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California Business & Professions Code §6450
About This Course

Most students who wish to be paralegals in the state of California will need to take the Paralegal Certificate Course and the Advanced Paralegal Certificate Course from one of our California Schools to be in compliance with California Business and Professions Code ยง6450. Without any prior degrees or legal experience, you will need to take both courses. If you do have experience and/or a degree, please see below to find out if you can qualify without taking the Advanced course. The Advanced Paralegal Certificate Course is offered online only. Students may take up to 3 classes per seven (7) week session and must complete six (6) classes to receive a certificate.

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If you have any questions about California Business and Professional Code §6450, please do not hesitate to call us at 800-522-7737 or email us at info@legalstudies.com.

California Business and Professional Code §6450 may be found in a law library, can be viewed online below, or can be viewed in PDF version (you must have Adobe Reader) by clicking here.

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California Business & Professions Code §6450
6450.

(a) “Paralegal” means a person who holds himself or herself out to be a paralegal, who is qualified by education, training, or work experience, who either contracts with or is employed by an attorney, law firm, corporation, governmental agency, or other entity, and who performs substantial legal work under the direction and supervision of an active member of the State Bar of California, as defined in Section 6060, or an attorney practicing law in the federal courts of this state, that has been specifically delegated by the attorney to him or her. Tasks performed by a paralegal include, but are not limited to, case planning, development, and management; legal research; interviewing clients; fact gathering and retrieving information; drafting and analyzing legal documents; collecting, compiling, and utilizing technical information to make an independent decision and recommendation to the supervising attorney; and representing clients before a state or federal administrative agency if that representation is permitted by statute, court rule, or administrative rule or regulation.

(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), a paralegal shall not do the following:

(c) A paralegal shall possess at least one of the following:

(d) All paralegals shall be required to certify completion every three years of four hours of mandatory continuing legal education in legal ethics. All continuing legal education courses shall meet the requirements of Section 6070. Every two years, all paralegals shall be required to certify completion of four hours of mandatory continuing education in either general law or in a specialized area of law. Certification of these continuing education requirements shall be made with the paralegal’s supervising attorney. The paralegal shall be responsible for keeping a record of the paralegal’s certifications.

(e) A paralegal does not include a nonlawyer who provides legal services directly to members of the public, or a legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant as defined in Section 6400, unless the person is a person described in subdivision (a).

(f) This section shall become operative on January 1, 2004.

6451.

It is unlawful for a paralegal to perform any services for a consumer except as performed under the direction and supervision of the attorney, law firm, corporation, government agency, or other entity that employs or contracts with the paralegal. Nothing in this chapter shall prohibit a paralegal who is employed by an attorney, law firm, governmental agency, or other entity from providing services to a consumer served by one of these entities if those services are specifically allowed by statute, case law, court rule, or federal or state administrative rule or regulation. “Consumer” means a natural person, firm, association, organization, partnership, business trust, corporation, or public entity.

6452.

(a) It is unlawful for a person to identify himself or herself as a paralegal on any advertisement, letterhead, business card or sign, or elsewhere unless he or she has met the qualifications of subdivision (c) of Section 6450 and performs all services under the direction and supervision of an attorney who is an active member of the State Bar of California or an attorney practicing law in the federal courts of this state who is responsible for all of the services performed by the paralegal. The business card of a paralegal shall include the name of the law firm where he or she is employed or a statement that he or she is employed by or contracting with a licensed attorney.

(b) An attorney who uses the services of a paralegal is liable for any harm caused as the result of the paralegal’s negligence, misconduct, or violation of this chapter.

6453.

A paralegal is subject to the same duty as an attorney specified in subdivision (e) of Section 6068 to maintain inviolate the confidentiality, and at every peril to himself or herself to preserve the attorney-client privilege, of a consumer for whom the paralegal has provided any of the services described in subdivision (a) of Section 6450.

6454.

The terms “paralegal,” “legal assistant,” “attorney assistant,” “freelance paralegal,” “independent paralegal,” and “contract paralegal” are synonymous for purposes of this chapter.

6455.

(a) Any consumer injured by a violation of this chapter may file a complaint and seek redress in any municipal or superior court for injunctive relief, restitution, and damages. Attorney’s fees shall be awarded in this action to the prevailing plaintiff.

(b) Any person who violates the provisions of Section 6451 or 6452 is guilty of an infraction for the first violation, which is punishable upon conviction by a fine of up to two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) as to each consumer with respect to whom a violation occurs, and is guilty of a misdemeanor for the second and each subsequent violation, which is punishable upon conviction by a fine of two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) as to each consumer with respect to whom a violation occurs, or imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment. Any person convicted of a violation of this section shall be ordered by the court to pay restitution to the victim pursuant to Section 1202.4 of the Penal Code.

6456.

An individual employed by the state as a paralegal, legal assistant, legal analyst, or similar title, is exempt from the provisions of this chapter.

Frequently Asked Questions

About California Business & Professions Code §6450

The Most Frequently Asked Questions Regarding AB 1761

Who do I have to be registered with to call myself a paralegal?
AB 1761 does not require paralegals to be registered. Only Legal Document Assistants (LDAs) are required to register. LDAs are those who work directly for the public and type legal documents and are governed by Business & Professions Code Chapter 5.5.
Who is the governing body?
AB 1761 does not create a governing body for the paralegal profession. However, the bill does create a new crime, and therefore, will be enforced by the courts and the consumer who brings a cause of action against an individual who violated this law. In essence, it is the consumer who will enforce the provisions of AB 1761.
What if I do not possess a paralegal certificate but I have worked for attorneys for over 10 years? Can I call myself a paralegal? Will I be grandfathered in?
The new Business & Professions Code Section 6450(c)(4) specifically grandfathers in paralegals who have been trained by and have been working for an attorney for at least three years by January 1, 2004. A signed declaration by the paralegal’s supervising attorney is required under the code. This declaration should be kept with the paralegal and the paralegal’s supervising attorney.
To whom should I certify that I have met the initial educational requirements of Business & Professions Code 6450?
AB 1761 does not expressly require a paralegal to certify their education with anyone or a state entity. However, it does require paralegals to keep a record of their certifications. Practical application of the law dictates that a paralegal would have to certify their education with the supervising attorney since he/she is held liable by the paralegal's actions. In addition, paralegals should be prepared to certify their qualifications to clients, in case the question ever arises.
What if my school was not ABA approved before I graduated? Is my paralegal certificate invalid?
Your paralegal certificate is valid under Business & Professions Code Section 6450(c)(1)(2), as long as it meets the following criteria:
  1. A certificate of completion of a paralegal program approved by the American Bar Association;
  2. A certificate of completion of a paralegal program at, or a degree from a post- secondary institution that requires the successful completion of a minimum of 24 semester, or equivalent, units in law-related courses and that has been accredited by a national regional accrediting organization or approved by the Bureau for Private Post-secondary and Vocational Education.
What if I come from another state to work in California? Can I qualify under the code?
There would be no problem with a paralegal coming from another state to work in California as long as the educational requirements are met.
What if I work for a national law firm in another state other than California, can my firm send me to California to work on specific cases with them? Will I have to certify continuing education?
It would be acceptable if the paralegal is temporarily working on a case for its law firm which is located out of California. For example, if the firm is in both California and Arizona, and the California firm has a need for additional help on a specified case, the firm may send an Arizona paralegal to work on the case, as long as the paralegal is working for a California Attorney who is a member of the State Bar of California and that paralegal qualifies as a paralegal from the state in which they came. It would be acceptable for a law firm to send an "out of state" paralegal to work on specific cases. Continuing education for those working in California temporarily is recommended but is not mandatory.
What happens if the continuing education criteria are not met?
If the educational criteria are not met by the paralegal, the individual is in violation of the Code.
To whom does the paralegal certify his or her continuing education?
AB 1761 requires the paralegal to certify his or her continuing education with his or her supervising attorney. There is no state or local agency or association who will monitor the requirements. Paralegals should keep a record of their certifications.
Who will monitor paralegals to ensure these qualifications are met? What governing body will enforce the code?
No governing body has been created to monitor the continuing education of paralegals. Again, it was not the intent of the author to create a governing body for the paralegal profession. However, the bill does create a new crime; and therefore, will be enforced by the courts and the consumer who brings a cause of action against an individual who violated the provisions of Business & Professions Code 6450.
What if I am a Certified Legal Assistant (CLA) with the National Association of Legal Assistants, or a Registered Paralegal (RP) with the National Federation of Paralegal Associations? Can I use those credits for my continuing education?
The National Association of Legal Assistants has a voluntary certification test (Certified Legal Assistant or CLA) which requires continuing education to keep the credential. The National Federation of Paralegal Associations also has a voluntary test (PACE) which also requires continuing education. California paralegals must now maintain continuing educational requirements which are approved by the State Bar of California (MCLE credits). Historically, both the National Association of Legal Assistants and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations have honored MCLE credits. However, it is still ultimately the decision of either association as to what courses will be accepted.
Can I utilize self-study programs if they are MCLE approved by the State Bar of California?
Yes. As long as the courses meet the requirements of Business & Professions Code 6070.
What if I write an article or teach a legal course? Will it meet the criteria as continuing education?
No. The Code is specific in regards to its continuing educational criteria.
What if my school became ABA approved after I graduated? Can I still call myself a paralegal?
Yes, as long as the educational criteria are met. If the educational criteria are not met, then you will need to qualify under Section (c)(2)(3) or (4).
What if I come from out of state?
In order to become a paralegal in California, those coming from out of state must meet the qualifications of California paralegals, unless they are working with their law firm on a temporary or loan basis.
If someone graduates from a non-ABA approved school, but the program has 21 units, can that student return to school for the 3 additional units to meet the requirement?
Yes. The school should then reissue a new certificate to those who have completed the 3 additional units.
What if someone is in the process of meeting the training requirements but is not totally completed with the training by 2003, as required by AB 1761? For instance, the person has 2 years and ten months of training, can they call themselves paralegals?
No. The requirements are clear.
Have the duties a paralegal performed prior to the enactment of the bill changed?
No. The duties a paralegals performs under the supervision of an attorney have not changed, nor has the level of supervision.
What are the duties a paralegal may perform?
A paralegal may still perform the tasks, including but not limited to, case planning, development and management, legal research; interviewing clients; fact gathering and retrieving information; drafting and analyzing legal documents; collecting, compiling, and utilizing technical information to make an independent decision and recommendation to the supervising attorney.
What are the prohibited activities of a paralegal?
A paralegal is governed by the same Code of Ethics and Canons of their supervising attorney. The following restrictions have been specifically laid out in the Code: Notwithstanding subdivision (a), a paralegal shall not do any of the following:
  1. Provide legal advice;
  2. Represent a client in court;
  3. Select, explain, draft, or recommend the use of any legal document to or for any person other than the attorney who directs and supervises the paralegal;
  4. Act as a runner or capper as defined in Sections 6151 and 6152;
  5. Engage in conduct that constitutes the unlawful practice of law;
  6. Contract with, or be employed by, a natural person other than an attorney to perform legal services;
  7. In connection with providing paralegal services, induce a person to make an investment, purchase financial product or service, or enter a transaction from which income or profit, or both, purportedly may be derived;
  8. Establish fees to charge a client for the services the paralegal performs, which shall be established by the attorney who supervises the paralegals' work. (This does not apply to fees charged by paralegals in a contract to provide legal services to an attorney, law firm, corporation, governmental agency, etc.)
Are the prohibitions any different than they were prior to the enactment of Business & Professions Code 6450?
No. These activities were prohibited prior to the enactment of AB 1761.
What if I work as a Legal Document Assistant (as defined in Business & Professions Code 6408) and I also contract with attorneys? Can I advertise as a paralegal?
A person can only advertise as a paralegal to prospective contracting attorneys. Paralegals do not work directly for members of the public. Under AB 1761, a paralegal does not have clients - his or her supervising attorney does. To advertise as a paralegal directly to members of the public would be confusing to the public and in violation of the Code. In other words, to advertise paralegal services to a prospective client for whom the individual can only type legal forms is misleading and illegal. An individual can still contract with attorneys and can also perform work as a Legal Document Assistant. When performing paralegal tasks, the individual must meet the criteria of Business and Professions Code 6450. When working directly for the public, the Legal Document Assistant must be registered with the County Clerk/Recorder’s Office and post a $25,000 bond. An individual who does both has two different professions, therefore must qualify under both statutes, and keep them separate.
Do I have to have two sets of business cards and, if so, what should they say?
As described above, a person can be both a paralegal and a Legal Document Assistant; however, to avoid running afoul of either statute, certain precautions should be taken. Namely, a dual duty professional should have two sets of business cards and letterhead for each activity. The business card for Legal Document Assistants must include their registration number and a statement that they do not work for attorneys. A business card for a paralegal shall include the name of the law firm where that individual is employed and clarification that the person is not an attorney or a statement that he or she is employed by contracting with a California licensed attorney.
What are the penalties for not abiding by Business & Professions Code 6450?
AB 1761 provides for both criminal and civil causes of action for violation of the law. Specifically, any consumer who is injured by a violation of this Code may file a complaint and seek redress in any municipal or superior court for injunction relief, restitution, and damages. Any person who violates this act is guilty of an infraction for the first offense which is punishable upon conviction, for a fine up to $2,500 as to each consumer a violation occurs and a misdemeanor for the second and each subsequent violation which is punishable upon conviction of a fine of up to $2,500 as to each consumer with respect to each violation, or imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or both with respect to each violation that occurs.
As an attorney, do I have to keep a record of my paralegals?
The law does not require you to, but given that the supervising attorney is liable for the actions of the paralegal, it is in your best interest to do so.
Should I check with my malpractice carrier to see if I should increase my malpractice insurance?
No. The paralegal, as defined under AB 1761, is still governed by the same Code of Ethics and same Canons as the supervising attorney. It is not the intent of the author to change the duties of the paralegal, but to elevate the profession with the recognition it so well deserves.

California Legislature
MARILYN C. BREWER
Assemblywoman, Seventieth District

MEMORANDUM
Date: November 2, 2000
To: The Archived Record of AB 1761
From: Assemblywoman Marilyn Brewer
Regarding: The Most Frequently Asked Questions Regarding AB 1761

On September 13, 2000, Governor Gray Davis signed AB1761; a bill which defines the term paralegal/legal assistant as an individual who works under the supervision of an attorney who must meet certain educational criteria and must complete continuing education. The intent of this bill is to differentiate those who work under the supervision of an attorney and those who provide services directly to the public. For those who work under the supervision of an attorney, the only intended change to the profession is a higher standard of education and mandatory continuing education to utilize the title of a paralegal. The duties of those who work under the supervision of an attorney have not changed and the bill codifies existing case law.

This is a list of the most frequently asked questions since the codification of the bill by Governor Davis.

***Emphasis has been added throughout by The Center for Legal Studies, 1-800-522-7737***
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