HMPA is a nonprofit, non partisan, non bargaining association, organized in 1978 to promote the professional advancement of legal assistants in the Houston area. Today HMPA continues to strive for excellence in the profession thorough the implementation of a minimum education standards and the creation of the Professional Houston Paralegal designation. Although HMPA is not a regulatory board, it is a goal to remain on the forefront of the regulation, certification and licensure issues facing the profession today and in the future.
HMPA offers various types of memberships:
- Voting - $75.00
- Associate - $75.00
- Student - $35.00
- Affiliate - $150.00
- Low cost monthly CLE seminars
- Our quarterly newsletter, Burden of Proof
- Membership directory published annually
- Scholarships awarded annually
- Mentorships available for students and HMPA members
- Paralegals' Day held in October
- Social activities year round
- Community Service projects with other legal professional associations and charities year round
- Paralegal of the Year awarded annually
- Publishing opportunities in HMPA's newsletter, Burden of Proof
- Networking opportunities
- Job Bank Website Hotline
- Membership availability with People's Trust FCU
- Hertz Car Rental Discounts
- Professional recognition with the Professional Houston Paralegal designation
HMPA CLE Meetings
General membership/CLE meetings take place the second Tuesday of each month. Meetings feature guest speakers who provide information and resources related to the legal profession. The monthly newsletter contains all meeting information, including reservation forms. HMPA also has Full Day and Half Day Seminars scheduled throughout the year.
HMPA Newsletter: Burden of Proof
HMPA's newsletter, Burden of Proof, is a quarterly publication provided as a member benefit and is the primary vehicle of communication between the Board of Directors and the membership. All HMPA members are encouraged to submit articles of interest. HMPA's newsletter, Burden of Proof, provides meeting dates, student columns, professional development and placement resources, pro bono opportunities, vendor advertising, and other news concerning the legal profession.
HMPA's website (www.houstonparalegals.org) is instrumental to HMPA's communication with its members. All HMPA Directors have HMPA email addresses for immediate access by our members. Regular email broadcasts from HMPA's President and other directors keep HMPA members apprised of current events. HMPA's membership information and forms are accessible on HMPA's Website. HMPA also has its Job Bank postings on HMPA's Website which is password protected for access by HMPA members only. HMPA's website also has HMPA's calendar of events, reservation forms, CLE Library lists, and a Photo Gallery of HMPA's events. HMPA's website was launched in 1998 and has been recently redesigned and updated in 2008.
Definition of Paralegal/Legal Assistant
In 2005, the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors, and the Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas, adopted a new definition for "Paralegal."
A paralegal is a person, qualified through various combinations of education, training, or work experience, who is employed or engaged by a lawyer, law office, governmental agency, or other entity in a capacity or function which involves the performance, under the ultimate direction and supervision of a licensed attorney, of specifically delegated substantive legal work, which work, for the most part, requires a sufficient knowledge of legal principles and procedures that, absent such a person, an attorney would be required to perform the task.
On April 21, 2006, the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors approved amending this definition by including the following "STANDARDS," which are intended to assist the public in obtaining quality legal services, assist attorneys in their utilization of paralegals, and assist judges in determining whether paralegal work is a reimbursable cost when granting attorney fees:
A. Support for Education, Training, and Work Experience:
1. Attorneys are encouraged to promote:
a. paralegal attendance at continuing legal education programs;
b. paralegal board certification through the Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS);
c. certification through a national paralegal organization such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA); and
d. membership in the Paralegal Division of the State Bar and/or local paralegal organizations.
2. In hiring paralegals and determining whether they possess the requisite education, attorneys are encouraged to consider the following:
a. A specialty certification conferred by TBLS; or
b. A CLA/CP certification conferred by NALA.; or
c. A PACE certification conferred by NFPA; or
d. A bachelor's or higher degree in any field together with a minimum of one (1) year of employment experience performing substantive legal work under the direct supervision of a duly licensed attorney AND completion of 15 hours of Continuing Legal Education within that year; or
e. A certificate of completion from an ABA-approved program of education and training for paralegals; or
f. A certificate of completion from a paralegal program administered by any college or university accredited or approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board or its equivalent in another state.
3. Although it is desirable that an employer hire a paralegal who has received legal instruction from a formal education program, the State Bar recognizes that some paralegals are nevertheless qualified if they received their training through previous work experience. In the event an applicant does not meet the educational criteria, it is suggested that only those applicants who have obtained a minimum of four (4) years previous work experience in performing substantive legal work, as that term is defined below, be considered a paralegal.
B. Delegation of Substantive Legal Work:
"Substantive legal work" includes, but is not limited to, the following: conducting client interviews and maintaining general contact with the client; locating and interviewing witnesses; conducting investigations and statistical and documentary research; drafting documents, correspondence, and pleadings; summarizing depositions, interrogatories, and testimony; and attending executions of wills, real estate closings, depositions, court or administrative hearings, and trials with an attorney.
"Substantive legal work" does not include clerical or administrative work. Accordingly, a court may refuse to provide recovery of paralegal time for such non-substantive work. Gill Sav. Ass'n v. Int'l Supply Co., Inc., 759 S.W.2d 697, 705 (Tex. App. Dallas 1988, writ denied).
C. Consideration of Ethical Obligations (See Note* below):
1. Attorney. The employing attorney has the responsibility for ensuring that the conduct of the paralegal performing the services is compatible with the professional obligations of the attorney. It also remains the obligation of the employing or supervising attorney to fully inform a client as to whether a paralegal will work on the legal matter, what the paralegal's fee will be, and whether the client will be billed for any non-substantive work performed by the paralegal.
2. Paralegal. A paralegal is prohibited from engaging in the practice of law, providing legal advice, signing pleadings, negotiating settlement agreements, soliciting legal business on behalf of an attorney, setting a legal fee, accepting a case, or advertising or contracting with members of the general public for the performance of legal functions.
*Note: a more expansive list is included in the "General Guidelines for the Utilization of the Services of Legal Assistants by Attorneys" approved by the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas, May, 1993.
These standards may be found at www.txpd.org and at www.texasbar.com/paralegalstandards.
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