What is the difference between Solicitors and Paralegals?
There are very few areas in a Solicitor's General Practice in respect of which a solicitor has a legislative monopoly. The main areas are: conduct of litigation, rights of audience in the main courts, certain aspects of a conveyancing transaction and the extraction of a Grant of Representation.
However, in the vast majority of other matters, Paralegals have the right to conduct general legal business and also have absolute rights of audience in the Small Claims Court and in the majority of Tribunals.
In addition, provided that they are representing their solicitor or qualified litigator employer, paralegals can have rights of audience on most interim application hearings and hearings in Chambers and in family case applications including hearings in chambers in both the High Court and the County Court other than reserved family proceedings.
A most important concept in England and Wales is that unlike other countries (particularly America and to some extent Canada) there is no specific offence of the 'unauthorised practice of law' (UPL)
Do Paralegals need as high a level of competence as Solicitors?
All areas of practice undertaken by Paralegals, need a high degree of competence, skill and aptitude together with a high degree of honesty and ethics.
In order to take full advantage of all that the un-admitted staff in law practices have to offer, such paralegals should be self-regulated and have a distinct identification which can only come about if there is regulation.