The Paralegal Profession is 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: email@example.com or phone us on 0207 112 8034 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 may offer their services to consumers as individual practitioners. Here are a few guidelines to follow if you are a consumer approached by such a person.
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.
In addition they should have a NALP Licence to Practise and should also be on the NPR (National Paralegal Register). You should not accept assistance from anyone purporting to be a Paralegal Professional if they cannot provide evidence of their membership to a professional body.
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 him/herself 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:
- Ascertain whether the paralegal is a member of a recognised body and in addition, that they are also registered on the NPR.
- If they are offering services as an independent practitioner, they should also have a NALP Licence to Practise. You need to ask for evidence of this. Always ask to see evidence of their Professional Membership Body and NALP Licence to Practise.
How can you make a complaint if the Paralegal is employed?
- 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,
- Contact the employer clearly stating your complaints to give them a chance to sort it out. If however, you are still not satisfied,
- 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 work 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 then you can
- Communicate your concerns to the Paralegal to give him/her a chance to put things right. If you are not satisfied then:
- Make a complaint in writing and request an investigation to the paralegal’s Membership Body. The membership body will investigate and then respond within a given time frame. See NALP’s Policy regarding complaints about a member.
What does NALP do to safeguard the Consumer?
NALP has Codes of Conduct and Ethics for members and Guidance to members on Offering Legal Services and Holding Out that all NALP 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 NALP Licence to Practise 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.