Posts Tagged ‘Britain’

Increasing Paralegal Use a “Win-Win” for British Firm

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

It ought to be a matter of simple math. Paralegals lower the cost of services for clients and increase law firm productivity, so it makes sense to use paralegals. This does not cost attorney jobs, but grows the legal profession. One major British firm has done the math, according to legalweek.com:

Addleshaw Goddard has grown the number of paralegals in its recently-formed transaction services team (TST) in Manchester to more than 40 as the national law firm prepares to send more chargeable work to the centre in a bid to keep costs down for clients.

The firm has increased staff in the team from five at the time it was piloted in November last year to 42, with the intention of boosting numbers to more than 60 as it is used by more practice areas.

The initiative was established to free up associates to work on client-facing matters by sending some administrative and process support work to the paralegal centre in Manchester.

Most of the work is due diligence and document management for the litigation and corporate practices, but Addleshaws is also looking to extend its remit to include more transactional support for the firm’s commercial and banking practices…

Addleshaws employment head Andrew Chamberlain, who oversees the project, commented: “Clients are telling us they don’t want to pay a lawyer hundreds of pounds an hour to do this type of work, but they also don’t necessarily want it to be sent overseas, either.

“This is the happy medium – we’re able to keep costs down and our associates are able to develop their skills in 
other areas.”…

Britain Studying Paralegal Qualification

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

The Law Society in Britain has commissioned a study to see whether there should be a paralegal “qualification” in Britain. The legal profession in Britain, despite our common heritage, is quite different than our. A law degree is the equivalent of a four-year undergraduate degree here. However, it qualifies the holder to enter an additional educational program which in turn qualifies the graduate to contract for final training with an existing law practice. Those who complete the training then qualify for status as either barristers or solicitors governed by The Law Society.There is another route for qualification as a legal administrator. According to a comment to the Lawyer.com story on this new study, “ILEX is the professional body representing around 22,000 qualified and trainee Legal Executives, and is recognised by the Ministry of Justice as one of the three core routes to becoming a qualified lawyer.”

One problem is that there are about twice as many law degree graduates each year as there are training slots, leaving a large number of graduates who will not qualify any time soon as either solicitors or barristers. Many of these persons create their own legal service and call themselves paralegals. As noted in a previous post, in Britain the public can choose their representation to a larger degree than here where only the licensed attorney can practice law.

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. Thus, one possible reason for the new study is concern over protecting the public from incompetent service provides. Another, as noted in one comment to the story might be that The Law Society is trying to protect solicitors’ turf.

I also previously reported on a spat in Britain 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.” According to today’s story, IoP has endorsed this study:

IoP’s chief executive James O’Connell said: “This a very positive step for the future of paralegals in this country. They are often undertrained and underrecognised and being recognised by such a big player as the Law Society is just the type of backing the profession needs.”

Apparently the spat still exists. One of the comments, which responds not only to the story but to other comments, is from Amanda Hamilton. I had the pleasure of meeting Amanda and observing her teaching a class while in London researching paralegal professionalism there last summer. (IoP never responded to my requests, so I must confess to a bit of bias on behalf of NALP. Also NALP is a member of NFPA.) Here’s Amanda’s comment, which I am including in full because it fairly clearly (and I believe accurately) states the present state of affairs in Britain:

Referring to ‘Anonymous’ (30th July 12.56pm), we would like to point out that there are no such organisations as ‘The Licensed Institute of Paralegals’, ‘The National Paralegal Institute’ or the ‘Association of National Paralegals’.
There are only two professional bodies for paralegals: The NALP (The National Association of Licensed Paralegals) is the leading body and has been established for 23 years. The other is The Institute of Paralegals (IoP) formerly known as The Paralegal Association and formed around 2004.
We would also like to point out that the IOP’s ‘national framework’ is not the first ever framework for a paralegal career. The NALP has run one since 1989. It has been the forerunner for paralegal career development and its foundation qualification, the Higher Diploma in Paralegal Studies, has been (in the recent past) nationally accredited and recognised by The National Open College Network from 1995- 2002 and has been run by Further Education Colleges up and down the country.
More importantly NALP has recently gained Awarding Body accreditation and status from the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator (OfQUAL), the watchdog for qualifications in England. Furthermore the NALP’s Post Graduate Diploma in Paralegal Practice (the PPC), is specifically designed for Law Graduates to enable them to obtain the necessary understanding of legal practice (because a Law Degree does not cover any of it), has been successfully running for ten years and the NALP Higher Diploma (procedural law content) been incorporated (as an option) in Sunderland University’s Law Degree Programme for the past six years. NALP will of course be working closely with The Law Society in connection with its proposed study and is already working with Skills For Justice in a similar vain. Those persons who have responded negatively, above, to the need for Paralegals to be qualified are either not in the profession or do not want to improve their careers. Qualifications are very necessary as the majority of Paralegals do virtually the same work as Solicitors. The ‘pen pushing office fodder’ referred to by some are not Paralegals but merely administrative clerks.

Pro se Perspective on “Independent” Paralegals and UPL

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

I have received some responses to my post of Efrem Martin’s email on the Colorado State Bar Association’s charge that he is engaged in UPL. Here is on from the perspective of pro se litigants.

Dear Professor Monge,
I am responding to your request for comments on your post regarding Mr. Martin and UPL.  I am a pro se litigant and founder of the National Association of Pro Se Litigants, Inc. (NAPSL)   I fully support Mr. Martin because I could have used a paralegal’s support services while I was engaged as a pro se plaintiff in complex litigation in Prince George’s County Maryland.  I believe UPL is just one of the numerous measures that the ABA and the legal community at large has used to oppress average citizens and prevent them from exercising their rights.

I believe that the legal landscape nationwide will change overnight if Efrem Martin, challenges the State of Colorado and the Colorado State Bar Association in Federal Court over the constitutionality of Unauthorized Practice of Law Statutes in that State … and HE WINS!  I am praying to God that he does.
I believe that the State Bar’s claim that prohibiting paralegals from providing services directly to the public as a means to protect the public is a ruse. I think UPL statutes are in place solely to stamp out competition and to force the public to pay UNREGULATED attorney fees upwards of $400 per hour.  This is evidenced by the fact that the UPL investigation against Mr. Martin was not initiated by a member of the public who allegedly needed to be protected, but by Colorado Attorney, Byron Large, an attorney that Mr. Martin believes felt threatened that Mr. Martin was encroaching upon his [Large’s] business.  I support Mr. Martin and have distributed his story in NAPSL’s newsletter.  Nothing but support from the Pro Se Community is pouring in.
Denying paralegals the right to assist pro se litigants directly should be illegal in every state.  Pro se litigants have a right to paralegal and legal secretarial support services just like attorneys.  I find the UPL to be strikingly like slavery laws which prohibited slaves from learning to read and write, both have the effect of keeping a group within the public ignorant, and when people are ignorant, they are oppressed!
Thats just my little humble opinion.
Deirdre Glascoe
Executive Director
National Association of Pro Se Litigants, Inc.

There is some support for the position that paralegals ought to be able to assist the public without the supervision of attorneys in Canada and Great Britain. In Great Britain, for example, it appears paralegals have much greater leeway based on a common law right of British citizens to select there representatives. I have met with a paralegal who runs an independent office where he supervises other, less experienced and educated, paralegals.

Some Canadian provinces allow paralegal representation by licensed paralegals. It is on this point, perhaps, that the discussion should focus. Under our present system, attorneys are licensed and regulated to protect the public, but paralegals are not. The protection to the public comes from attorney supervision. If paralegals are allowed to operate without the supervision of attorneys for the benefit of the public, then must they be licensed and regulated for the protection of the public?

A Spat in Britain.

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

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.