The Law Society will launch a paralegal accreditation scheme later this year for non-qualified staff working in organisations regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, it has emerged.
It will be available to the many thousands of staff in legal practice from secretaries to those with an LLB or LLB/LPC and no training contract. The society’s council will be told this week that “the aim is to drive up standards and provide recognition to these employees”.
A report to the council said it is being done within the context of the government-led plan to “professionalise” this sector of the legal workforce. The government-backed national apprenticeship scheme for the legal sector was launched in March and will provide for 750 legal apprenticeships in 2014.
The accreditation scheme is separate from the national apprenticeship programme but will incorporate the three core generic skills identified in its national occupational standards: research, drafting, and ethical and regulatory knowledge.
It is proposed that assessment will be by recognition of educational attainment levels mapped to the national recognised qualifications framework. This will be supplemented by evidence of competence in the core competencies. The report said a survey highlighted the need for training related to the core skills.
In addition it is envisaged that compulsory online training will be required on the ethical and regulatory issues.
The first phase of research into the scheme has found support from firms and employees, and the Law Society will supplement this with focus groups in London and the regions.
The business case for the scheme is set to be submitted to the society’s membership board in June.
The Law Society will be competing with the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, which is long established as the primary provider of education for paralegals and provides a range of qualifications that can also form the basis of qualification as a chartered legal executive.
The society is also behind its counterpart in Scotland, which in 2010 launched the ‘registered paralegal scheme’ in association with the Scottish Paralegal Association, introducing across-the-board competencies and adherence to a code of conduct for paralegals working with solicitors.