Rule Three: Diligence
A paralegal shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in assisting a lawyer in the representation of the lawyer's client.
Diligence has been defined as "Vigilant activity; attentiveness or care, of which there are infinite shades..."Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed., p. 411. Paralegals are expected to work with reasonable diligence." What is reasonable may not always be clear to the paralegal. For guidance, the paralegal can look to the Comment to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which define a lawyer's duty to provide diligent representation:
"A lawyer should act with commitment and dedication to the interests of the client and with zeal in advocacy upon the client's behalf..."
Likewise, the paralegal should be committed to the interests of the lawyer's client and should zealously assist the supervising lawyer in his or her representation of the client.
At a minimum, this rule requires paralegals to be conscious of such things as handling responsibilities promptly and keeping track of filing deadlines and statutes of limitation. The consequences of violating the ethical obligation to maintain reasonable diligence can be great. Often, in a busy law practice, it is all too easy to put off unpleasant tasks and to concentrate on responsibilities that are more easily handled. A decision that allows a paralegal to procrastinate violates that paralegal's ethical responsibilities to the supervising lawyer and to the lawyer's client. A paralegal's failure to note that a statue of limitations is about to run could result in a client losing the right to pursue a cause of action and result in a lawsuit against the law firm for negligence.
The rule concerning diligent representation is also affected by the paralegal's responsibility to maintain competence. See Rule Two, Illinois Code of Paralegal Ethics. Failure to achieve competence can result in tasks taking longer than anticipated or in paralegals putting off work because they do not understand recent developments in the law. A paralegal's violation of the competency requirement could lead, therefore, to a failure to complete work with diligence.