Last week Jo Kangurs of Symphony Legal Interviewed Amanda Hamilton, CEO, National Association of Licensed Paralegals around the issue of why qualifying as a Paralegal is becoming the only career option for those wanting to enter the legal services profession.
Q1: Can you give a brief background of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals and its key objectives/aims?
The aim is to create the role of paralegals as a separate profession, independent of solicitors and barristers.
The key objective is to give training, qualification
Made up of who we represent. Also, last few years it has become increasingly apparent that consumers need extra help due to the reduction in access to legal aid. Paralegals stepping in to assist people who maybe cannot afford to pay a solicitor/barrister fee.
Our objective is to train, educate give professional membership to individuals, to lobby on behalf of members and to educate consumers and businesses as to the benefits the role of licensed paralegals can bring.
Q2: There have been a lot of changes in the legal sector in recent years. Do you think these changes have opened up opportunities for Paralegals?
Most definitely, you can pinpoint the dates paralegal became a more popular option for people. It boils down to lots more graduates coming into the sector. In the early 80s only 5 colleges ran the LPC, by the time 2000 came there were 28 colleges and in 2010, 42 colleges. The Law Society franchised out LPC to educational institutions around 15-18 years ago and as consequence Universities running LLB course then encouraged people to do LPC course to make it work for the institution. As a result, there was a flooding of the market and not enough training contracts/pupillages. There was a group of graduates with nowhere to go. They
For many of those the chances of getting a training contract or pupillage are minimal. They are therefore looking for alternative routes into the legal sector, hence the rise in the number of paralegals but also independent practitioners who have set up their own firms, with professional indemnity insurance, offering paralegal services,
Recent statistics show that there are only 500 pupillages and 4000 applicants and 5000 or so training contracts with approximately 10,000 applicants competing.
Q3: Why should law firms be looking to
It’s down to the law firms to accept that there are people who want to be career paralegals and to
It is important to
Q4: How can HR help to change/challenge the traditional perception of the paralegal role?
HR has a very important role. Once firms
It is important for HR to pump up the value of a paralegal to give them status so that solicitors and their clients have greater confidence in the work that is being done by the paralegal. If a client comes in to contact with someone in the firm who is regarded as low status they may not be too happy if that person is doing work for them but if they are helped by a highly qualified paralegal then perceptions will change.
Firms often lose sight of the end user i.e. the client. They are the most important factor to take into account. Firms need to bolster people’s confidence in the legal sector and this need to happen quickly.
Q5: Where do you see the role of Paralegal in 5 years time?
I think it will end up with paralegals working alongside solicitors and barristers. With the fact that paralegal practitioners can instruct counsel directly means that there will hopefully be a compliment going on between paralegals and solicitors with perhaps paralegals taking on the types of cases, which are not viable for a solicitor to take on thereby offering the consumer a full package. For example, if you have a civil claim and you can’t afford to go to court, you might want to do it yourself but don’t know what to do, a paralegal can step in and charge much less than a solicitor. There
I see in 5 years, paralegal firms increasing, paralegal practitioners increasing. Paralegals taking on the role that currently litigants in person are doing themselves. Helping the court system run more smoothly because of the eroding of the rights of audience – they will accept the competence of a paralegal coming before them in court to represent a client. At the lower end of the scale, we will have paralegals dealing with that kind of business. Middle and upper-end cases will still have solicitors and barristers dealing with them. That is the way I see it developing over the next 5 years.
I do feel that paralegals are the future of the legal services sector.