First-ever formal career path for paralegals launched

The Institute of Paralegals (IoP) has launched the first-ever national training framework for paralegals in a bid to turn the “occupation into a profession”.

The Institute of Paralegals (IoP) has launched the first-ever national training framework for paralegals in a bid to turn the “occupation into a profession”.

The new career path, called the Route to Qualification (RTQ), has been set up by the institution to give paralegals a nationally recognised status of ‘qualified paralegal’ upon completion.

IoP’s chief executive James O’Connell said: “The profession can’t continue to ignore the status, professionalism and career aspirations of almost half the fee-earners in the country.”

The framework is made up of four stages.  At the first stage the student will have to register with the IoP to become an affiliate member.

To progress to the second stage, the affiliate must prove that they have secured a job as a paralegal and will then register to become an associate with the IoP.

After four years working as a paralegal the associate can then call themselves a certified paralegal, subject to references from their employer to the IoP.

However, students who have done a law degree previously only have to complete two years work experience and those who have done the Legal Practice Course can fast-track to certified paralegal status within one year.

The fourth and final stage will see them take a specialist paralegal qualification at Bristol Law School, which can take between 12 to 18 months and upon qualification they will gain qualified paralegal status.

Mia Martin, who has been working as a paralegal for more than 17 years and heads up Southampton-based Jasper & Vincent’s criminal legal aid practice, recently signed up to the scheme in a bid to bolster her standing as a paralegal.

She said: “It’s great because there’s always the stigma attached to being a paralegal and many view us as admin people. This way we are going to start to be taken seriously and be recognised as professionals.”