Rita Leat - Chief Executive of the IOP

Welcome to the new IOP

The Institute of Paralegals was founded in 2003 and achieved Institute status in 2005.

The Institute gained momentum and has achieved many great things, not least being:

the oldest incorporated paralegal representative body in the United Kingdom; the only body representing professional paralegals to have been granted Institute status by the UK government; the only paralegal body to have had its application for institute status supported by the Bar Council, Law Society, Crown Prosecution Service and Citizens Advice; the organisation which publishes the Paralegal Competency Standards for the sector which are mapped to the National Occupational Standards for Legal Services; the only paralegal representative body to have been cited by legislators during Parliamentary legal debates (see Hansard);

and since May last year the IoP has been asked to:

  • join the Attorney General’s Public Legal Education Panel
  • join LawCare’s Legal Profession’s Wellbeing Taskforce
  • speak at the Westminster Legal Policy Forum three times
  • speak at three conferences this year
  • attend a meeting with the CMA to discuss what we are doing in relation to greater transparency in how our members offer services to clients
  • visit Malaga University regarding a joint venture
  • attended the PPR HoC event
  • provide articles for the press

We have also been busy:

  • drafting guidelines on GDPR for our members
  • preparing the Institute for GDPR compliance
  • preparing qualifications and training to be launched soon
  • drafting new practice notes
  • launching a consultation on rights of audience- results to be revealed soon
  • providing new specialist networking groups for members

Having taken over as the new Chief Executive in May last year it has been my plan to radically overhaul the Institute and to elevate it into the position that it deserves to be.

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is not something we will do, we have reviewed the good, the bad and the ugly and have set out a plan to make us all at least ‘good’ and sometime ‘excellent’.

The Institute’s success is down to two factors; its members and its staff. Both need to be looked after, to ensure that we can deliver on our mission whilst doing so by adhering to our values.

We have been busy in the office streamlining our processes so that we may bring you a better customer experience. We also are mindful of where your membership fees are spent and therefore reducing administration has been on our hit list.

As an Institute we need to do more than be a representative body, we need to do research and provide education and training and I think this is where we will do better.

We have not increased our fees for almost 7 years and we now must do so to ensure that we can deliver more resources for our members and to raise the profile of our Paralegals even higher than they are. You will see on the website how we intend to increase our fees. We haven’t just stuck our finger in the air and guessed at an appropriate increase in fees, we have looked at our competitors and have tried to assess how much extra value the Institute can bring more than any other membership body.

We have developed an Education and Training Network and have quite a few partners already with more in the pipeline. This will bring greater training opportunities to those who seek to undertake training. We intend to promote good qualifications and training and therefore have adopted criteria that allows for mapping against our Paralegal Standards.

You will also see that we intend to produce our own suite of qualifications to enable new talent to progress the ranks of the Institute with dedicated qualifications that will assist them in their career progression. There will also be training and qualifications for our members who have been working as Paralegals and may want to diversify or refresh their knowledge.

In terms of the benefits that we offer, and we offer far more than most membership bodies, we want to improve these so that they are targeted to the membership grade. We have had a lot of students applying for Affiliate membership and we recognize that they need very different benefits from our very experienced Fellows, so we intend to address this.

We are also bringing on board two new initiatives to help with your business and personal development. Firstly, we take your security and client confidence seriously and so we will be introducing Smart Badges for all of our members, where your membership can be verified by your clients on-line. This will also prevent those who try to use our logo without permission, as these websites will be detected. The platforms are now ready for this, so we will be contacting you shortly with information on how to implement this on your websites.

Also, we have signed up to support LawCare so that all of our members will be able to access a 24hour hotline for advice on a range of issues effecting members such as bullying, depression, anxiety, general wellbeing and other mental health issues. This will be made available free to all our members. The IoP feels that this is a good use of funds that will support both a legal charity and our members at the same time.

In addition to these benefits, the IoP is in the process of commissioning a range of webinars that will be available to members.

Networking has also been reviewed and I think it is fair to say that the IoP was lacking in this department. As a direct result of the feedback we received on our recent survey on networking, we have created specialist forum groups on our website, to be run by our Fellows and will be organising networking events around the country and some on-line seminars.

In terms of accountability, we have reviewed the criteria for each membership level and have concluded that some adjustments would be appropriate for new members joining from April 2018. Existing members will remain unaffected, however, members may be asked to provide evidence of qualifications where they have been declared and we do not hold copies of those certificates.

And so, to present all this new information and benefits we have launched a brand-new website, with a much-improved membership area. Members will be able to manage their membership, organise their renewals, access specific benefits, take part in forums, access webinars and much more.

Regulation will remain as provided by the PPR. The IoP is a representative body and will remain true to its mission. We encourage all Paralegals who offer services to the consumer to apply for Paralegal Practicing Certificates via the PPR if they have not already done so.

And finally, we are working as hard as we can to produce a better offer to our members but please remember we are only a small team, so please bear with us as there are bound to be some teething problems!

We hope you like the new look Institute and we look forward to an exciting year ahead.

Rita Leat

Chief Executive

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