Paralegals have always been regarded as the poor relations of the UK legal family. But thankfully the negative labels that have long been associated with paralegalling are gradually being peeled away.
Indeed, isn’t it about time that paralegals were seen as professionals in their own right and not simply as failed lawyers? That’s what the Institute of Paralegals (IoP) would like to see happen. As we reported earlier this week the IoP has launched the first-ever national training framework for paralegals in a bid to turn the “occupation into a profession” (read article).
As the IoP’s chief executive James O’Connell puts it: “The profession can’t continue to ignore the status, professionalism and career aspirations of almost half the fee-earners in the country.”
I first greeted the initiative with scepticism, thinking this was yet another way of exploiting students desperate to break into the legal profession by getting them to enrol on pointless courses.
But my recent conversation with James really got me thinking. Wasn’t I just as bad as the rest of them as I too thought of paralegals as LPC students who weren’t good enough to secure training contracts? My position was based on the assumption that all law students wanted to train as solicitors and barristers. I now realise, however, that this isn’t always the case as there are plenty of students who are happy to work as paralegals for the long-term. After all, not everyone wants to climb the greasy pole to law firm partnership.