What is the difference between Solicitors and Paralegals?
There are very few areas in a Solicitor's General Practice in respect of which a solicitor has a legislative monopoly. The main areas are: conduct of litigation, rights of audience in the main courts, certain aspects of a conveyancing transaction and the extraction of a Grant of Representation.
These 'reserved' activities are howver, currently being eroded. For example, the eradication of Legal Aid several years ago has led to an increase in Litigants in Person (LIPs) ie individuals representing themselves in court because they cannot afford to pay for legal representatives. This has put enormous strain on the court system, to such an extent that most Judges will now, at their discretion, accept Paralegals in court to represent their clients (subject to notice given and being satisfied as to the competence of the paralegal).
Do Paralegals need as high a level of competence as Solicitors?
All areas of practice undertaken by Paralegals, need a high degree of competence, skill and aptitude together with a high degree of honesty and ethics. This is the reason why the PPR was developed. The PPR offers voluntary regulation to those paralegals wishing to practice in their own right as Professional Paralegals and offers strict criteria as to competence, skills and ethics. A PPR Practising Certificate is now required in order to offer advice and legal assistance to the consumer.