Author: Tom Armstrong, Business Development Manager.
According to the Institute of Paralegals, there are 250,000 paralegals in the UK, with 190,000 working outside of law firms. This massive talent pool exists for many reasons, but from a lot of my conversations with individuals, many became paralegals with the intent of getting more experience to in turn, apply for training contracts to get qualified.
Unfortunately, due to the bottleneck the LPC route created, many paralegals now have years of experience, and previously had no clear route to qualification. With the introduction of the SQE, the route to qualification has become much simpler, and in-house teams can utilise this simplification to their advantage. The simplification is namely a reduced regulation on the training portion of qualification, which has now switched to candidates having to display two years of qualifying work experience (QWE), which can be gained before, during or after completing the SQE1 and SQE2 exams.
This deregulation is reflected in a much more flexible way for candidates display their recognised period of training, including being able to claim it retrospectively, a students’ placement year, and any paid or unpaid work that constitutes providing a legal service as defined by the Legal Services Act 2007. Candidates can also complete it over 4 different organisations.
With such a large talent pool at organisations disposal, there is a clear and easy way for organisations to implement the SQE in order to upskill and retain talent, as from conversations it is clear a lot of paralegals are now choosing to do the route themselves to propel their career forward, within or outside of their current organisation.
Many of BARBRI’s current clients in the in-house and alternative legal service provider market are already utilising the SQE to ensure they are retaining their talent whilst also allowing for productivity within legal to be improved.
Below are some tips on how to set up a successful scheme to utilise your existing talent pool.
Embrace (some) paralegals’ ambitions to qualify.
By embracing the new route for qualification as an organisation, you can align yourselves with the ambitions of your workforce, and by actively supporting and rewarding their dedication through developmental policies you can foster a company loyalty to ensure you are developing and retaining your top talent. Talking and ensuring the demand is there (as some paralegals may not want to qualify!) is an important first step to see if this would be appropriate in your team.
Offer support to candidates where possible.
Legal teams have seen their budgets being squeezed more and more in recent times, so it is understandable that it may not be viable to support all of your candidates financially (unless you are a levy payer, as more and more organisations are now opting to put candidates through a solicitor apprenticeship). Many organisations have opted for a selection process, to award training to those on merit and commitment. Irrespective of funding, looking to support by offering a study leave policy (BARBRI’s flexible course options require around 10 hours per week to complete) is also important. Showing flexibility and being transparent with how much you can support candidates will foster a positive workplace environment. If a paralegal has completed the LPC, they will be exempt from SQE1, meaning they only need SQE2 plus work experience, which can also help from a financial standpoint. Further to this, BARBRI offer our partner organisations preferential rates that they can then extend to their self-funding paralegals – it all helps.
Set policies in place to ensure retention and loyalty.
It is not uncommon for training to be given out by organisations under certain conditions, like minimum service, or a repayment structure if the candidate leaves within x amount of time. By implementing policies like this you can ensure you are keeping hold of your top talent, whilst also weeding out candidates who may be less serious about qualification or long-term commitment to company goals.
In summary, there is a large, and hungry pool of talent, many of whom hold an ambition to qualify as a solicitor. As talent demands continue to evolve, with more and more focus given to benefits outside of the regular job description, it is important for organisations to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack. If you haven’t considered the SQE yet, it may be time to embrace the new route to qualification.
If you would like to speak further on this topic, or you would like to learn more about how BARBRI can support your team please feel free to reach out.
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