Consumer Help and Advice
The Paralegal Profession is now regulated by the PPR but the sector still remains a minefield for the consumer, so this page offers help and advice. NALP is here to help you and therefore you can email your queries to us on: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us on 0845 862 7000 Monday to Friday 9.30-5.30.
Because the legal sector is changing quite rapidly there are more and more people who are referring to themselves as 'Paralegals'. Paralegals who do not work for solicitors and barristers are now regulated by the PPR (Professional Paralegal Register)
If you are approached by an individual referring to themselves as a 'Paralegal' and they do not work for a solicitor or barrister, then you should ensure that they are a member of a recognised body such as NALP and also registered on the PPR. In addition they should have a PPR Practising Certificate. You should not accept assistance from anyone purporting to be a Paralegal Professional if they haven't got a practising certificate.
Paralegals can perform a variety of different legal tasks and do not necessarily just work alongside and for solicitors. They can work in company legal departments, local authorities, NHS, and even for themselves. Paralegals can do almost everything that a solicitor can do with the exception of reserved activities which are still the monopoly of solicitors. For example, unless a Paralegal is a Licensed Conveyancer or solicitor, they cannot perform a conveyancing transaction for a client. neither can they apply for a Grant of Probate on behalf of an Executor of a Will after someone dies, although they can advise the Executor himself how to do it.
Paralegals do not have an automatic right to appear in court on behalf of a client, although they can represent a client at most Tribunals and before a District Judge in small civil claims in the County Court. However, most higher Courts will, at the discretion of the Judge, and with prior notice of representation being given, accept a paralegal before it, provided the Judge is of the opinion that the Paralegal is competent to do so.
How can you protect yourself?
If you are approached by someone purporting to be a Paralegal, the first thing you should do is to ascertain whether the paralegal is a member of a recognised body and in addition, that they are also registered on the PPR. If they are offering services as an independent practitioner, they should also have a PPR Practising Certificate. You need to ask for evidence of this. In order to be on the PPR, a Paralegal has to be a current member of a PPR Recognised Body, such as NALP, IoP (Institute of Paralegal), CIArb (Chartered Institute of Arbitrators) or APR (Association of Probate Researchers). Always ask to see evidence of their Recognised Body Membership and Practising Certificate.
How can you make a complaint if the Paralegal is employed?
1. Communicate your concerns to the Paralegal to give him/her a chance to put things right. If you get no joy from this, then if the Paralegal is employed,
2. contact the employer clearly stating your complaints to give them a chance to sort it out. If you are still not satisfied,
3. you can take the matter further by contacting the Legal Ombudsman (Office of Legal Complaints). However, this route only applies to Paralegals who are employed by a regulated profession such as solicitors or barristers.
What if the Paralegal does not work for a solicitor or Barrister but does works as an independent practitioner?
If the Paralegal is working for themselves and has not put things right to your satisfaction and the Paralegal is a member of NALP or some other PPR Recognised body, then you can
1. Communicate your concerns to the Paralegal to give him/her a chance to put things right. If you are not satisfied then:
2. Make a complaint in writing and request an investigation to the paralegal's Membership Body. Should the recognised membership body fail to settle a complaint to your satisfaction, then:
3. as a consumer you now have the opportunity to raise concerns/complaints to the PPR . The PPR has a range of sanctions available including the ability to award compensation in certain circumstances (but only if the paralegal has a PPR Practising Certificate).
What does The PPR do to safeguard the Consumer?
The PPR has Codes of Conduct and Paralegal Practitioner Rules that registered Members have to follow. It is now also a requirement that if a Paralegal wishes to offer legal services, they have to apply for a practising certificate and have Public Indemnity Insurance in place.
Many Paralegals work as freelancers mostly getting work from solicitors. The difference is that the solicitor does not employ them since they are self-employed. However, any freelancer doing a job for a solicitor is covered by that solicitor's insurance. Some freelancers may do work for their own clients and if this is so, be careful to go through the necessary steps mentioned above in order to protect yourself.