Are Paralegals Any Good, And Is It Worth Using Them? Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from Amanda Hamilton, the Patron of NALP. Amanda will share whether paralegals are any good if they are worth using in place of a solicitor, and if so, when. Most consumers automatically consider a ‘lawyer’ a solicitor or barrister. But this is not entirely accurate. With the economic squeeze affecting all of us, many people can’t afford the fees of conventional lawyers. This is where paralegal professionals enter the framework.
Are Paralegals Any Good, And Is It Worth Using Them?
For centuries in England, it’s true to say that consumers of legal services automatically consider a ‘lawyer’ to be either a solicitor or barrister. Not so anymore!
With the economic squeeze affecting all of us, it’s understandable that consumers cannot afford the fees of these conventional lawyers. As consumers, we also are subject to the decision made in 2013 to withdraw legal aid for all but the most urgent of legal cases, leaving a gap in the provision of those legal services at the low end of the scale. This is where paralegal professionals enter the frame.
Paralegals are trained and educated in a similar way to solicitors. Some have law degrees, and others have completed nationally recognised paralegal qualifications. They can do mostly everything a solicitor can do except the practice of some activities that remain the monopoly of solicitors. These activities are reserved practices, and a paralegal practitioner cannot overstep the boundary and offer these services without sanction.
There are six main reserved activities:
- The exercise of a right of the audience
- Reserved instrument activities
- The conduct of litigation
- Probate activities
- Notarial activities
- The administration of oaths
These are activities that paralegals cannot perform. However, they can assist you. In some cases, with the preparation to cut down the time and money spent on a solicitor.
Are Paralegals Any Good?
Why wouldn’t they be? The Law is The Law, and studying law as a paralegal is the same law that an undergraduate studies during their law degree. So, what’s the difference? Those who qualify as solicitors after graduation must qualify through the SRA-prescribed route for qualification. This includes taking a practice and procedure course and the requirement to gain qualifying experience.
To qualify as a professional paralegal, academic and procedural law qualifications must be attained. Together with a period of relevant legal experience or, via the experiential route, at least five years of relevant legal experience in the area of law the paralegal wishes to practise.
The argument that solicitors are more qualified to practise law does not hold water. Solicitors do not have a monopoly on good practice. The number of resolved cases on the Legal Ombudsman site confirms that. Between 2019 and 2021, approximately 11,000 complaints were resolved. These figures do not account for the number of complaints against solicitors in the first place – just those that were resolved!
As of 31 July 2021, just over 153,000 solicitors were practising in England and Wales, according to The Law Society statistics. There are. However, an estimated 200,000 paralegals work in the UK. Some work in-house, and some work in the private and charity sectors. But many work within the legal sector, and an increasing number work as practitioners offering legal services to consumers directly.
The main difference between a paralegal and a solicitor is that the paralegal profession is not statutorily regulated. This means that anyone can refer to themselves as a ‘paralegal‘, which would not be an offence. To describe oneself or even imply that one is a solicitor when that is not actual could give rise to criminal proceedings.
What Can A Paralegal Help With?
Paralegals can help with almost all legal issues. From assisting a private individual who is owed money to seeking help and advice through divorce proceedings. They can help landlords and tenants with disputes over unpaid rent and small businesses requiring an employment contract to be drafted or a commercial contract to be checked. Aside from the reserved activities mentioned above, a suitably qualified paralegal can help with the same legal issues as a solicitor.
How To Choose The Right Paralegal
As a consumer, ensure the paralegal you are engaging is a member of a recognised membership body for paralegals. NALP (National Association of Licensed Paralegals) is the leading professional paralegal body in the UK and has a reliable reputation within the legal sector and beyond. The membership categories have strict eligibility criteria that must be fulfilled before an individual is accepted.
In addition, any NALP member that wishes to gain a licence to practise must provide evidence of relevant legal experience in the area in which they wish to practise and must have PII (Professional Indemnity Insurance). Due diligence is undertaken on each applicant before a Licence is granted.
The National Paralegal Register is a great place to start if you want a paralegal to help you. You can search by geography, specialisation, and qualification/experience level.
Is It Cost-Effective To Use The Services Of A Paralegal?
It is a fact that solicitors charge fees that range from £250 per hour to £600 per hour, depending on the seniority of the solicitor in question. At the same time, a paralegal practitioner may only charge between £30-£80 per hour for their services, depending on the nature of the case. This makes paralegals much more affordable, for the same service, than a solicitor.
So, with the current need for us all to rein in our spending as much as possible. Using a qualified paralegal’s services is, in my opinion, a no-brainer.
I hope you enjoyed that.
About The Author
Amanda Hamilton is a National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP) Patron. A non-profit membership body and the only paralegal body recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its Centres around the country, accredited and recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for those looking for a career as a paralegal professional.