New opportunities open to legal sector

New opportunities are being created for people hoping to work in the legal service sector as a leading skills organisation is joining forces with top law firms to develop an apprenticeship.

As the profession faces the biggest shake-up to the industry for decades, Skills for Justice is working in partnership with employers and stakeholders across the industry to build a recognised paralegal apprenticeship framework.

The not-for-profit organisation is working with law firms to help them transform the way they attract, recruit and train people for the future.

Alan Woods OBE, Chief Executive of Skills for Justice, said: “We are taking the good practice that is already taking place in the sector and bringing it together into a national framework.

“This is a way of providing a meaningful route to take young people from school into employment in the sector, creating more jobs for young people.

“By creating recognised paralegal apprenticeships we can ensure the same opportunities are open for everyone. It will assist the profession in opening up access to employment in legal services and provide the benchmark of quality that employers and their clients look for.”

Once created, this framework will have the potential to attract Government funding to cover the necessary training, especially for young people. The framework is expected to be ready for paralegals working in public prosecution by April with pathways for the commercial sector to be available by summer 2013.

The development of the framework follows the Legal Services Act (2007), which is expected to bring about the biggest shake-up of the profession for decades. The Act, which was fully implemented in October 2011, enables non-law firms to offer legal services for the first time, as well as allowing traditional law firms to attract investment or expand their services.

Top law firms including Gordons, Eversheds, Kennedys and DWF have already pledged their support for a paralegal apprenticeship framework and are involved in developing the National Occupational Standards, which will form the basis of the framework.

A group of 17 firms and stakeholders took part in the first meeting of a steering group to define and develop standards for functions performed by paralegals in December.

Alan added: “We are very excited about this project and delighted that so many firms, regulators, professional and representative bodies, and Central Government are taking the lead on the development of these standards which will support a lot of the activity already going on in firms.”

James O’Connell, CEO of the Institute of Paralegals, said: “The Institute of Paralegals is delighted to be assisting Skills for Justice in this important development.

“Consistent, formal training on a national level is one of the hallmarks of a true profession.”

Amanda Hamilton, CEO of National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP), the longest established Professional Body for Paralegals (25 years) and an Ofqual awarding organisation said:

“The creation of paralegal apprenticeships can only be a good thing for the paralegal profession. It will encourage legal departments of companies, local authorities and alternative business structures (ABSs) to open their doors to paralegals and broaden the spectrum of environments in which skilled paralegal professionals can make a contribution, as well as laying the foundation for the paralegal to become the third branch of the legal profession.”

Katherine Price, Training Manager at Lyons Davidson, said: “At Lyons Davidson we are very keen to find more ways to make careers at our firm more accessible through non-traditional routes and we are excited to be working with Skills for Justice to this end. “

“We already provide support to employees in obtaining qualifications while working, and creating new avenues to achieve this can only be a good thing. This project has the potential to bring about real positive change to the legal community and we are pleased to be a part of that.”

Paul Champion
07540 704920

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