Blog: Recognise Your Paralegal

Why giving paralegals in your company recognition will help you retain staff, increase services and boost profits

By Amanda Hamilton, NALP

 

Is there an element of legality involved in running your company? Do you have someone drafting contracts of employment or contracts to provide services, or an individual that looks over any contract received by your company? Are these individuals not qualified solicitors?

If the answer to any of the above questions is ‘yes’, then the person performing these tasks is a paralegal.

Formally recognizing that these individuals are ‘Paralegals’ within your company can encourage loyalty and status.

In addition, if you are prepared to offer your paralegal personnel formal recognition by encouraging them to join a professional body such as NALP (National Association of Licensed Paralegals) and give them the opportunity to gain paralegal qualifications (for example, through NALP Training), this will add credibility to your organization. It will also give the right impression to potential customers.

 

Paralegals are defined as ‘persons who are trained and educated to perform certain legal tasks, but who are not qualified solicitors, barristers or chartered legal executives’.

As an owner of a company, you have to cope with a broad spectrum of expenditure for all areas of your business. Not least, having the right legal advice and assistance when required, is essential. However, solicitors’ fees can be quite debilitating and place an undue burden on finances. No matter -  nowadays, there are other legal professionals that may be able to offer the same or similar services for a fraction of the cost.

 

In 2007, The Legal Services Act, sought to liberalise and encourage competition in the market for legal services in England and Wales. This statute, together with the withdrawal of Legal Aid (for all but the most urgent cases) means that there is no longer funding to assist consumers financially in bringing an action or defending an action through the courts.

This has, in turn, encouraged more and more people to train and qualify as paralegals in order to plug the gap that remains. A paralegal professional is not statutorily regulated in the same way as other legal professions, like solicitors, and therefore is able to charge a fraction of the cost that a solicitor may charge. However, this does not mean that they are any less knowledgeable, diligent or professional than Solicitors.

Paralegals are trained in the same way as solicitors are. They study the same areas of law and procedure and have the same level of experience. However, they cannot call themselves ‘solicitors’ or hold themselves out e.g. infer that they are solicitors, if they have not fulfilled the criteria laid down by the regulatory body, the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority).

Paralegals are regulated by NALP which is a self-regulatory body. In other words, it can only regulate its own members. This is the reason why every paralegal should be encouraged to join NALP as a member. This will differentiate them from those who are not NALP members.

Many NALP paralegals are setting themselves up as independent practitioners. NALP can provide them with a Licence to Practise (subject to fulfilling eligibility criteria) and assist them in gaining PII (Professional Indemnity Insurance) to do so.

 

Attracting and retaining top talent is always a challenge – but by offering formal recognition for your Paralegal staff, and perhaps allowing them days off for training, you can attract better applicants and retain your best people.

People like to be recognized and rewarded for the work they do – this is one way to achieve that.  On the flip-side, ignoring their status and the contribution of these valuable employees, may lead to a talent exodus as staff look for fulfilment elsewhere.

For Paralegals already working within your company, there are bespoke nationally recognized qualifications to help them hone their skills and knowledge – building their confidence and increasing the services you offer to customers.

There are however, certain activities that designated ‘reserved activities’ and these remain the monopoly of solicitors. For example: automatically having the right to represent someone in all courts, the conveyancing process (i.e. buying and selling property) and some probate activities (i.e. sorting out a person’s estate (assets) after they die).

Apart from the above, there remains plenty of scope for a Paralegal within your company to perform valuable tasks, without the need to approach a solicitor.

 

To find out more contact NALP (National Association of Licenced Paralegals) http://www.nationalparalegals.co.uk

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Hamilton is Chief Executive of NALP, a non-profit Membership Body as well as being the only Paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England & Wales). Through its training arm, NALP Training, accredited recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for a career as a paralegal professional. 

See: http://www.nationalparalegals.co.uk and http://www.nalptraining.co.uk/nalp_training

 

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