How paralegals can help bring fairness and accessibility to our Justice System
A fair justice system, giving equality of justice to all, will help to create a more harmonious, peaceful and cohesive society. Injustice can build into resentment that can manifest itself into social unrest, extreme political views, anti-social behaviour and a divided society.
Our Justice system is inherently unfair. There is inequality in our social, criminal, and civil system. A major cause of that inequality is the cost and accessibility of legal advice and representation. Large parts of the population are excluded from getting the legal help they need.
Reforms are afoot – but very slowly. We have a justice system that is revered around the world, it has always evolved but we now need radical change.
I believe paralegals could be a big part of that change, giving paralegals a wider role will allow accessibility to the law from a much broader spectrum of our society (see NALP response to Professor Mayson’s Review).
Legal costs must be kept at a more affordable levels, certainly for many of the tasks that lawyers are asked to perform.
It is not a matter of providing a two-tier system of lawyers verses paralegals but an integrated system that can provide all with the legal advice they need and deserve.
Technology will play a big part of the new world of law. For example, much advice can be given over the phone and via email, indeed even face to face meetings via video conferencing (like Zoom and Teams). During Covid we have seen the increase in telephone and video tribunals and even trials. Some may question the acceptability of this and want to insist that tribunals and trials are in person, and I have some sympathy with that, but feel we have to adjust to our changing technological world and work patterns.
Broadening the role of paralegals in our legal system and including them in the legal aid system, would also be a good step to help improve access and make legal advice more affordable.
Paralegals can do an enormous amount of legal work for clients, including attending tribunals; district judge applications; assisting counsel in court; and many other tasks. In fact, any legal activity that is not a ‘reserved activity’ can be performed by a paralegal.
What would really help many in our society is advice and representation in the courts at an affordable cost, with such things as, conduct of litigation, probate, and reserved instrument activities.
The ‘right of audience’ would allow paralegals to handle an increased spectrum of legal work with perhaps more paralegals becoming licensed, and working as sole practitioners.
It is important that paralegals are properly and well trained and gain first-hand experience, of the practice of law. Obviously, membership of NALP and the training available from the National Paralegal College is a route towards this. For those law graduates the Level 7 Diploma in legal practice is an excellent route or for those A level law students the Level 4 Diploma is a good start.
I would also recommend volunteering at the Citizens Advice for some first-hand experience of the many problems that our citizens face on a day-to-day basis, particularly with regard to, family, consumer, debt, housing, immigration and welfare and benefit matters. As a trained volunteer adviser, you will help clients solve their problems, while gaining direct knowledge and insight in to how the ‘Rule of Law’ actually works in the UK.
Malcolm Busby BA,LLB(Hons),FCIM,F.NALP