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Legal staff given new standards.

PEOPLE seeking legal help and members of the profession are benefitting from a scheme to set standards among a key group of workers.

The role and career path of paralegals in Scotland has never been properly defined - until now.

The Law Society of Scotland has joined with the Scottish Paralegal Association (SPA) to launch the country's first registered paralegal scheme.

The aim is to raise standards and make improvements for the public, paralegals and solicitors.

The scheme effectively creates a badge of quality, indicating that the individual who holds it has met certain academic standards, has a certain amount of workbased experience, and can carry out work to a set standard.

The Law Society's registered paralegal scheme offers a number of key benefits.

For those who join, the role of the paralegal is defined and a clear career path is set out, meaning that paralegals get the credit and professional status they deserve.

The scheme sets a new standard for paralegals to attain and ensures they have a formally recognised and assessed qualification that is relevant to their area of legal practice.

They are supervised by a practising Scottish solicitor and work to a code of conduct similar to that for solicitors.

Members of the public benefit from knowing that those dealing with their legal transactions have the required knowledge and skills. In other words, they can trust that the professional selling their house or drafting their will is trained and competent to do so.

The scheme also means that solicitor employers can hire staff from a high quality pool of paralegals, knowing they will uphold the reputation of the firm.

Within the first few months of its launch in August last year, the scheme exceeded its target of 100 members.

By last month, the number of those registered had risen to 170. It is hoped many more will join in the months and years ahead.

Approximately 10,000 people are estimated to be working as paralegals in a wide range of organisations - high street legal practices and large commercial firms, government bodies and financial institutions.

As with many professions, paralegals come from a wide range of backgrounds.

Traditionally, they rose from the ranks of legal secretaries but, today, many have gained qualifications from colleges and universities and work in specialist areas of the law.

The SPA has long believed that the role of paralegals should be promoted and they should get the professional recognition they deserve, while agreeing that standards are essential to the integrity of paralegals as an emerging profession.

Anyone thinking about developing their career as a paralegal or looking for more information should visit the Law Society's website at www.lawscot.org.uk/members/paralegals or contact registeredparalegals@lawscot.org.uk
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 14, 2011
Words:455
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