The paralegal industry will be regulated for the first time, in a bid to improve consumer and employer confidence.
The regulation comes in the form of a voluntary register, which will be active from 2015. Over time, the organisers, the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP) and the Institute of Paralegals (IOP), hope that the decision not to sign the register will mark a paralegal out as poor quality, thereby convincing the vast majority to register and prove their credentials.
NALP and IOP estimate paralegals to number 200,000 nationwide, but due to a lack of regulation, there is no set of standards, or set definition, of the role, with some paralegals working as highly experienced specialists within one practice area and others engaged in high volume, low value work.
In order for paralegals to qualify for registration, they must hold existing membership of an industry body, such as NALP, IOP or the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Once signed to the register, paralegals can be sanctioned or penalised for poor quality services while consumers could be compensated.
NALP CEO Amanda Hamilton said: “Many consumers don’t understand what a paralegal is, let alone what to expect from one. At the moment the industry is entirely unregulated, meaning there are an estimated 200,000 paralegals out there with no indication of which ones are experienced, capable and professional operators in the sector and which ones aren’t.
“We have spent 18 months gathering evidence that the paralegal role requires further professionalism and regulation. The advent of the register should not only signal good news for the consumer, but for those legal services that use paralegals themselves.”
Paralegal numbers have boomed in recent years, and are increasingly well-qualified, with many having completed the LPC or the BPTC. However, the huge number of people willing to work as paralegals is pushing salaries down, with some roles in London advertised for as little as £10,000 a year.
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