Penny the Paralegal with a Clever PC

As I’ve often noted issues facing the attorney and paralegal professions in other countries are both different and the same as ours. Take Great Britain for example. The system for becoming and being a lawyer in Great Britain is quite different than ours, and lawyers themselves are divided between barristers and solicitors. However, there as in most other jurisdictions there is a tension between the goals of providing affordable legal services to the public and protecting the public from incompetent service providers. There, though, the public can choose their representation to a larger degree than here where only the licensed attorney can practice law. As noted in a post today on guardian.co.uk, “Anyone can launch themselves as a legal adviser, but solicitors have a unique selling point, they are qualified.”

There are a lot of “legal advisers” in England. As the author of the post, Neil Rose, points out, “After a 50% growth each decade over the past 50 years, there are now nearly 150,000 people on the roll of solicitors (plus another 45,000 in the various other legal professions), making England and Wales one of the most densely “lawyered” countries in the world. In another 50 years, on current trends, there will be a million solicitors.”

But the question he raises is, “For what do we need qualified lawyers? Why not just go to Penny the Paralegal with a clever PC (who may be a law student who couldn’t find a training contract)?”

Here, of course, this question could not arise since Penny the Paralegal is prevented from performing most lawyer-like activities by UPL statutes. This is true only to a very limited extent in England where, “By law, there are six areas of work – known as reserved legal activities – for which you need a legal qualification: preparing litigation; representing someone in court; transferring land; certain limited aspects of probate; notarial activities; and the administration of oaths. That’s it.”

Here’s the rub – a rub we saw in Canada and, to a degree, here -especially in Wisconsin: “The argument that more legal activities, such as will-writing and employment advice, should be reserved may seem like a job creation exercise by the legal profession, …” In other words, who are UPL laws meant to protect – the public or the legal profession.

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