Paralegals to play more important role

LAW firms are expected to increase the number of paralegals they employ by 18 percent over the next five years according to research by Skills for Justice. A survey conducted by the not-for-profit skills organisation found that legal employers would increase the number of people taking on paralegal functions from an average of 42 per firm to 49 per firm by 2017.

And with Skills for Justice working with employers to develop a recognised apprenticeship framework underpinned by National Occupational Standards (NOS) for paralegals, 83 percent of firms said they would be interested in taking on apprentices in this sector.

This is great timing as Skills for Justice in partnership with CILEx, Pearson and Damar Training recently secured nearly £1 million pounds from Government to develop a Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Services which will be perfect for school leavers.

Alan Woods OBE, Chief Executive, Skills for Justice, said: “It is important that we give employers the opportunity to tell us the benefits people employed as paralegals bring to their business and how they see the future for this area of the legal sector.

“This research has highlighted some very interesting findings for us. We look forward to working in partnership with employers and our partners to create recognised paralegal apprenticeships, and increase opportunities for young people to develop careers in law.”

The 51 firms surveyed, including some of the Top 10 firms in the UK, told Skills for Justice they employed a total of 2,143 paralegals – however by 2017 this number is projected to rise to 2,522.

The business area that currently employs the highest number of paralegals is personal injury civil litigation, with 48 per cent of organisations saying they employed paralegals in this field. This was followed by domestic property conveyancing at 43.5 per cent, commercial property conveyancing (37 per cent) and debt recovery at 37 per cent. Over the next two years employers expect wills, trusts and administration of estates to become another big area for paralegals.

Having completed the first set of draft National Occupational Standards in June, Skills for Justice has just launched a six week national consultation on them which will underpin all apprenticeships.  The consultation will run until August 6.

 Employers surveyed said the majority of apprentices they employed were in Business Administration – however, after the development and approval of the paralegal framework, firms expect to employ hundreds of apprentices.

 The first commercial paralegal national apprentices are expected to be employed in July 2013.