Paralegals: The Fourth Arm of the Legal Profession

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The title sounds like it could be a movie but fiction it isn’t.

The Professional Paralegal Register (PPR) offers regulation for Paralegals who work outside of the regulated sector. Paralegals make up the majority of legal service providers in England and Wales and yet because of the perceived lack of professionalism, which amounts to a lack of accountability through regulation, they have failed as a profession to propel themselves to the top, alongside the old boys clubs of the Bar, The Law Society and the newer kids on the block CILEX.

I have attended so many forums; strategy groups; lectures; conferences over the last fifteen years where the ‘issue’ of Paralegals has either been ignored or paid lip service to, that I think that those within the legal sector who profess to encourage diversity need to embrace the Paralegal Profession.

Having an in-house programme that helps a few Paralegals to progress is not the same as recognising the whole profession.

Professional Paralegals are not administrative assistants for Solicitors and the PPR is here to elevate them to their rightful place alongside solicitors and legal executives.

Just by the sheer numbers, Paralegals can compete with all of these providers by offering a more cost effective and accessible service.

Paralegals who are members of the PPR are regulated in much the same way as those in the profession who offer regulated reserved activities. But guess what, the reserved activities are so diminished that Professional Paralegals can do almost all of the work that Solicitor can do without the extortionate cost and burden of the type of regulation that sole practitioners and small high street firms are being crippled by.

For the first time, Professional Paralegals with the requisite qualifications, skills and experience can apply for Paralegal Practising Certificates and offer legal services to the general public. At last paralegals can have a more level playing field when offering services to consumers.

School leavers can now realistically choose a Paralegal career instead of a trainee solicitor or trainee CILEX route, which quite frankly, in the main, leads to the same outcome.

This quote from the movie A Bug’s Life springs to mind:

Hopper:

Let that be a lesson to all you ants. Ideas are very dangerous things. You are….. put on this Earth to serve us.

Flick:

You’re wrong, Hopper. Ants were not meant to serve grasshoppers. I have seen these ants do amazing things …….So who is the weaker species? Ants don’t serve grasshoppers. It’s you who need us. We are a lot stronger than you say we are…

So to all Paralegals I say, come and join us at the first Paralegal Conference in England and Wales in April 2016 and have your say. Together we can ensure the unsung heroes of the Fourth Arm of the Legal Profession become a strong outward thinking and innovative profession that can serve the consumer better, cheaper and in a more accessible way.

Rita Leat, Managing Director PPR Ltd

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