There are two elements to the regulation of paralegals:
a) What work you are allowed to do, but need to be registered before you can do it lawfully; and
b) What work you are prohibited from doing in any event (a.k.a. reserved activity work).
If the legal services you wish to offer do not fall within either of these two categories then you are free to do them as if they were any ordinary business activity.
NB: most of these provisions relate to paralegals in business for themselves. So if you are a paralegal working for a solicitors' firm then you are usually acting as an employee/agent of the firm and therefore most of the following does not apply to you (although certain of the reserved activities do). If you are a paralegal working for your employer then most of the following is irrelevant/not applicable (although some of the reserved activity work still applies).
For the following work you need to be registered, authorised or accredited to do so:
Legal Aid Work/Police Station Representatives
No one can make a claim for payment for legal work done under the legal aid scheme run by the Legal Services Commission unless they are already covered by a legal aid contract with the Commission. The Commission has a variety of conditions which it imposes on all practitioners doing legal aid work. These are only relevant if you work for an organisation providing services and the legal aid scheme.
One example is that no paralegals undertaking police station representation work on a case funded under the legal aid scheme will be reimbursed for their time/expenses unless they first have due accreditation. For more information on the Commission’s requirements for legal practitioners, visit the Commission's website at www.legalservices.gov.uk. For information on accreditation as a police station representative please visit www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/accreditation/police-station-representatives-accreditation.page?ref=search.
If you do not work for an exempted organisation (e.g. a solicitors' firm) but wish to offer any advice or assistance relating to immigration or asylum matters then you almost certainly have to first register with the Office of the Immigrations Services Commissioner to avoid committing an offence. See www.oisc.gov.uk/how_to_become_an_immigration_adviser/
Claims Related Work
If you do not work for an exempted organisation (e.g. a solicitors' firm) but wish to handle claims involving: personal injury; work-related injury, disease or disability; criminal injuries compensation; Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit; employment; housing disrepair or financial products and services, then you will probably first need to be registered with the Ministry of Justice under the Compensation Act 2006. The Act was meant to regulate claims management companies, but was drafted so widely that it caught paralegal law firms too. If you are considering providing these kinds of services then visit the Ministry of Justice's claims management regulation site at Authorisation page at www.claimsregulation.gov.uk to find out more about who needs to be authorised and how you can apply.
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, and run by the Financial Services Authority.
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 by the Financial Services Authority 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).
Reserved activity work used to be the monopoly of solicitors and/or barristers. It is still regulated work and it is an offence to do it unless one is regulated, but in some cases "regulated" now includes some of the other classes of lawyers recognised under the Legal Services Act 2007.
Broadly speaking reserved activity work covers:
The right of audience in courts
The conduct of litigation
Signing and lodging certain legal documents relating to the granting of probate
The administration of oaths
Signing and lodging certain legal documents relating to the transfer of land and property
See Schedule 2 of the Legal Services Act 2007 for more detailed definitions. The definitions are important as people mistakenly say that there is, for example, a conveyancing monopoly. There isn't. Over 90% of the steps required for the average conveyance are regularly performed paralegals working in solicitors' firms. Whether paralegals in paralegal law firms can do these things is a moot point.
The Law Society of Hong Kong
The Law Society of Hong Kong has introduced a registered paralegal scheme called the Legal Executive scheme (it has nothing to do with the UK Institute of Legal Executives). It is a voluntary scheme and requires inter alia successful completion of an approved course.
The Law Society of Scotland has introduced a registration scheme for paralegals working for solicitors' firms.