The Law Society has announced plans for a preliminary scoping study into whether the Law Society should develop or endorse qualifications for paralegals.
The study will be conducted by former Ministry of Justice official Nick Smedley, who previously looked at the regulation of corporate work for the society as part of the Hunt review.
The society said that with the paralegal market growing and, with the agenda arising out of last year’s Milburn report on fair access to the profession “still important”, this may well be the time to explore whether Chancery Lane should have a role in providing qualifications for these employees.
Law Society President Bob Heslett said: “This is particularly important when there are more paralegals in the market and when, given the Milburn agenda, people are looking for recognised ways of entering the profession. We want to see whether there is a demand for this among solicitors.”
This is not the first time that the society has eyed up the non-solicitor market. Plans to introduce an “affiliate” membership category for non-solicitors were scuppered in October 2008 when the profession voted against the plan.
Mr Smedley has also been asked to conduct a study into whether solicitor-advocates are being properly supported and have the tools they need to maintain and enhance their quality. Over 5,000 solicitors now have the right to appear in the higher courts.
Mr Heslett said: “In respect of advocacy, solicitor advocates are here to stay and we believe they provide important additional choice and competition in the market. The society wants to support them and help them achieve the highest standards.”
Mr Smedley is also a member of the board of ILEX Professional Standards, the regulator of legal executives.