Setting Up A Paralegal Services Firm In The UK

By Wendy Souter

First and foremost, the paralegal profession in the UK remains unregulated. Paralegals do not need a licence to practise. They do not need to have a law degree. They mostly work under supervision of qualified solicitors and barristers.  Most legal services are reserved for Solicitors and Barristers.  

If a paralegal wishes to work independently, they can only offer those areas of legal services which are not reserved for Solicitors and Barristers including, Small Civil Claims, Undefended Divorces,  Wills, excluding Probate, some Landlord and Tenant Disputes.  In addition to having a Paralegal Qualification, they should also have some in-house legal work experience, the longer the better. Having just completed paralegal training will also require them to work under supervision in order to gain necessary work experience to be able to offer their services to members of the public confidently.  A period of about 2 years in-house work experience is preferable.

Having gained necessary work experience in their selected area of law, paralegals can set up a Paralegal Services Firm and work independently.  

They must become registered with HMRC as Self Employed for tax purposes.

They must obtain Professional Indemnity Insurance in case of litigation.

They must obtain a business Client Bank Account in case they are required to hold clients' moneys in Escrow.  This is in addition to having a business Office Bank Account which holds moneys generated by the business.  Both accounts must be kept separate as taking money from a Client Bank Account to simply prop up an ailing Office Bank Account will be deemed fraudulent.  

This is a very competitive sector, with law firms and other paralegal services firms as competitors, so paralegals must be prepared to have credibility which consumers can trust.   It is highly recommended that potential independent paralegals obtain membership of a Professional Membership Body.   Since this is not a regulated profession, there is no requirement for a Governing Body and so choosing where to register as a member is up to the individual.  

Contrary to what some organisations will lead you to believe, becoming a member of a training provider's membership body is voluntary, it is not a pre-requisite to becoming a qualified paralegal nor to work as an independent paralegal.  

There are now some ‘paralegal registers’ which are aiming to give additional credibility to paralegals who wish to work independently.  This is voluntary so registering as a member may be a consideration.

Until the UK government recognises Paralegals as a separate regulated profession, similar to Solicitors and Barristers, they will continue to work under supervision of qualified lawyers until they decide to work independently with their paralegal qualification and relevant work experience.