Offer paralegals training and status to improve business, says NALP
Chief Executive of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP), Amanda Hamilton, has said that law firms should consider giving paralegals formal recognition and status to encourage staff retention and improve business.
“Paralegals are no longer ‘would be’ solicitors or graduates who cannot find training contracts,” said Ms Hamilton.
“Paralegals can do virtually everything that a solicitor can do, but not limited to, assistance in a matrimonial matter; helping with a claim if a client is being taken to court over a debt, or needs to take a third party to court to recover a debt; taking action against an employee through a Tribunal; writing a Will or obtaining a Lasting Power of Attorney in respect of a relative; and housing and welfare matters.”
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”. Paralegals work for solicitors, barristers and for in-house legal departments, but increasingly, they also work for themselves in areas such as tenant evictions and in small claims for monies owed.
Ms Hamilton said that, for legal firms, having access to registered, specialist paralegals – whether freelance or working as an employee – could enable a firm to offer a wider range of services. She added that working as a paralegal was now a genuine career option which offered many advantages and “plenty of opportunities” – and encouraging paralegals to join a professional association such as NALP and offering them the chance to gain paralegal qualifications through organisations like NALP would offer credibility to law firms and “give the right impression” to potential clients.
“Attracting and retaining talent is always a top challenge – but by offering formal recognition for your paralegal staff, and perhaps allowing them days off for training, or helping to find their training and supporting them during the process, you can attract better applicants and retain your best people,” she advised.
Once paralegals are trained and suitably qualified, it is also possible to delegate more work to them, she added – although there are certain “reserved activities” which must only be performed by a qualified solicitor, including automatically having the right to represent someone in court, some probate activities and conveyancing.
“Apart from this, there is plenty of scope for a paralegal within your firm, not only to advise and assist a consumer, but also to gain a Licence to Practise in order to do so,” added Ms Hamilton.
More information about paralegal training is available at NALP.
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