Oversupply of lawyers to drive down costs, says Green
The oversupply of qualified lawyers denied entry to the profession has led to a ‘burgeoning body of paralegals’ that will have a profound effect on solicitors and barristers, former bar chairman Nick Green QC said last week.
At a conference on legal education in London last week, Green said the paralegal market, which is ‘burgeoning at an alarming rate’, is one of the biggest challenges to face the professions.
He said: ‘The burgeoning body of paralegals is already affecting the structure of the profession, and will do so increasingly in the near future.’
Green said the rise in paralegals was due in part to the oversupply of qualified people, who had completed the bar and solicitor training courses, but are unable to get a pupillage or training contract.
He said around 6,000 ‘enthusiastic and able’ qualified lawyers are feeding into the paralegal market each year, and working at rock bottom prices.
Typically, Green said freelance paralegals charge as little as £15 per hour for tasks such as issuing documents or taking notes, and £30-50 per hour for application to a district judge.
He said clients have become aware of this, and will increasingly scrutinise solicitors’ and barristers’ fees and consider whether they can get better value for money from a paralegal.
Meanwhile, Allen & Overy’s former senior partner Guy Beringer QC, a solicitor, called for greater collaboration between the two branches of the profession in the future.
Beringer told delegates the boundaries between barristers and solicitors are ‘becoming blurred’, citing the practice of advocacy by solicitors as an example.
He called on the Inns of Court to open their doors to solicitor advocates. Otherwise, he suggested that the solicitors’ profession would try to create a model to mirror what the Inns do.
‘The sensible way forward is collaboration, which requires changes on both sides,’ said Beringer.