The Institute of Paralegals is Pushing Government for Extended Paralegal Rights

By Institute Of Paralegals, PRNE
Monday, November 22, 2010

LONDON, November 23, 2010 - The IOP is lobbying government to extend paralegal rights and recognition
in a number of areas. One area is an amendment to the Employment Rights Act
1996, so as to include paralegals on the statutory list of 'relevant legal
advisers' in respect of employment Compromise Agreements ("CAs").

This is not the dry, rather technical, issue it might at first appear.
Right now, employers and employees in dispute are being obliged to use a
limited pool of legal advisors whether they wish to or not, and as a result
are often obliged to pay more than they ought to for that privilege.

The situation is also inconsistent because senior paralegals are now
recognised as having the right to become judges at Employment Tribunals
(following IOP representations to the Judicial Appointments Commission - for
more information see our 11.10.2010 press release on our Media Centre page - It is remarkable that
paralegals can now judge employment cases, but not fully advise on them.


There is a statutory prohibition on contract terms purporting to deprive
employees of the right to bring a claim in respect of employment matters such
as unfair dismissal, discrimination and redundancy. An unexpected consequence
was that the prohibition effectively made it impossible for employers and
employees to reach full and final settlements: especially in redundancy

Government addressed the problem through legislation by creating a
special class of settlement agreement (CAs). These are now very common. To
protect employees, CAs are only binding in certain criteria are met, one of
which is that the employee has received independent legal advice from a
specified category of legal adviser (basically qualified lawyers, trade union
representatives and representatives of not-for-profit advice organisations).

The latter two groups can designate anyone they want as a representative
regardless of experience or qualifications or competence (or manifest lack
thereof). Parliament's intention seems to have been to give employees as wide
as possible access to advice. Unfortunately back in 1994/95 when the
legislation was being drafted, there were not the circa 6,000 paralegal law
firms here are now, and paralegals in solicitors' firms were not seen as

Much has changed in the intervening years. Paralegal law firms give large
amounts of employment advice to the public and business. Within solicitors'
firms paralegals regularly conduct employment law cases themselves, often
acting autonomously. The legislation needs to be updated to reflect this
change because as things currently stand:

a) What was meant as an all-inclusive list has become a prohibition. The
will of Parliament is not being honoured;

b) Paralegal law firms cannot give the advice their clients need;

c) Alternative business structures may be forced to retain expensive
solicitors were less expensive paralegals could do the job with equal
competency - no doubt with a detrimental cost to the client; and

d) Solicitors' firms cannot delegate work internally as appropriate since
solicitor involvement is obligatory for CAs. This means that either
solicitors do the whole case when a paralegal could do it - thus pushing up
the cost for the client; or the paralegal does the work up to a certain
point, then a solicitor has to take over - leading to inevitable duplication
of work. That duplication is either charged to the client, or the solicitor
is forced to do work that he/she cannot bill for.

None of these consequences are attractive.

An Institute member who is a Certified Paralegal in a solicitors' firm
(and thus who does not want to be named) handles her own employment law
clients and cases. She says about CAs:

"It is extremely frustrating. I am unable to become legally qualified as
I cannot afford the fees…. I do however have the experience and knowledge
to enable me to do the job. I therefore find myself in the situation where I
am the person reviewing the Compromise Agreements but am unable to advise the
client and sign them off. I do think it would be worthwhile raising the
matter with [government], as in my experience, trade union officials appear
to be less informed and certainly have less experience than paralegals."

Next Steps

As part of its ongoing dialogue with stakeholders (e.g. the past few
weeks the IOP has held discussions with the Master of the Rolls and the
Information Commissioner's Office) the Institute will seek to have the
Department for Business Innovation & Skills introduce an amendment to the
Act. The matter has already been raised with the Employment Tribunal itself.

James O'Connell, Chief Executive at the IOP said: "The statutory list of
approved legal advisors was meant to be inclusive. Over time it has become
prohibitive. A large number of paralegal law firms now regularly give advice
on employment law issues, it is to the consumer detriment that they are
unable to create CAs without the unnecessary and often expensive involvement
of unwanted third party advisers."

Note to Editors

1. This push for enhanced paralegal rights builds upon the IOP's
pioneering work in putting into place the essential foundation stones as
commonly required by government: competency standards; a code of conduct; a
recognised career path; meaningful professional designations, etc.

2. For background information on the Institute please visit

3. Whilst a growing list of organisations focus on the potentially
lucrative paralegal training market, the Institute consistently works on the
non-commercial aspects of the developing paralegal profession, e.g.
competency standards, career paths, paralegal apprenticeships, management
standards for paralegal law firms, dialogue with the judiciary and Bar about
dealing with paralegals, regulatory matters and offering careers advice and
mentoring programmes to schools etc.

4. The IOP is the largest paralegal professional body in the UK. It is
the oldest incorporated professional body for paralegals in the UK and is the
oldest not-for-profit paralegal body in England & Wales. The IOP was formed
in 2003 and granted institute status by the government in 2005 (its
application being supported by inter alia, The Law Society, Bar Council,
Citizens Advice and Crown Prosecution Service).

5. The Institute also publishes The Paralegal - the UK's leading
publication for all paralegals. For more information

    Quick Links

    The Institute of Paralegals web-site:
    The Paralegal e-journal for paralegals:

    Institute of Paralegals Contact Information

    Within the United Kingdom phone: +44(0)20-7099-9122
    Outside the United Kingdom phone: +44(0)20-7099-9122
    Within the United Kingdom fax: +44(0)20-7904-3750
    Outside the United Kingdom fax: +44(0)20-7904-3750

Institute of Paralegals Contact Information: Within the United Kingdom phone: +44(0)20-7099-9122, Outside the United Kingdom phone: +44(0)20-7099-9122, Within the United Kingdom fax: +44(0)20-7904-3750, Outside the United Kingdom fax: +44(0)20-7904-3750, james at

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