A Spat in Britain.

The Lawyer reports that in Britain, “A spat has broken out between the Institute of Paralegals (IoP) and the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (Nalp) over who has launched the country’s first national training framework.” This is of interest to me on at least two accounts.

First, one of my areas of research is comparative study of paralegalism in the U.S., Great Britain, France and Canada. In the course of that research I had the opportunity to meet with the staff of NALP in London last summer and watch Amanda Hamiliton, General Secretary of NALP teach a class. IoP did not respond to my inquiries, so I was unable to meet with anyone from that organization. 

I am working on a post regarding some of the comparisons of the British and French systems to ours that I started after reading a post by Lynne DeVenney on her Practical Paralegalism blog entitled UK Paralegals Struggle to Overcome Perception as “Failed Lawyers”. I was also able to meet with paralegal educators in Paris. Unfortunately, I have not yet had the time to finish that post which focuses on similarlities and differences in the three systems. Suprisingly, in many respects the French system is closer to ours in the role, education and utilization of paralegals.

The second reason the story in The Lawyer interests me is the perception of paralegals in England as reflected in some of the comments. One area of similarity between the U.S. and England is the continued struggle of the paralegal professional to gain an indentity as a profession separate from that of attorneys. Note these comments, which seem quite similar to the discussions occuring here:

Anonymous | 2-Nov-2009 1:21 pm

WHY ARE PEOPLE DOING ANY SORT OF COURSE TO BECOME A CRAPPY PARALEGAL?!! Both organisations are clearly trying to make money out of the poor little glorified filing clerks…….

Anonymous | 3-Nov-2009 11:35 am

I’ve been a paralegal and the last thing any firm wants is someone with more qualifications. They’re completely unnecessary as the job is very procedural and can be picked up in no time.

Anonymous | 3-Nov-2009 12:05 pm

I attended the National Association of Licensed Paralegals and have now secured a job as a paralegal with the Local government. They were very impressed with my qualification and thought it showed initiative to go above and beyond just obtaining a degree. The post graduate diploma is a fantastic route to take when you need to learn about the procedural side of the job so you can start working. In conclusion it is beneficial in the long run, despite anyone’s opinion that qualifications are not respected, furthermore this route is more practical for those who cannot afford to pay the extreme fees for the LPC!
And finally, those who think that a paralegal’s role is nothing more than a glorified filing clerk, clearly have no idea and present themselves as bitter and cynical wannabes!

Anonymous | 3-Nov-2009 12:23 pm

I have to agree with the above comment, as an employer I believe your staff can never be over “qualified”. NALP do a sterling job and I would alway look favourably on someone with a qaulification from them.

Susan Steman F.PLL | 3-Nov-2009 12:36 pm

I love my job as a Licensed Paralegal. I am no filing clerk. I have my own clients, I go to court , I produce my own procedural papers and am well thought of in my place of work. The NALP helped me qualify 10 years ago and then I earned my Licence. I feel I am a valuable asset to my firm and the NALP gave me the confidence to achieve this. What came first the chicken or the egg? Does it matter if the training suits your requirements!

Unfortunately work continues to interfer with blogging so I can not say all I would like to say at this time, so I will reserve most of it for a later post. However, based on my experience with NALP last summer, I can say that the organization and the training it provides are not “jokes.” It is also clear from my meetings with practicing paralegals that paralegals in England are not “mere” clerks, filing or otherwise. 

Given the similarities in issues facing the paralegal profession in other countries, members of the profession should work together and learn from each other to address those issues, regardless of national borders, especially given the globalization of the economy. So, I am pleased that NALP is a member of NFPA. Indeed, NFPA initially acted as intermediary between NALP and me thus facilitating my summer trip.

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