Paralegal sector splits as representative bodies unable to agree on purpose of Professional Paralegal Register

Paralegals frustrated at the lack of regulation and oversight in their profession now face even greater uncertainty, after it has emerged that one of the two bodies which worked to set up a voluntary paralegal regulator has withdrawn its support after just two years.

The Professional Paralegal Register (PPR) offers voluntary membership to paralegals across four tiers of qualifications and experience and currently has a membership of 2,000 paralegals. It was hoped that the PPR would become a benchmark of quality and trustworthiness for a hitherto unregulated group of professionals, some of whom are vulnerable to unscrupulous employers which use the term ‘paralegal’ to add a veneer of respectability to the low-paid, insecure support roles they rely on to keep business costs down. As Legal Futures reports, it has since emerged that one of the two bodies which established the PPR, the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP), has withdrawn its support for the PPR citing “irreconcilable differences” over the values and purpose of the register.

The PPR is still supported by three recognised membership bodies following the NALP’s withdrawal and paralegals must be member of one of these bodies in order to join the register. The remaining bodies are: the Institute of Paralegals (IoP), the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the Association of Probate Researchers.

Despite being “shocked and saddened” by the withdrawal of the NALP, Rita Leat, managing director of the PPR, has remained upbeat, saying that the NALP is a “much smaller” organisation than the register’s co-founder, the IoP. Leat said: “Quite a high percentage of NALP members have decided to stay being regulated by the PPR since the split. They have either joined the Institute of Paralegals or some other professional body. It is not nice having a split sector, but the ball is in the NALP’s court. Our door is always open to applications. I would like to see all the paralegal bodies sign up to the PPR so we can unite the sector. It’s the biggest sector in the legal services market place, but it’s so diverse and disparate, it needs to be together.”

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