Kate Hoey MP, hosted a Stakeholders Forum meeting at the House of Commons for the Professional Paralegal Register (PPR).
The PPR is the over-arching voluntary regulator that provides a voluntary scheme of regulation for all those who offer legal services in the unregulated market.
Rita Leat, Managing Director of the PPR said “the aim of the PPR is to provide voluntary regulation for Paralegals to enhance consumer protection and to promote diversity in the sector. With more than 2,000 members on the register, with numbers rising who are applying for Paralegal Practising Certificates, we are pleased to be recognised by the sector as the only recognised voluntary regulator for Paralegals.
The unregulated legal services market can now join the PPR so that they are accountable for the services that they offer. Only PPR Paralegal Practising Certificates provide protection to consumers who choose to use the services of an unregulated provider.
We are delighted that 30 key stakeholders attended the meeting, many of whom have pledged support to the PPR in its commitment to enhance PLE, improve diversity within the sector via the PPR experiential route and to enhance consumer protection.”
Kate Hoey MP said: “I was very pleased to host this important event. Paralegals will become more and more essential for the public seeking help and legal advice. I am impressed with the co-operation between all the various legal agencies and want to see the PPR continue to grow as the voluntary regulator for those providing unregulated legal services”.
Kathryn Stone OBE, Chief Legal Ombudsman, said: “The Legal Ombudsman is keen to see efforts being made to enhance consumer protection in this sector. We applaud the PPR for providing voluntary regulation to maintain high standards among paralegals.”
Espe Fuentes, Head of Which?Legal who attended the event, confirmed that Which?Legal will be joining the PPR Supporters Group that was launched at the meeting.
Derek Wood CBE QC who is a patron of the PPR commented: “It would be quite inaccurate to suggest that Paralegals offer a fall-back or second-class service for clients who cannot afford to turn to a solicitor or barrister. They offer front-line high quality bespoke advice and representation at affordable prices and make a major contribution to the administration of justice. They are guided by the ethical values which pertain across the whole of legal practice. I have been deeply impressed with the sheer diversity of legal expertise deployed by PPR members, and their commitment to serving clients in the field of specialism which they have developed. The PPR provides an important collegiality, a network of personal contacts and support, discussion and interaction”.
Derek Wood further made a request to all key stakeholders and organisations with members or employees who are paralegals not regulated under the Legal Services Act 2007 to join the PPR. He said “Our increasing body of Paralegals in England and Wales need the professional and ethical support and guidance which the PPR can offer. In that way they can develop effectively their own careers and practices. Their clients need the assurance which the PPR can give that their adviser or representative is properly accountable for the quality and integrity of the service delivered, and that redress can be obtained if anything goes wrong. The legal community at large needs the diversity of personal experience and insight which paralegals can bring to the table.”
Interviews are available, please contact Dorothy Campbell on 0203 0341486 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Professional Paralegal Register is the only independent voluntary regulator for the unregulated legal services market that covers all persons who practice law and/or offer legal services to the consumer.
Our regulation is robust and carries a compensation fund for consumers who in certain circumstances, where their complaint has been upheld by an independent regulatory board, may gain redress.
But what is the difference between this and self-regulation via a membership body?
Quite a lot!
The whole point of establishing the PPR was to fulfil the recommendation of the Legal Education and Training Review, that a voluntary regulator for unregulated legal service providers should be formed – quite simply put, self-regulation by membership bodies was not good enough. In the most part, it is totally ineffective to provide any real redress for the consumer.
Regulation is more than just issuing a certificate or a licence – it is a commitment to providing those who choose regulation more than just a complaints procedure. It is about compliance.
The paralegal sector is not regulated by government and so it is true that Paralegals do not have to sign up to any kind of regulation, but if they do then they should only look at independent regulation with a strong emphasis on compliance and actual redress available for their clients. The PPR advises all Paralegals to only pay for proper regulation and not a badge or licence that is not worth the paper it is written on.
At the PPR we focus on compliance and member safety. We are introducing new levels of protection to PPR members and extra checks to ensure compliance. We have regular meetings with the Legal Ombudsman to ensure that we are working appropriately.
The PPR has contacts with government and will be holding an event at the House of Commons soon to further promote the Paralegal profession to government and other key stakeholders.
We are regularly invited to speak at the Legal Policy Forum and have once again been invited on the panel of their next Regulation discussion. We have also been asked for the second time in as many months to write an article of legal regulation focusing on current proposals from the sector.
So, let’s have a look at the actual difference between self- regulation and independent regulation that the PPR offers:
|1st Level Complaints||Complaints Procedure for 1st level complaints||Complaints Procedure for 1st level complaints. Strict timetable and procedure is followed by the IoP complaints coordinator with some decisions being referred to the Chief Executive.||Has recognised membership bodies who deal with 1st Level Complaints|
|2nd Level Complaints||Licenced Paralegals – membership body offers 2nd level complaints – in house by the Membership Body.||IoP is a membership body and not a regulator- it passes 2nd tier complaints to the PPR as an independent regulator- following best practice that representation and regulation should be independent. A strict timetable and procedure is in place.||PPR will deal with complaints regarding conduct of its registered members and will deal with complaints about conduct and services for those who hold practising certificates.|
|Appeals||Appeals are taken to the board of NALP by the CEO.||Appeals are handled by the independent regulator.||An appeals committee is formed by members of the RRC and any other independent expert necessary to hear the appeal.|
|Redress||Redress- with or without a licence is the same- mainly reprimand or termination of the member from the NALP||Redress- mainly reprimand or termination of the member from the IoP||A full list of sanctions is available to the Regulatory Committee including the award of compensation to the consumer in certain circumstances. The decision of the RRC is completely independent and uninfluenced by the membership bodies who would otherwise have an interest of keeping their member. This scrutiny also applies to the Recognised Body itself in handling the first tier complaints – if they do not handle the complaint to the satisfaction of the PPR then their member and the consumer will be made aware of this.|
Now let us look at the credibility of three types of ‘regulation’ currently available (generalisation only as there are a diverse range of membership bodies):
|Credibility / Robustness||General Membership Body Self- Regulation||NALP Licence||PPR Paralegal Practising Certificate|
|Code of Conduct||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Membership Level Criteria||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Ability to reprimand members||Limited||Limited||Yes|
|Ability to compensate consumers||No||No||Yes|
|Has extensively consulted with other regulators on its regulatory scheme to ensure fitness for purpose||No||No||Yes|
|Has received support and on-going dialogue with the Legal Ombudsman||No||No||Yes|
|Has received support and on-going dialogue with the Legal Services Board Consumer Panel||No||No||Yes|
|Has consulted with and has continued dialogue with the Legal Services Boar||No||No||Yes|
|Has an independent regulatory board with an international arbitrator as the Chair and an ombudsman on the panel||No||No||Yes|
|Has contacts with the government for the continued promotion of its regulatory scheme||N/A||N/A||Yes|
|Has practising certificate rules reviewed by all key legal stakeholders||No||No||No|
|Has strict criteria for providing evidence of suitability to practice that is independently verified away from the Recognised Bodies or membership bodies||No||No||Yes|
|Has professional standards mapped to its regulatory structure||No||No||Yes|
The PPR focuses on regulation and compliance. Our policies and procedures are regularly reviewed and updated by our Regulatory Board. The PPR also uses consultants when expertise is required in specific areas.
Compliance is evaluated through CPD checks, regular checks of members websites, requests to see members policies and procedures and member engagement.
The PPR have adopted the IoP Professional Standards as standards as the IoP is the only government recognised professional body for Paralegals. The standards are mapped to the National Occupation Standards for legal services and are therefore compliant with best practice.
These standards have been mapped to the PPR Tiers of the PPR as can be seen below:
|Expert Practitioner||The highest level of knowledge and application – Expert||Expert||Constant||Tier 4|
|Accomplished Practitioner||An Advanced degree of knowledge and consistent application||Master||Constant||Tier 3|
|Competent Practitioner||Full knowledge with experience and application||Full||Regular||Tier 2|
|Novice||Limited or no knowledge or experience – potential to develop||Some||Limited||Tier 1|
Obtaining a Paralegal Practicing Certificate enables Paralegals to feel confident in the professional and independent nature of its regulator. It provides for real consumer protection and is a flagship service for the sector.
If you choose to be regulated then make sure that it is independent from your representative body if you want it to be more than just a badge.
24th July 2017
We have had queries regarding video publications made by NALP inferring that the PPR values have changed, and it has become incumbent on me to answer those queries.
The PPR was set up by NALP and IoP as a direct response to recommendations made by the LETR that a regulator should come forward for the unregulated sector.
Both organisations committed to developing such a voluntary regulatory scheme for the benefit of the sector and for greater consumer protection. These values set up by NALP and IoP remain unchanged.
The NALP were present and active at the PPR Conference on 22nd June and our values have not changed since that date, when one can assume that NALP agreed with our values. We are unable to comment further on what NALP believe is a change in our values as they have declined to provide any clarification.
The success of the PPR is dependant on the vetting of membership bodies to ensure that they meet the required standard in ensuring their application processes reflect good practice and that they have a sound, fair and reasonable complaints procedure to handle Tier 1 and 2 complaints prior to being finally reviewed and adjudicated by an independent regulator where required. These values remain unchanged.
For accountability and credibility, it is vital that the sector has an independent regulatory scheme. The IoP previously issued ‘Practising Certificates’ which was wholly inappropriate, as a membership body should not act as a regulator during the final outcome of a complaints process. The IoP withdrew their practising certificates and embraced the new regulatory regime and now has a high number of IoP members registered or regulated by the PPR. The IoP remain committed to the PPR as removal would be a great detriment to their members and to the sector as a whole.
The NALP maintained its ‘Licensed’ Paralegals, very small in number, assuring the PPR that this was a ‘Membership Level’ only, as there was no substance behind it and not an actual licence to practise. Unfortunately, the NALP decided to maintain its ‘Licensed’ Paralegal status which the PPR felt was confusing for the consumer, and therefore in this context, the NALP did not embrace the new regulatory regime to the same extent as the IoP.
The PPR values have not changed and we firmly believe as do our supporters from the Legal Ombudsman’s office that independent regulation is vital.
The PPR is shocked and saddened by the actions of NALP in deciding to promote a Licensing Scheme with no discussion with the PPR or any other of the key legal stakeholders. We do not believe that this is in the best interests of the sector or consumers.
We would expect any of our Recognised Bodies to consult their members before withdrawal from the PPR so that we can ensure that they can be accommodated without unnecessary detriment being caused. We will be seeking to include this in our rules going forwards.
The PPR is a voluntary Regulator and not a membership body and it spent almost two years consulting with key stakeholders before it was robust enough to offer the credibility and accountability that a regulator should do.
There are many membership bodies offering self-regulation with no substance behind them and no real redress for consumers. This is what NALP and the IoP have fought against. It would appear that perhaps NALP’s values have changed and not the PPR’s.
We do not recognise any membership body’s self-regulation certificates or licences as this would be a bleak step backwards for the sector and for consumer protection.
The PPR remains focused on what is right and will continue to support the sector to promote its members as the Fourth Arm of the Legal Profession.
Regulation for Paralegals is voluntary and we would advise all Paralegals who choose to be regulated to choose wisely.
Dear PPR Members
In light of NALP’s sudden withdrawal of the PPR it has been incumbent on us to try and aid those members that have been affected by this action.
NALP have not discussed with us any plans that they have put in place to support their members, who are also members of the PPR, financial or otherwise, and we have received many calls from distressed and upset PPR/NALP Members and therefore feel that we should respond in an open and transparent way.
The PPR requires all members to be a member of a Recognised Body and through NALP’s sudden withdrawal, NALP members that we have spoken to feel that they have been left without a Recognised Body at no fault of their own.
The Chairs of our Boards and the Directors have worked tirelessly over the last three days to ensure that our members and consumers are protected.
The PPR has therefore published guidance and has actively sought assistance from all the other RB’s during this difficult time. If you wish to continue to be regulated by us then we suggest that you take action. Action to find out how we and the other RB’s can assist you and action by ensuring that you receive information from NALP.
The PPR has been established now for over two years and we have great supporters in the legal sector for what we do and what we have achieved. We are not a membership body with a code of conduct tagged on, we act as a full voluntary regulator to ensure that our members and consumers are protected. Just take a look at our conference video and see the statements made by the Chief Legal Ombudsman (now up on our website).
We have two independent and professional boards that safeguard all that we do to bring you a robust regulatory scheme.
The PPR’s members are the rising stars for the sector proving themselves as not only competent and professional but also accountable. It took over two years to set up to ensure that the PPR was robust and effective.
We have great integrity and are open and transparent in all that we do and we expect our Recognised Bodies to have the same behaviours, and where they do not, then they will cease to be compatible with our aims. We have robust complaints procedures and will take our Recognised Bodies to task if they fail to meet our standards. This is what you can expect from us as your voluntary regulator.
We have been told by a distraught PPR/NALP member that NALP is offering an ‘alternative’ to the PPR, a ‘Licence’ to practice and a new Licensed Paralegal Register (LPR) and we have been asked to comment about that. We have no information and so we cannot comment, but we shall seek to ensure that consumers and Paralegals are not set back to the time when Paralegals traded on a badge with no substance behind it. The PPR is not a representative body it is a regulator.
We have also taken two calls from concerned members who are worried that they cannot move to another Recognised Body for fear of not being able to complete their NALP course. Again we cannot comment on NALP policies but would advise that you seek assurance from NALP or Ofqual that you can complete a course that you have started if you choose to move to another Recognised Body for regulatory purposes.
The only valid regulated Licence in the legal sector is that held by Licensed Conveyancers who are regulated by the Legal Services Board.
The PPR can confirm that it disapproves of the actions of NALP, a former Recognised Body and is sympathetic to the PPR members that have been affected because of this.
Part of being a voluntary regulator is the ability to steadfastly stick to our principles when our aims are challenged or threatened and as Directors and Board Members we need to have resilience to ensure that it is business as usual. I am very proud to say that we can and will do that on your behalf.
We are delighted however, that we had a record number of applications for Paralegal Practising Certificates last month, which shows the value that you place in being regulated by us.
We also have two interested parties that wish to join as new Recognised bodies, which will further give you choice in the future.
On top of that we are awaiting confirmation of the date for our next event that we are holding in the House of Commons that is kindly being hosted by another great supporter, Kate Hoey MP.
The PPR are also launching a consultation in September regarding rights of audience for PPR regulated Paralegals, something that can only be achieved with the reputation and reassurance of robust voluntary regulation provided by the PPR.
I do hope that this information is useful and please be assured that we are here to assist you in your endeavours to be the only professional regulated Paralegals in England and Wales.
Managing Director, PPR
PLEASE VIEW OUR GUIDANCE DOCUMENT FOR ALL THOSE EFFECTED.
The PPR would like to advise that the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP) have ceased being a Recognised Body of the PPR from today – 4 th July 2017.
We would like to reassure all NALP/PPR members that the Directors, Regulatory Committee and the Advisory Board are aware of the difficulties that these members are now facing and we are working hard to publish guidance on the options that these members have open to them due to this situation.
Our focus and commitment at this time is to ensure that existing NALP/PPR members and consumers are continually protected by the PPR.
Please be patient with us – we are working with our key stakeholders to be able to publish the options within the next 24 hours, and if possible by the end of today.
If you have specific queries after the guidance is published then please call the PPR on 0203 034 1486 or email us at email@example.com
The PPR would like to reassure consumers who are currently utilising the services of a PPR member who is also a NALP member, that where work commenced on or before 3 rd July 2017, this work will continue to be fully protected to the same extent that it was prior to NALP ceasing to be a Recognised Body.
For work commenced after 3 rd July 2017, PPR protection will still be available to all existing PPR/NALP members through options that we are making available to them within 24 hours of this communication. If you are unsure of the level of protection that your NALP/PPR Paralegal can offer you, then please call the PPR on 0203 034 1486 or email us with your query firstname.lastname@example.org
The PPR sadly says goodbye to Amanda Hamilton as a founding Director of the PPR, who has resigned for personal reasons. We can however say hello to our newly appointed Director, Ian Grant who is a lawyer of many years standing and has been involved in the Paralegal sector for many years. Ian will bring with him a wealth of legal and sector knowledge. Ian commented,
‘I am delighted to be appointed as a Director of the PPR as it is an organisation that promotes a voluntary regulatory scheme for Paralegals and protects consumers, both of which I firmly believe are required to encourage a diverse legal services industry’
The PPR are delighted to bring you its second conference for Paralegals on 22nd June at Wyboston Lakes, Bedford. Managing Director Rita Leat commented,
“ Last year’s conference was a sell-out and a huge success due to the delegates’ enthusiastic engagement throughout the whole day. We have an even better line-up of workshops this year along with high profile speakers from the profession. It will provide a fantastic opportunity for networking and for keeping up to date with sector developments”.
The PPR has bid a fond farewell to Chris White who was the inaugural Chair of the PPR Advisory Board as he takes up new challenges in his career. The PPR would like to thank Chris for all his work and support and wish him well in the future.
The PPR welcomes the incoming Chair, Sarah Docx, who has many years experience working within Financial Regulation as a Financial Services Compliance Officer. You can see Sarah’s full bio under the Home Tab: The Boards – The Advisory Board.
Participate in this short survey and share your thoughts about the PPR website
The password to access the survey will be sent via email to our PPR members on Monday 31 October 2016.
Having attended the Westminster Policy Forum Keynote Seminar on The Legal Services Market- Regulation, Innovation and the Future of the Legal Services Act, I think I can honestly say that at last some progress on debates that have rumbled on for years, has been made.
Regulation and the Legal Services Act
We have the Competition and Markets Authority to thank back in 2001, from their former remit under The Office of Fair Trading, for producing a report which led to the Clementi Review and finally The Legal Services Act 2007.
Why do we thank them? Well, in the main there have been many positives that have come out of the LSA 2007, not least the discussions and reports over the last nine years that have led us to a more diverse legal profession with more focus on the consumer both in terms of choice and protection.
The Legal Services Act was fit for purpose in 2007, but the provision of legal services has moved on to become ever more consumer driven, that requires innovation at the heart of its thinking. A new Act of Parliament is therefore needed to cope with the latest trends in legal service provision.
The illogical reserved activities under the LSA 2007 have been a barrier to a progressive legal services market, preventing professional, competent and often more cost effective unregulated providers to compete in the market place. Of course I am talking about PPR Paralegals who now have the ability to be subject to voluntary regulation under the PPR and have Paralegal Practising Certificates. Why should our professionals be prevented from conducting litigation when they are competent to do so? Does this help to combat the crisis that we have in the civil courts where litigants in person are an ever increasing occurrence with no legal representation in sight?
The Legal Services Board has published its ‘Vision on Reform’ and a key component of that is to replace the current eight regulatory objectives with just one:
‘Safeguard the public interest by protecting consumers and ensuring the delivery of outcomes in the interests of society as a whole.’
At a first glance it is difficult to argue against its sentiment but a closer look raises the question as to who decides what is in the public’s interest? Isn’t cost effective legal services paramount to addressing the unmet legal need, even if it is unregulated?
The regulatory landscape is cumbersome, the LSA 2007 itself is 400 pages long. Regulation is now being championed by the SRA on a risk-based approach and recent indications suggest that in order to cut the cost of regulation, the corporate sector may well be left to a certain degree, to regulate itself.
The LSB appears to be seeking complete regulatory independence of regulators from any representative or commercial interests. This is to be applauded and if it is ever achieved then it is quite possible that the role of the LSB will no longer be required.
The SRA has circa 1,000 new ABS’s likely to be licensed this year. This is good news to help open up the market and to welcome innovation into the sector.
So what can the LSB and its regulators do to ensure that the legal services market truly offers the consumer what it needs?
Firstly, it needs to embrace the opening up of the market to include ‘unregulated’ providers such as Professional Paralegals. Secondly, in order to enable growth in the sector, the burden of regulation needs to be lifted where it is not needed, and finally they should address the need for education of consumers, to enable them to make informed choices.
Kathryn Stone, Chief Legal Ombudsman recently made an extremely valid point that redress for consumers needs to develop alongside the regulatory framework.
Consumers need to know prior to engaging a provider of legal services, what right for redress they have and to whom, should things go wrong.
This is where the PPR has bridged the gap- consumer clients of our members have redress through the PPR where otherwise they have no redress not even from the Legal Ombudsman.
More recently, the CMA published its interim findings on the supply of legal services and I agree with their conclusion that the lack of transparency on price and service is undermining competition, reducing the incentives for providers to compete on price, quality and innovation.
So, what are we getting wrong?
The rise of comparison websites has made it easier for consumers to compare legal service providers in terms of recommendation, but it would appear that legal service providers are still not being clear and transparent with consumers in terms of costs and the services that they will receive.
Latest findings show that 46% of legal services to the consumer are concluded on a fixed fee basis. This clearly indicates a preference by consumers to know how much the service will cost them up front. Of course not all services are easy to bundle or unbundle to provide a fixed fee cost but areas that are procedure driven such as conveyancing are finding fixed fees a popular choice by their clients.
Two thirds of consumers recently surveyed think that legal services are too expensive. Small businesses, that make up 99% of British businesses think that legal services are unaffordable and turn to their accountants, HR departments or google for advice, even though 86% of them agree that legal services are essential to their business.
Of course there is the school of thought that suggests that stimulating competition by price alone effects professional standards. But why should that be?
The costs for legal services is not and never has been an indication of professionalism.
Solicitors cannot offer unregulated legal services outside of a regulated entity, but if they could, does that mean it would affect their professional standards?
It would appear that legal service providers need to provide clearer signals in terms of services offered, the quality of those services, and the costs that they charge at the point of need.
With 1:4 consumers now actively shopping around for legal services, 1:4 using on-line services and 1:5 using unbundled services, legal service providers need to address the needs of individual consumers, corporate consumers and SME consumers and not offer a one-size fits all package.
PPR Voluntary Regulation
We already put the consumer at the heart of our regulatory scheme. We have a complaints procedure and a compensation fund available for clients of PPR Professional Paralegals who have a Paralegal Practising Certificate.
We will over the coming year be looking at transparency in terms of services offered and costs. It is not for us to tell you the type of business model you should have or the type of fee structure, but it is our role to inform you of current trends in the way that consumers want to access and pay for their legal services.
Fixed fees appear to be the preferred option for consumers however where this is not possible, then it is clear that consumers need to know the full extent of the actual and likely costs at the point of need.
The future for PPR Paralegals is bright, the opportunities for you to grow your businesses have never been so good. If you are not a member of the PPR and do not have a Paralegal Practising Certificate then in terms of redress for consumers, you will quite simply be unable to compete.
Rita Leat, Managing Director, PPR