Can a paralegal conduct a settlement conference without a supervising lawyer present?

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In general, courts and statutes have ruled that a paralegal may not practice law, so it would not be an ethical practice for an unsupervised paralegal to conduct a legal settlement either on behalf of an attorney or as an independent contractor. There are several court cases on record that describe situations where a paralegal, with the knowledge and consent of their supervising attorney, conducted client settlement meetings, and most of them resulted in the disbarment of the attorney (Maryland v. Hallmon, 1996).

Aside from legal and ethical violations, the primary reason that paralegals should not conduct a settlement conference is that they are likely to be put in a position to give legal advice or determine the strategy or course of action for the case since that is fundamentally the purpose of those meetings. To avoid violating statutes and rulings, attorneys must attend settlement conferences with their legal staff, but they may delegate tasks such as information gathering or interviewing the client.

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