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 CEO of Membership Body. No time-lines are displayed at the time of writing.||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 Conduc||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 government for the continued promotion of its regulatory scheme||No||No||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 Advisory Board and 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.