Lawyer Monthly - April 2022

42 WWW.LAWYER-MONTHLY.COM | APR 2022 WHAT OTHER OPTIONS DO YOU HAVE AFTER GETTING A LAW DEGREE? The fact is that paralegals do not just work with solicitors. Paralegal roles are available in every organisation as long as there is a legal requirement to be fulfilled. Even premiership football clubs have paralegals working in their in-house legal departments! The conventional legal professions may argue that these individuals are not fully trained and are not regulated like solicitors and barristers are. It is true to say that paralegals are not statutorily regulated, but their route to qualification is either very similar to that of the two regulated professions or, in some cases, exactly the same. Furthermore, there is a voluntary regulatory body that encourages membership for those that wish to practise. It also issues Licences to Practise, but only after strict eligibility criteria are adhered to. Advice is offered to consumers about how to check the status of any person claiming to be a paralegal before instructing them. Furthermore, solicitors do not hold the monopoly on good practice just because they are statutorily regulated. This is clearly evidenced by looking at the annual statistics from the Legal Ombudsman. Solicitors and Paralegals: What Are the Real Differences? Paralegals are trained and educated to perform legal tasks and offer advice and assistance to consumers. Many have law degrees, and some are even exsolicitors or non-practising barristers. Others may have qualified by successfully completing nationally recognised paralegal qualifications. The point is that with a law degree, graduates now have another career pathway into the legal sector. Paralegals are now the fastest-growing sector within the legal profession. Solicitors do not hold the monopoly on good practice just because they are statutorily regulated. Of course, there are some activities that paralegals cannot perform, and these remain the monopoly of solicitors. These are the reserved activities as defined by the Legal Services Act 2007. The two most relevant are that there is no automatic right of audience and that paralegals cannot conduct litigation. However, in practice, some of these reserved activities are being eroded by the courts in order to allow access to justice. Every paralegal that joins the voluntary regulatory body NALP (National Association of Licensed Paralegals) is very much aware of these restrictions. Froma consumer’s perspective, it is a bit of a minefield to know whether the person who offers legal assistance is bona fide. Anyone can call themselves a ‘paralegal’ since the profession is not statutorily regulated. It is, therefore, imperative that a consumer checks the paralegal’s credentials and status before instructing them. Knowing that a paralegal is a member of NALP is a benchmark for this, since due diligence is undertaken on all members from Associate membership and Graduate membership and above. Certainly, when it comes to granting a licence to practise, strict criteria are imposed – including the requirement to have PII in place before making a licence application.

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