A time of change in the world of probate

Guest blog from one of the recognised bodies of the Professional Paralegal Register, The Association of Probate Researchers (APR) on the proposed changes within the probate sector.

These are interesting times for the probate sector, with the government looking to push through its much-publicised fee changes while at the same time introducing a new online application process that has been dogged by controversy virtually from the day it was first mooted.

Proposed reforms will bring an end to the current flat rate of probate fees of £215 (£155 if estates are settled through a solicitor) and the implementation of a six-band sliding scale.

The new system will see people whose estates are valued at between £50,000 and £300,000 pay £250, with fees rising to £750 for estates valued between £300,000 and £500,000, and £2,500 for those worth between £500,000 and £1m. A maximum fee of £6,000 will be levied on those with estates worth more than £2m.

Fees will be capped at no more than 0.5 per cent of the value of an estate and the government suggests that around 80% of estates will pay no more than £750. In addition, the threshold below which no fees are payable will rise from £5,000 to £50,000.

The Ministry of Justice has stressed that additional funds raised will be spent on the courts and tribunal service.

In a written statement it noted: ‘The new banded fee model represents a fair and more progressive way to pay for probate services compared to the current flat fee.’

However, many in the media have not agreed with this assessment and the proposals have come in for considerable criticism, especially as they coincide with the introduction of a controversial online application process.

Rolled out by Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) in 2017 as part of a £1 billion reform programme, the latter’s stated aim is to make probate simpler and more convenient, remove the need for people to attend a probate registry and swear an oath in person, and make the justice system easier to navigate for all.

Government sources say that take up of the new system has been relatively rapid and point to advantages of security and ease of use.

Under the proposals, “bulk scanning and printing services” will replace work that has traditionally been carried out by people – in this case civil servants – who check whether wills are original before issuing probate.

The Public and Commercial Services Union, some of whose members are now facing an uncertain future, has however reacted with alarm at the plan.

“Thousands of years of experience are being lost,” a union spokesperson commented in March, “We are concerned that the current model of probate is having to change to fit HMCTS proposals for a paperless system, a system that they have not consulted upon, our members maintain is not fit for purpose and threatens the integrity of the grant.”

Neil Fraser, partner at genealogists and international probate researchers Fraser and Fraser, said: “In principle, automating the system makes sense and will make the process simpler for many people. However, it’s important there is a system of checks in place that allows individual cases to be scrutinised.”

“The digitisation process should be extended to cover the entire probate period, with estate accounts being required to be filed at the end of the process.

“Complex estates by their very nature can be challenging to administer and we would strongly advise these are dealt with by a professional. Many members of the public will be unaware that if they make mistakes they could be at risk of facing prosecution for fraud.”

 

Recognised Body of the Professional Paralegal Register: The Association of Probate Researchers

The Association of Probate Researchers
In the context of the current changes faced by the sector, the Association of Probate Researchers (APR) has an important role to play.

The organisation brings regulation to the professional probate research industry, guards against the fraudulent or misguided and ensures beneficiaries receive the best advice at a time of changing realities and regulations.

For more information about the organisation’s activities visit www.a-p-r.org

Celebrating the Successes of Finalists!

Finalists of the first National Paralegal Awards, and industry leaders and supporters, will be coming together on Friday 29 March for the inaugural awards event, which is being held in the The May Fair Hotel London’s prestigious Crystal Room, showcasing and celebrating Paralegal talent from across the UK.

The evening commences with a champagne reception and dinner, which will be followed by the main awards ceremony. Here are the Finalists who were selected by an independent judging panel from hundreds of entries.

Best Family Law Paralegal
Alison Collier- Nowell Meller
Dawn Gore – Trethowans LLP
Iselin Jones- Corbett Le Quesne
Kaya Suleyman – Morrison Solicitors LLP
Nicola Phipps – Wikivorce

Will Writing Organisation of the Year
Bill Hogg – Attorney Wills
Nick Ash – Will and Probate Services
Heritage Will Writers

Best Law Firm – Paralegal Development
Dentons UK and Middle East LLP
Eric Robinson Solicitors
Mayo Wynne Baxter
PM Property Lawyers
Shakespeare Martineau
Shoosmiths
Which Legal

Paralegal Recruitment Organisation of the Year
EJ Group
F Lex
Law Staff Legal Recruitment
The Stephen James Partnership
Simply Law Jobs

Best Trademark Paralegal
Peter Fisher -CP Law Associates
Rebecca McBride
Roy Scott – Keltie LLP

Best ADR Paralegal
Clive Lewis- Globis Mediation Group
Maria Arpa
Qaiser Bari

Best Employment/HR Paralegal
Bina Briggs – Plain Talking HR
Joe Milner – Loch Associates
Leah Caprani – Winckworth Sherwood LLP
Michael Coe-Dimension Eighty Eight

Best Conveyancing Paralegal
Kay Liddle- PM Property Lawyers
Kelvin Cooper-Birketts
Laura Kate Morley- PM Property Lawyers
Rachel Lawrence – Dentons UK

Best Pro Bono Paralegal
Ashleah Skinner
Lyn Berry
Nisar Afsar -BCADS

Best Probate Research Paralegal
Alex Horrod -Anglia Research
Katie Lowe- Estate Research
Lauren Geary – Treethorpe
Lorna Gallacher- Treethorpe
Neil Fraser – Fraser and Fraser

Paralegal Business of the Year
Champion Law
Construction Legal
Divorce Online
Estate Research
Derby Legal Assistance
Fraser and Fraser
Lender & Court
Problem Percy
White Collar Legal

Paralegal of the Year
Ashleah Skinner
Caroline Spencer- Boulton
Gerald Murphy
Ian Lobb
Jonathan Dattani
Julie Herbert
Katie Lowe
Leah Caprani
Michael Coe
Nick Ash
Paige George
Peter Fisher
Philip Nam
Sharon Baker

This year’s headline sponsor is Treethorpes and individual awards have been sponsored by Which Legal, The Institute of Paralegals, Lawyer checker, Heslewood and Grant, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, The Stephen James Partnership, Golden Leaves, Clerksroom, Central Law Training and F-Lex.

Other sponsors include Orion Legal Marketing, Legal Futures and Auscript.

 

Lawcare 2020 Figures: Sharp Increase in Legal Professionals Seeking Help for Anxiety

The number of legal professionals contacting the charity LawCare for emotional support continues to rise year on year, with 738 legal professionals seeking help in 2020, a rise of 9% on the previous year.

The charity received 964 calls, webchats, and emails to their support service in 2020. The most common problems cited were stress (23%), anxiety (15%), bullying (10%), depression (10%) and worries about career development (10%). The number of people contacting LawCare experiencing anxiety has seen the biggest increase – from 45 people in 2019 to 111 last year.

The majority of those who contacted the support service were women (69%). 50% were trainees/pupils, or had been qualified less than five years, and a further 6% were law students.

From March 2020, 34% of all calls, emails and webchats to the LawCare support service had a COVID element. Of these, the most common issues reported were:

•              Worsening of existing mental health issues (13%)

•              Not being permitted to work from home (12%)

•              Struggling to adapt to WFH due to poor supervision, procedures, or provision of equipment (11%)

•              Feeling isolated (11%)

•              Being overloaded with work, typically because colleagues had been furloughed (9%)

There were also practical issues related to childcare, relationship strain, redundancy or inability to find a job (including job offers made before COVID being withdrawn) and financial concerns. LawCare also heard from legal professionals being asked to work while furloughed.

Elizabeth Rimmer, CEO of LawCare, said: ‘Our support service continues to grow and help more people year on year. 2020 was a challenging year for most, we are not surprised that anxiety increased at a time of great worry and uncertainty.  In addition our website traffic increased by 50% and we allocated more peer supporters and funded more counselling sessions last year than ever before.  We expect demand to continue to grow in 2021 as legal professionals continue to navigate the challenges presented by COVID-19.’

Anyone working in the legal industry including support staff can contact LawCare for free, confidential, emotional support on 0800 279 6888, email [email protected] or visit www.lawcare.org.uk

For more 2020 statistics the full report is at www.lawcare.org.uk/impact *

Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and here at the PPR we want to share with you some tips to help you consider your wellbeing and to act if you feel you need to. The tips are provided by the NHS and although general in nature, they remind us all that we need to look after ourselves to enable us to look after others.

For alternative support with low level mental health concerns, you can call:

SANE 0300 304 7000 (4:30pm – 10:30pm) [email protected] www.sane.org.uk

Samaritans 116 123 (24 hour helpline – free to call) www.samaritans.org.uk

Anxiety UK 08444 775 774 (Monday – Friday, 9:30am – 5:30pm) www.anxietyuk.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness 0300 5000 927 (Monday – Friday, 9:30am – 4pm) www.rethink.org

NHS 111 111 (24 hour helpline – free to call)

LawCare

0800 279 6888

9am – 7:30pm Monday-Friday 10am – 4pm Weekends and Bank Holidays

https://www.lawcare.org.uk

National Paralegal Awards 2020 Ceremony Goes Virtual

The Professional Paralegal Register (PPR) is counting down to the National Paralegal Awards taking place on Friday 18 September.  The PPR normally welcomes over 270 guests at a venue in central London in March for its annual ceremony but this year was forced to postpone it because of the coronavirus outbreak.  A decision was taken by the team at PPR to run the event virtually to reveal the many talented winners across multiple categories.

With over 400 expected to attend, this year’s finalists, along with their colleagues, friends, and family will now be tuning in from offices and homes around the UK to enjoy the free-to-watch-virtual ceremony, when the winners will be revealed for categories: 

  • Best Conveyancing Paralegal
  • Best Trade Mark Paralegal
  • Best Patent Paralegal
  • Best Arbitration/Mediation Paralegal
  • Best Employment/HR Paralegal
  • Best Probate Research Paralegal
  • Best Will Writing Paralegal 
  • Best Family Law Paralegal
  • Best Civil Litigation Paralegal
  • Paralegal Business of the Year
  • Will Writing Organisation of the Year  
  • Best Law Firm – Paralegal Development
  • Paralegal Recruitment Organisation of the Year 
  • Paralegal of the Year (Midlands/North)
  • Paralegal of the Year (South)
  • Paralegal of the Year 
  • PPR Outstanding Achievement Award 

This year’s headline sponsor is international genealogists and probate researchers, Fraser and Fraser, who were awarded ‘Paralegal Business of the Year 2019’.

Rita Leat, Managing Director of the PPR commented:

“While the ceremony will be different from usual, we are embracing the spirit of change and relishing the opportunity to shine a positive spotlight on the paralegal community at this difficult time.  I very much hope people will enjoy tuning into the programme we have planned on the night”

The live event will take place from 7pm with the opportunity for finalists, sponsors, judges, and their guests to network via a chat facility from 6:30pm.   We wish good luck to all the finalists that have made this year’s shortlist and look forward to welcoming you to a night of celebration”.

For the second year, the events charity partner will support Young Citizens, who work to help young people become active, engaged and motivated citizens, who are able to contribute positively to their communities. 

A recording of the live event will be made available on the National Paralegal Awards website for public viewing in the coming weeks. 

For further information including our finalists, sponsors and judges visit www.nationalparalegalawards.com

– END –

For further comment, please contact:

Rita Leat, Managing Director, The Professional Paralegal Register 
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 0203 039 3710 

PPR applauds the Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation

Rita Leat, Managing Director of the Professional Paralegal Register (PPR) has given Rita Leat, Managing Director of the PPRpraise to Professor Stephen Mason for undertaking the Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation.

The current system of regulation via the approved regulators under the Legal Services Board is at best confusing and at worst detrimental for consumers to enable them to understand where to turn for redress when things go wrong.

There has been a strong argument to suggest that one super regulator such as the LSB should be formed that would help consumers to access redress quicker and more simply, with one set of regulations that cover all providers of Legal Services. This of course is not something that has been received well by individual regulators who wish to keep their set of regulations as being specific to job titles. But is this the right approach?

Regulation of the services (where needed) makes better sense to ensure that only those high-risk matters are indeed regulated. This would better enable professional bodies to regulate conduct only with no overlap with the regulation applied to certain services.

From the unregulated sector, the PPR has risen to provide an overarching voluntary regulatory scheme for all those who would otherwise remain unregulated. Regulation here covers all job titles as there are no real differences in the requirements for professional practice no matter what your job title is.

The PPR, similar to Cilex, operate a two-tier approach to regulation. Recognised Bodies of the PPR handle first Tier complaints which can then be escalated to the PPR as an independent regulator operating an arbitration scheme.

As the leading authority and regulatory scheme for Paralegals we enable individuals to practice specific services only which makes it transparent for consumers.

The PPR who recently held the first National Paralegal Awards with 200 attending across the sector, are determined to rid the legal services market of self-regulatory schemes that offer no protection for consumers who are left to pick up the pieces of an unsatisfactory service.

Kate Hoey, MP recently said ‘regulation by membership bodies is not regulation at all as it does not offer real redress for consumers’. Kate Hoey is a Patron of the PPR and advocates that all Paralegals should join the PPR. No other form of ‘self-regulation’ is recognised by the PPR.

The PPR welcomes the report next year and continues to strive to ensure that consumers are put at the heart of all regulatory decisions.

Sir Robin Knowles, CBE awarded with PPR Outstanding Achievement Award 2020

The Professional Paralegal Register is delighted to announce that the PPR Outstanding Achievement Award was given to Sir Robin Knowles, CBE at the National Paralegal Awards virtual ceremony on Friday 18 September.  The award was given in recognition of Sir Robin’s life- long commitment to the legal profession, continuing work on access to justice for those without means and promoting a diverse legal sector where the Paralegal Profession plays an important role.

Sir Robin was involved in rewriting the Commercial Court Guide as part of the Woolf Reforms. He was a member of the Aikens working party on “supercases”. With Sir William Blair, he worked successfully to secure the new Queen’s Counsel system. With others, he led work to bring about the Rolls Building – the world’s largest dedicated business dispute resolution centre.

Commenting at the virtual award ceremony: 

“Paralegals comprise of one of the second largest sectors of the legal profession and paralegals providing legal services have a collective effort to improve access to justice.   Paralegals should seize the opportunity to come together to act within the public interest and commit to providing services pro bono”.  Sir Robin said that if just 10% of paralegals contributed personally, collectively and collaboratively it would be the greatest single step forward for access to justice in a decade. 

Sir Robin Knowles laid down the gauntlet to the PPR and called upon paralegals to task Rita Leat, Managing Director of the PPR and Chief Executive of the Institute of Paralegals to present to the Civil Justice Council forum in December what the Paralegal sector pledge to do pro bono to give those without means access to justice. 

Over 500 tuned in to the awards ceremony.  To watch a playback of the virtual event visit https://youtu.be/tvGchIOFqbY 

– END –

Notes to editors 

The Professional Paralegal Register

The Professional Paralegal Register (PPR) is a voluntary registered scheme to promote professional paralegals as a recognised fourth arm of the legal profession and to enhance consumer choice and protection.  Only Paralegals that are on this register are regulated by PPR.

Employers and consumers can be assured that those individuals on the register meet the required standards of both the individual’s recognised membership body and the robust criteria set by the PPR. 

Paralegals who are on the Register are regulated in terms of their professional conduct however, Professional Paralegals who hold a Paralegal Practising Certificate (PPC) are fully regulated to offer legal services to consumers.

For further comment, please contact:

Rita Leat, Managing Director, The Professional Paralegal Register 
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 0203 039 3710 

The Paralegal Profession in 2020 - Press Release

In late 2019, TotallyLegal asked over 3,000 legal professionals about the details of their daily working lives for our Audience Insight Report. The responses we received included those from over 300 Paralegals who, at 9% of the total respondents, make up one of the largest groups in our audience.

We looked deeper into the data provided by our Paralegal audience to gain a greater understanding of how these professionals fared in 2019, before looking forward to the state of the profession in 2020 and beyond. With invaluable contributions from Institute of Paralegals’ CEO Rita Leat and practising Paralegal Gemma Williams, we wrote a long-read article exploring the inner workings of the role.

With a fifth of all Paralegals more than 3 years in to their current role and 32% offered a bonus on top of their basic earnings, one of our key findings concerned the growing number of apparent Career Paralegals among our audience. Taking on the fee earning work traditionally reserved for Solicitors and filling the gap left by cuts to legal aid, these professionals aren’t using the role as a stepping-stone to qualification or as a means of gaining experience but are instead choosing to carve out long-term Paralegal careers. In the article, we explore in greater detail why this is the case, before discussing with experts the impact this may have on the profession in the coming years.

Another key issue uncovered by our study is that of pay gaps – both gender and ethnic – within the Paralegal profession. Elsewhere, we look at the practice areas most in need of Paralegal talent and the locations in which Paralegals want to work, before breaking down the different benefits available to Paralegals and revealing which type of employers are most likely to offer them.

Additionally, the article provides the opportunity for practising Paralegals to benchmark their current earnings based on tenure, experience level, location, practice area and more.

If you are a Paralegal looking to discover more about the inner workings of your profession, hoping to see what the future may hold for your role or simply interested in comparing your salary with your contemporaries, TotallyLegal’s The Paralegal Profession in 2020 makes for essential reading.