Information for members:
Over the past 18 months, the IoP and NALP have been working in partnership to develop a voluntary register (the Professional Paralegal Register, or PPR) to enhance the professionalisation of the paralegal profession.
During this time we have had meetings with, and made presentations to, various legal entities including: the Legal Services Board, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Bar Standards Board, ILEX Professional Standards, The Law Society of England & Wales and the Bar Council.
We have also had meetings with other important stakeholders within the legal sector such as: The Institute of Will Writers, The Legal Services Consumer Panel, The Legal Ombudsman and McKenzie Friends to name just a few.
All these key organisations are supportive of the creation of such a register which we plan to launch in December of this year.
So why are we doing this, and more importantly, how will this affect you as members of the IoP and NALP?
There are several factors that have driven this initiative forward:
1. The Legal Services Act 2007, the primary objective of which was to open up the legal services sector, making legal services more accessible and less costly to the consumer.
2. Recommendations made in the Legal Education & Training Review (LETR) published in June 2013, e.g.:
‘Consideration should be given by the Legal Services Board and representative bodies to the role of voluntary quality schemes in assuring the standards of independent paralegal providers outside the existing scheme of regulation. The Legal Services Board may wish to consider this issue as part of its work on the reservation and regulation of general legal advice.’
3. The virtual eradication of legal aid.
4. The growth of the unregulated paralegal profession which has an estimated 200,000 practitioners in England & Wales alone.
5. The protection of the consumer. With no regulation of the paralegal profession anyone can describe themselves as a paralegal whether they have experience or qualifications or neither. The Register will be a major step towards discouraging poor or unprofessional services to the consumer.
What will this mean for you?
1. The PPR will be the voluntary regulatory mechanism for the unregulated paralegal profession ensuring that standards are upheld.
2. As a current member of either IoP or NALP you will automatically be eligible to join the PPR.
3. Your details including your specialisation(s) will be made publically available through the PPR website for a prospective employer and/or clients to review and to allow them to contact you directly if they require your services (similar to the way you can search for a solicitor through the Law Society website).
4. Membership of the PPR will improve your ability to gain employment or work and can be your marketing tool.
5. Membership of the PPR will enhance your professional status.
6. There will be various membership tiers on the register dependent on how qualified or how much experience you have.
7. It is expected that over time, membership of the PPR will prove to be a form of regulation whereby any prospective employer/consumer will not consider using the services of a paralegal who is not registered.