Paralegals and the Ethical Dilemma

Many paralegals go into their professions with aspirations of one day becoming attorneys. Even those who do not wish to move up in the legal ranks often enter into the profession out of a genuine interest in the law.

In the American legal justice system, especially as it relates to criminal justice, those who are accused of even the most heinous crimes are considered to have a right to a vigorous defense.  But, what should a paralegal do in the event that they are part of a legal team that will defend a suspect that the paralegal believes has committed an unspeakable act?

One of the most significant dilemmas in the American legal system is how to provide a robust defense for someone who seems to be plainly guilty. After all, there may be a fine line between taking an ethical course of action and taking an unethical course of action: defending someone who is guilty of rape, murder, or another despicable crime, or refusing to defend such a person and essentially denying them their rights.

Perhaps the most important consideration in such a situation is whether or not the paralegal believes he or she can provide such a defendant with the same level of service provided to all other clients. If not, it is incumbent upon the paralegal to step aside and refuse to contribute to that particular case.

In the legal world it may be damaging to one’s career if they were to be seen as unreliable as a result of voicing ethical objections to working to defend a guilty client. But, if the paralegal’s work standards cannot be met, as a result of the emotional and mental turmoil caused by assisting such a defendant, it may be a better decision to simply own up to the situation instead of working to provide an inferior defense.


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