A few years ago, rules were changed to allow firms of solicitors to be owned by third parties and not just the partners. The legal market is evolving and alternatives to solicitors are becoming more common.
In a further extension, Legal Executives are seeking to obtain permission to run their own practices, according to a consultation by the Legal Services Board.
Many Legal Executives are highly skilled and proficient but is this a dumbing down of the legal profession? Legal executives are regulated by the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.
Concerns have been made however, as to whether this is a slippery slope. Who else will be able to set up in competition to firms of solicitors providing legal advice? For example, if paralegals were allowed to set up their own firm, who would regulate them? The brand of a "solicitor" is very valuable and should stand for quality and expertise.
However, in the light of pressures on court users (vast removal of legal aid encouraging me litigant in person) will the consumer be looking for a cheap and cheerful option? The Law Society places a restriction on who can "conduct litigation". Only regulated individuals can carry it out, usually solicitors. That is one of the reasons why we do not provide legal advice or conduct litigation. We provide training on how to carry out to get the litigation yourself.
Further concerns of the dumbing down have been raised after the Solicitors Regulation Authority suggested that paralegals who have passed the legal practice course (a course that must be taken after completing a degree but before starting a training contract) may not have to carry out a training contract at all. They may be able to avoid a training contract requirement if the individual can show "other assessed learning and work-based learning" through "equivalent means".