Author: Jonathan Worrell, Business Development Director at BARBRI
“Many of our paralegals are going off and doing their own thing! It’s a nightmare…”
This is the theme I have heard more than once when talking to law firms about the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) – the new route to qualification in England and Wales.
BARBRI is supporting several law firms on this hot topic. So how can law firms best manage their paralegal talent pool now that the SQE is open to them? Here are 5 top tips.
Do you agree? What is your experience?
- Embrace qualification as part of a new career path for paralegals. This is a positive and deserved route for your dedicated team members. You want to show that you support their development and award recognition where it is due. Don’t bury your head in the sand, it isn’t going away!
- Position paralegal qualification differently to your trainee route. This is a major discussion point for many employers who worry that this new entry route will upset the trainee apple cart. Many firms do not offer paralegals training contracts in the traditional sense, as this is not necessary. You can still recognise paralegal Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) towards qualification and run this in parallel with your more traditional, rotational graduate trainee programme. Flex Legal offers some useful guidance on QWE. Make sure you set out clear career paths and expectations along all routes. Similarly, being clear with your trainees about what is on offer to the paralegal group is vital.
- Talk to your paralegals about their long-term career goals. Not every paralegal will want to qualify (word on the street is it’s about 80/20 in favour of law firms) but many will. If you don’t support their ambitions, another firm might and you risk losing talent. Having some structure in place also avoids paralegals going off and doing their own thing entirely independently of your wider talent development strategy.
- Support where you can. It may not be viable to support every candidate financially and with study leave, however you might opt for a process to select committed high-fliers whom you want to stick around. Get them to make the business case. You could support others at arm’s length with a bit of flexibility for study (they will need around 10 hours per week for study on BARBRI courses). If a paralegal has completed the LPC, they will be exempt from SQE1, meaning they only need SQE2 plus work experience – read the SRA’s guidance on the LPC. In terms of finances, at BARBRI we offer our partner firms preferential rates that they can then extend to their self-funding paralegals – it all helps.
- Be progressive. Firms that are open to new routes and that proactively manage expectations with strong communication and clear career paths will be the ones who continue to attract, develop and retain top talent. As one L&D specialist put it recently: “We now have three clear routes to qualification: trainees, paralegals and apprenticeships. All bring different skills and experiences to the firm.” Get on board and embrace the future!
Want to hear how BARBRI can support your organisation? Get in touch to book a meeting.