The California Alliance of Paralegal Associations (CAPA)

Four paralegal associations joined together to establish the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations (CAPA). The affiliation was created to promote communication, cooperation, and mutual assistance among the various professional organizations of paralegals and legal assistants within the state while allowing each organization to remain individually autonomous. The purpose for creating the Alliance was to provide a vehicle for representation of the associations’ mutual interests in many venues but especially the state legislature.

The founding members of the Alliance were: the San Francisco Association of Legal Assistants, the East Bay Association of Legal Assistants (Alameda County), the Los Angeles Paralegal Association, and the California Public Sector Paralegal Association.

From left to right: Afternoon, Sunset, Evening...

From left to right: Afternoon, Sunset, Evening, Night. Taken from Twin Peaks in San Francisco, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CAPA held its first meeting on November 20, 1976 in San Francisco. The major projects for the year were to structure CAPA into a meaningful organization and to identify the essential issues of paralegal accreditation and certification.

CAPA is a statewide non-profit, mutual benefit corporation dedicated to the advancement of the paralegal profession and the proposition that paralegals gain strength through alliance. CAPA represents California paralegals working in attorney-supervised settings and supports, encourages, and promotes an active relationship among its affiliated member associations, attorneys, national, state, and local bar associations, and other interested parties in the legal community.

CAPA maintains statewide and national communications to keep all of its members current with information relating to the paralegal profession. CAPA also serves as a forum for the pooling and dissemination of varying opinions and professional experiences. CAPA affiliated members, by discussion and consensus, work together cooperatively and respectfully to achieve common goals and to maintain the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct among all paralegals.

In order to maximize and maintain paralegal knowledge and expertise, CAPA supports formal education, training, continuing education, and voluntary competency testing, including, without limitation, the California Advanced Specialty examinations.

By networking and sharing reciprocal resources, CAPA’s affiliated associations have opportunities available for participation in the development of concepts, issues, and objectives which will shape the direction of the paralegal profession for the ultimate benefit of the legal profession and California’s general public.

CAPA’s claim to fame was achieving a longtime goal of enacting a statutory definition of a paralegal in 2000 with the passage of Assembly Bill 1761, now codified as California Business and Professions Code section 6450 et seq. The legislation, sponsored by CAPA, was called a “dream bill” by supporting lobbyists. Because it was presented and heavily promoted as consumer protection legislation, it flew through the legislature without close attention to the devils in its details. Passed quickly and easily due primarily to CAPA’s well-organized lobbying effort, this legislation, narrowly defining the duties a paralegal may perform, is actually more paralegal protectionist legislation, filled with convoluted and impossible statutory compliance mechanics, than real consumer protection.

Inasmuch as the unauthorized practice of law had long been illegal in California, the bill didn’t truly provide anything additional to protect consumers than already existed before its enactment. The bill is described by the California State Bar Association as “unwieldy” and most legal professionals consider it a big quasi-regulatory setback to the California paralegal profession, which, ironically, propped open the door for suspended or disbarred California attorneys to work in the state as paralegals. A struggle between CAPA and the California Paralegal Legislative Advocacy Alliance (“CPLAA”) over how to best clean up the flawed legislation is becoming a major legislative battle.

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