruiter suggested that, if hired, my new employer would be required to add me as an attorney to their professional liability policy, even if I was employed solely as a paralegal; and that failure to include my JD on my resume was professional dishonesty. So if the last recruiter is true, then I find myself in a catch-22. If I disclosure my JD/attorney license on resume, I don't get the interview; but if I omit, then I'm allegedly committing professional misconduct. Thank you in advance.
Thank you for your question. I am also a Pennsylvania licensed professional and will do my best to assist you with your concerns. If you would like me to clarify my answer, I will be happy to do so. I appreciate the chance to help a fellow member of the Bar.To answer your question directly, I am unaware of any Pennsylvania ethics decisions or rules that require you to disclose your bar information especially if you are not utilizing it for work. If you do not act in the scope of an attorney, do not attempt to utilize your license, and are not going to conduct 'legal consultations', representations, or any behavior where you can be considered as an attorney, I see no legal requirement that you provide your information to the law firm. Furthermore there is no legal requirement that a law firm add you to the insurance anyway--as an example, 'of counsel' positions for the most part require that the attorneys furnish their own insurance, and they are generally not covered under the company umbrella. I see no ethical obligation here if you are not being hired as an attorney, and are choosing not to utilize that information for the law firm.
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Ok. Thank you for the quick response. One point of clarification: Are you saying that I would NOT be covered under an employer's liability policy? Generally speaking, paralegals (while not specifically named on a policy) are covered under the firm's insurance for any malpractice claims, on the theory that any work performed by paralegal is the responsibility of his/her supervising attorney and since the supervising attorney is specifically named in policy, paralegal is also covered. If I was working as a paralegal, and therefore reporting to counsel, I should be covered by the firm's policy. However, my license throws the proverbial wrench in there. Hypothetical: Should the situation arise where the company was sued for work I had performed in my role of paralegal, would the employer's professional liability insurance cover me or would the employer likely opine that my professional license excised me from under the employer's umbrella? Your example of "Of Counsel" who are required to carry their own malpractice insurance triggered this concern. One way to read your answer was that while I did not have a duty to disclose, I may have other duties (such as obtain personal liability insurance). Thanks again.
Thank you for your follow-up, Rachel. I would be happy to clarify.You would NOT be covered under their policy as an attorney, but you WOULD be covered under their policy as a paralegal. Prior to responding I checked with other attorneys who have hired (or worked for) other attorneys in the guise of a paralegal, and none of us found contrary law that would state that the process is somehow improper or against state law. In your hypothetical you would be covered as a paralegal since you were performing duties as a paralegal. My example of 'of counsel' was merely to demonstrate that those attorneys had to have special insurance for themselves but they were also working as attorneys, not as a different professional.Good luck.Dimitry Esquire41085.8846095718
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