Skills for Justice, the UK standards setting body, is building up a picture of the legal sector and is due to consult practitioners and regulatory bodies, including the National Association of Licensed Paralegals, over its research.
The number of paralegals working in law firms, law centres, in-house and in the prosecution service is rapidly growing, according to Skills for Justice, which has in part triggered the need to look at job roles and training in the industry. Other issues include protecting the public and ensuring quality, particularly with alternative business structures that are coming in this year.
“The workforce is shifting and there is an increase in the number of people working as paralegals,” said Lesley Dunlop, employer services director at Skills for Justice. “We are developing a comprehensive picture of the whole legal sector, looking at job roles, training and qualification routes.”
“We are developing core pieces of research which will provide us with data to help us make key decisions about priority areas.”
A lot of training, for example, is on offer for paralegals but a coherent framework does not exist, she said. This can make it difficult to make judgments on standards.
“Relatively few accredited qualifications for paralegals are out there; the NALP is one of the few bodies that has them,” Ms Dunlop said.
Once a draft document is drawn up, Skills for Justice will consult with practitioners and regulatory bodies about what happens next. The NALP will be one of the organisations involved in these talks.
Another issue to be considered is that there seems to be a lot of support for creating regulatory structures for paralegals.
“It’s not our role to say whether there should be professional self-regulation. But we can raise questions about regulation. There already exists fairly long-established and complex self-regulation for lawyers with recognised career paths and mandates for qualifications, conduct, behaviour, standards and expectations of what they should do,” Ms Dunlop said.
For more information, go to www.nationalparalegals.co.uk