The Difference Between The Services Of A Paralegal, A Solicitor And A Barrister. Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from Amanda Hamilton, Patron of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP). Amanda will explain the difference and how to choose between the services of a paralegal, a solicitor and a barrister. Hopefully, we/our families will seldom need legal help. However, should we choose a paralegal, a solicitor or a barrister if that time comes? What is the difference? Do they all do the same work?
The Difference Between The Services Of A Paralegal, A Solicitor And A Barrister
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are two traditional legal professionals:
Both are statutorily regulated professions and have membership bodies and regulatory bodies. The only people who can refer to themselves as ‘solicitors’ or ‘barristers’ are those who have been through the prescribed training process for either profession. Indeed, it is illegal to refer to oneself as a solicitor or barrister without formally being on the solicitors’ or barristers’ register.
However, even though paralegals are not on this register, they are permitted to offer legal advice and assistance as long as they do not perform reserved activities. These are activities reserved for solicitors and barristers only.
So, what are these reserved activities?
Six Reserved Activities
By Section 12 of The Legal Services Act 2007, six reserved activities remain the monopoly of solicitors and barristers.
The Right To Conduct Litigation (Only Solicitors Have The Right To Do This)
Issuing proceedings for a client and any associated actions about this and acting as agent for any client in such proceedings unless they are exempt because a specific court grants permission in a particular case.
The Right Of Audience (Barristers Or Solicitors Or Solicitors/Advocates Have This Right)
The right to appear before a court, speak on behalf of a client and examine witnesses unless exempt because the court grants permission in a specific case.
Reserved Instrument Activities (Solicitors Or Licensed Conveyancers Have The Right To Do This)
Such as preparing a form of Transfer of property and being able to lodge such at The Land Registry, although it excludes the right to draft such documents.
Probate Activities (Only Granted To Solicitors)
Such as preparing probate documents for the law of England and Wales or any proceedings (e.g. contesting a grant of probate of letters of administration). But excludes the right to be able to draft Wills and Powers of Attorney etc.
Notarial Activities (Notaries Only Have This Right)
These are pretty specific and refer to activities about The Public Notaries Act 1801.
The Right To Administer Oaths (Only Solicitors Have This Right)
Conferred on a commissioner of oaths under various statutes.
So as evidenced above, there is a broad spectrum of legal areas that a paralegal can deal with and relatively few that they cannot. For example, they can help with monetary disputes, claims, employment, housing, or welfare matters. However, this is not an exhaustive list, and apart from the above restrictions, there are plenty of specialist areas that a paralegal can assist with and advise.
How Do You Decide Whether To Utilise The Services Of A Paralegal, Solicitor Or Barrister?
So how, as a consumer, do you decide whether to utilise the services of a paralegal, solicitor or barrister?
There are several factors to take into consideration.
The Type Of Legal Case For Which You Require Assistance
For example, if it is a simple debt collection under £10k, you can easily do so yourself. Perhaps with the guidance of a licensed paralegal. However, if it is a much more complex legal case, such as one involving personal injury, then the services of a solicitor and possibly a barrister would be required, especially if defended. This may well depend on the seriousness of the injury balanced out with whether or not the other party accepts responsibility.
The cost of instructing a solicitor and barrister may be beyond your pocket, as solicitors tend to charge between £250-£500 per hour. And barristers charge on average £150-£600 per hour. Of course, you may decide to instruct a barrister directly without the need to go via a solicitor first. In addition, leading a licensed paralegal may prove less costly as a most charge on average between £30-£80 per hour for their services. However, choosing to go via the direct access barrister or paralegal route may give rise to another consideration: stress.
The Stress Factor
Going directly to a barrister means that you have access to the skills and knowledge of an individual who has specialised knowledge of the issues and can represent you in court. However, barristers are not allowed to conduct litigation (which remains the monopoly of solicitors), which means that they cannot accept the service of communications from the other party or the court on your behalf. All correspondence has to be signed by you and go via you. Similarly, a paralegal can give advice and assistance and draft documents and letters for you, but ultimately, all correspondence comes via you and goes to you. This can and does cause additional stress and pressure but may save you costs in the long run.
So, any decision has to be well thought through before you decide to go ahead with any litigation or if you decide to defend an action. Of course, nothing is preventing you from taking on a licensed paralegal’s assistance initially to see if the matter can be settled without the need to go further. If it cannot, then the decision whether to instruct a barrister directly or go via a solicitor first has to be made, and this is dependent on the above factors.
Make sure you choose an appropriately qualified paralegal, solicitor or barrister. You can check online with the various regulatory and membership bodies before approaching. Sometimes, a good recommendation from someone you know is the best way.
Finally, mediation is always possible, which could help settle any litigation. Professional legal mediators are skilled in persuading both parties to reach a compromise to prevent aggressive court action.
I hope you enjoyed that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Hamilton is a Patron of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP). 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 admitted professional paralegal qualifications are offered for those looking for a career as a paralegal experienced.