Posts Tagged ‘England’

Institute of Paralegals (England) News

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

As I’ve mentioned before, the New York City Paralegal Association, one of the premiere paralegal associations in the United States, has an on-going cooperative relationship with a paralegal association in England, the Institute of Paralegals. Thanks to that relationship the latest edition of the Institute’s Paralegal News is now available through this NYCPA link. I’ve had the good fortune to travel to London to do research on the paralegal profession and practice there and find the similarities and differences in the two systems to be quite fascinating. (Despite the fact that our law is based on English common law, our system of paralegal practice seems to have more in common with the system in France.)

H/T to James at the NYCPA LinkedIn Group.

Penny the Paralegal with a Clever PC

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

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.

Solicitor Shortage in the Shires Promotes Paralegals

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Since traveling to London to study the paralegal profession there I have continued to monitor developments there. The legal educational system there causes some problems for the bar, paralegals, and the public. The study of law requires a four year undergraduate degree in substantive law followed by more study on procedural law followed by an apprentice type contract with an existing law office. Unfortunately, the universities are pumping out about twice as many law graduates as there are apprentice contract slots. Many of those graduating will become paralegals of a different sort than we have here.

In England people retain a common law right to select the person from who they obtain legal services, so as long as these paralegals disclose the fact that they are not barristers or solicitors, they can maintain their own offices and give advice to clients. In some areas such as immigration they can gain permission to represent clients before tribunals.

Meanwhile there is a separate education track for what we would call paralegals here in the states. The two primary institutions providing certification and education tend to battle a bit as discussed in this post.

Anyway, the Law Society Gazette reports that a shortage of child care solicitors has led to a rise in the use of paralegal staff to present cases on behalf of local authorities. The Gazette uses the phrase “unqualified paralegal staff.” Apparently this is also a trend among those prosecuting crimes for the Crown. But not everyone sees it in the “unqualified” light:

However Uma Mehta, chair of the Law Society’s children law sub-committee, said the provision to grant rights of audience to unqualified staff was ‘not a problem’.
She said: ‘Local authorities don’t send just anyone to court – only those with adequate experience and under supervision. They are very experienced people doing routine stuff.

It seems to me that this is just another example of paralegals filling an access to justice gap. While there is not likely to be a shortage of attorneys in the United States, there can be (and are) shortages in particular areas (geographical, economic, and legal) leading to gaps in access to justice. While paralegal cannot replace lawyers, by filling those gaps in the areas and for tasks where they are qualified the can provide access to justice and free up the available attorneys to do what only attorneys can do.