Saturday, October 10, 2009

UK Paralegals Struggle to Overcome Perception as “Failed Lawyers”

This is not a promising opening for an editorial on the view of paralegal profession in the UK – or anywhere:

Paralegals have always been regarded as the poor relations of the UK legal family. But thankfully the negative labels that have long been associated with paralegalling are gradually being peeled away.

And it gets worse:

Indeed, isn’t it about time that paralegals were seen as professionals in their own right and not simply as failed lawyers?

This week’s editorial at Lawyer 2B gets better as the author, Husnara Begum, acknowledges that she’s re-thinking her own perception of paralegals as “not good enough to secure training contracts”, and that being a paralegal is a valuable and valid alternative to becoming a lawyer.

In an effort to enhance the recognition of the paralegal profession in the UK, the Institute of Paralegals has launched a new certification program, the Route to Qualification, “to give paralegals a nationally recognised status of ‘qualified paralegal’ upon completion.”

IoP’s chief executive James O’Connell said: “The profession can’t continue to ignore the status, professionalism and career aspirations of almost half the fee-earners in the country.”

To see the words “stigma” and “failed” associated with the choice to work as a paralegal in any country is an unpleasant eye-opener for me, and means there is still a lot of work to be done to recognize the integral role that educated, intelligent and highly skilled paralegals play in the practice of law today.

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