The future for Paralegal Professionals is very much linked with the future of the Legal Profession. In the UK, we are seeing an expansion of the legal sector. There was a time when only Solicitors could offer legal services to paying members of the public. Barristers were dependent on Solicitors instructing them in litigation matters. Today, Barristers are now a competing force with Solicitors for the provision of Litigation services. In addition, Paralegals are also encroaching upon the once protected legal services provided by Solicitors. Although some law firms may have closed in recent months, this will create a re-grouping regarding work ethics. Some solicitors could decide to work independently, reduce overheads thus relying further on the services of Paralegals. The scales are tipped up in favour of the growth for paralegals.
Some may argue that we have one of the most expensive legal systems in the world. From this point of view, expansion may be a very good thing indeed.
We must tread carefully, however, that such expansion does not mean the erosion of the highly professional legal service we have come to know and expect.
Levels of qualifications must be maintained. Levels of customer satisfaction must be maintained.
Recently we have seen Solicitors and Barristers protesting publicly against the proposed cuts in Legal Aid. Many law firms have already given up offering their services to legally aided clients.
This could be bad news for Criminal Litigation.
Will this mean that justice will be available only for the wealthy?
Can we rely upon advice given by someone other than solicitors when preparing our Wills?
Will our divorce be handled in the same manner by non-solicitors?
If solicitors want to continue attracting and retaining clients in the face of mounting competition, they must utilise the services of good Paralegals.
Some within our industry are campaigning for the Paralegal Profession to become the fourth legal profession behind Solicitors, Barristers and Legal Executives. This will bode very well for those who wish to see lower legal fees, provided standards are maintained. While the Legal Profession is undergoing several changes, we hope that Paralegals will continue to be trained and guided by the best and remain working under expert supervision until they attain the level of working experience that the public can rely upon.
The future looks bright for Paralegals and as Training Providers we must strive to maintain the quality of this emerging profession.
While the entire legal profession is undergoing major changes, one thing is certain and that is the law profession will endure, along with the bright future for paralegals.