Students give new paralegal qualification a thumbs up

Students have backed the Institute of Paralegals’ (IoP) plans to launch a national training framework to turn paralegalling from an “occupation into a profession”.

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

Paul O’Connell, who has been working as a paralegal for five years, claimed that turning the role into profession could add more value to workers when it comes to situations like redundancy.

“I get treated like I’m a lower class citizen and when it comes to redundancy, paralegals and secretaries will get the chop first. I’m happy that now paralegalling will be recognised as a career choice, although somehow I think the stigma will always remain,” said O’Connell.

Another student who has just completed a specialist paralegal qualification at Bristol Law School said that her new employer has responded very positively to the new framework.

She said: “I think it’s great news that there’s a route out there for paralegals and I think as a ‘profession’ we could begin to be recognised as being a valued member of a legal team.”

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 year’s 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.

But not everybody is happy with the news, one poster on Lawyer2B.com commented, “It’s just another opportunity for the people fronting this scheme to make more money from law firms and individuals who may even have to pay individuals for the privilege of qualifying in something which in practice makes very little difference.”