IoP to add paralegalling skills to law degrees

The Institute of Paralegals is pledging to support law graduates by helping to increase their employability.

The organisation plans to implement the Introductory Level Competency Standards for Paralegals into law degrees to equip students with the necessary skills needed to pursue a career as a paralegal if they choose.

Chief executive of the Institute, James O’Connell, said: “The two greatest hurdles that law graduates face in trying to get paralegal work is one, a lack of knowledge about paralegal careers and two, by the time they realise that just having a law degree isn’t good enough, it’s too late to do anything about it.

“But having a law degree that has been mapped against these standards can really increase chances of employability and building this other knowledge through their undergraduate years can be done painlessly and seamlessly.”

O’Connell added that the institute has linked up with three universities across the UK and is in the process of formalising a structure appropriate for the respective undergraduate courses; either implementing the standards as part of students’ personal learning records or to imbed the standards into the degree itself.

The news comes as part of the launch of the Professional Access Scheme (PAS) that the institute is rolling out in response to the growing concerns that the legal sector is becoming more elitist and less diverse.

O’Connell described the PAS as ‘a new umbrella programme’ where the organisations will add its efforts to the work already being done by other representative bodies such as the Law Society and Bar Council.

“It is not enough to piously wish for wider access to, and diversity within, the legal sector. Responsible professional bodies must take action,“ said O’Connell.

The scheme is a rolling programme of initiatives that will also include, a law mentor programme linking schoolchildren with local practitioners; careers advice days for schools and route to qualification, which will help to improve the level of information about career options and the lack of recognised career paths generally for non-lawyers.