Paralegal roles on course for big increase

Law firms are expected to increase the number of paralegals they employ by 18 per cent over the next five years, according to research by Skills for Justice.

A survey of 51 firms conducted by the not-for-profit skills organisation found that legal employers would increase the number of people taking on paralegal functions from an average of 42 per firm to 49 per firm by 2017.

In addition, 83 per cent of firms said they would be interested in taking on apprentices in this sector.

The surveyed firms currently employ a total of 2,143 paralegals – however by 2017 this number is projected to rise to 2,522.

Personal injury civil litigation accounts for the highest number of paralegals with 48 per cent of organisations saying they employed paralegals in this field.

This was followed by domestic property conveyancing at 43.5 per cent, commercial property conveyancing at 37 per cent and debt recovery at 37 per cent.

Over the next two years employers expect wills, trusts and administration of estates to become another big area for paralegals.

Employers surveyed said the majority of apprentices they employed were in business administration – however, after the development and approval of the paralegal framework, firms expect to employ hundreds of apprentices.

The first commercial paralegal national apprentices are expected to be employed in July 2013.

Skills for Justice chief executive Alan Woods said: “It is important that we give employers the opportunity to tell us the benefits people employed as paralegals bring to their business and how they see the future for this area of the legal sector.

“This research has highlighted some very interesting findings for us. We look forward to working in partnership with employers and our partners to create recognised paralegal apprenticeships, and increase opportunities for young people to develop careers in law.”

Earlier this month Skills for Justice launched a six week national consultation on the first set of draft National Occupational Standards which will underpin all apprenticeships [6 June 2012].

The news follows the announcement last week that Skills for Justice in partnership with CILEx, Pearson and Damar Training recently secured nearly £1m pounds from Government to create 750 apprenticeships by March 2015 [22 June 2012].