Regulation

The regulation and professional conduct of paralegals

Regulation

The Legal Services Board (LSB) is the oversight regulator for legal services approved regulators in the Legal Services Act 2007.  The LSB currently has nine approved regulators to include the SRA for Solicitors, The Barr Standards Board for Barristers, CILEx regulation for legal executives and six others.

Paralegals who work in the unregulated sector that is those working outside of regulated entities such as Solicitors’ firms are currently not regulated by the Legal Services Board.

As members of the IoP, our Paralegals are subject to a Code of Conduct and other rules passed from time to time by the Institute and may be subject to disciplinary procedures and/or expulsion from the Institute in certain circumstances.

However, the IoP is delighted to be one of the founding members of the Professional Paralegal Register (PPR) which is the voluntary regulatory scheme for Paralegals in England and Wales.  The PPR regulates Paralegals who are members of the PPR and hold a Paralegal Practising Certificate. The IoP strongly recommends that all of its members join the Register to take advantage of the many marketing opportunities available and for those that are offering legal services direct to consumers or clients should apply for a Paralegal Practising certificate to obtain the benefits of being fully regulated.

There are some groups of paralegals subject to statutory regulation under the Legal Services Board:

Paralegals Working for Solicitors

These paralegals are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) by virtue of being employees of solicitors.  These paralegals are also potentially subject to punishment by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and potentially sanction by the court (because their solicitor employers are Officers of the Court).  In reality the SRA rarely pays attention to paralegals working for solicitors (either in firms or in-house) unless they are guilty of some serious misconduct. This is because they are meant to be supervised by a solicitor at all times and thus, usually, the SRA looks to the solicitor when problems occur. However, as paralegals become more senior this will change.

Paralegals Providing Immigration Advice/Assistance

With one exception, all paralegals providing such advice/assistance must be registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner. The OISC has quite an active regulatory regime.  The exception is paralegals who work for a solicitors' firm or other entity which is exempted from the need to register.

Paralegals Providing Services Regulated by the Compensation Act 2006

The Compensation Act 2006 was intended to regulate the activities of claims management companies (“CMCs”).  CMCs typically seek out potential litigants and pass on the potwential claims to solicitors in return for a referral fee.  However when the Act was being drafted government appears to have been unaware of the existence of paralegal law firms in so many of them were caught under the Act’s remit even though they do no claims management work.  Regulation is provided by the Claims Management Regulation Division of the Ministry of Justice.  The Ministry publishes a useful plain-English guide as to who must be registered under the Act and in respect of what sort of activities.

Financial Services Related Work

Giving most types of financial advice (including mortgage and insurance related advice) is governed by the regulatory/registration scheme established under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

In giving legal advice you may sometimes have to carry on such "regulated activities" in the course of other work such as conveyancing, corporate, matrimonial, probate and trust work.

If so, you need either to be regulated or to work for an organisation (e.g. a solicitors' firm) exempted from registration/regulation under Part XX (which makes provision for approved professional firms which do not carry on mainstream investment business but which may carry on regulated activities).

Paralegals Acting as Accredited Police Station Representatives

This is a quasi regulatory situation.

People arrested and held at police stations generally have the right to receive legal advice and assistance whilst in custody.

There are duty solicitor schemes providing this service.  They are paid for by the Legal Services Commission under the legal aid scheme.  Originally the idea was to have solicitors attend the police stations to give advice. However the rates of pay are very low and so increasingly (especially outside of office hours) solicitors' firms use accredited paralegal police station representatives instead.

To become an accredited police station representative paralegals must undergo a training and mentoring programme and receive approval from the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

We describe this as a quasi regulatory situation because a paralegal does not need to be an accredited police station representative to go and advise clients.  However if the instructing solicitors’ firm wants to be paid under the legal aid scheme for providing that service then they must use an accredited police station representative.

Professional Conduct/Ethics

We publish The Paralegal Code of Conduct which sets out the core conduct obligations that we expect our members to abide by.  For our members that are also members of the PPR, the PPR Code of Conduct also applies.


 

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