Firms opt for paralegals in jobs upturn

TRAINEE recruitment is improving but more paralegals are also being taken on by large firms in an effort to keep costs down, Clifford Chance recruitment partner Chris Perrin says.

Perrin, a director of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), says trainee numbers have risen in recent months as firms attract more work, but it is unlikely they will increase further, with many firms opting for paralegals.

He says Clifford Chance re-opened its 1995/96 trainee intake seven months ago after realising it would have a shortfall. It hired 100 new recruits, and 110 will be taken on in 1996/97.

However, Perrin says an increasing number of paralegals – ranging from “quasi-students” who are taking a year out while studying to be lawyers, to the highly-qualified American-style paralegals – are being hired to carry out routine work.

“Large law firms are certainly recruiting trainees in larger numbers now. But I think they have slightly changed their attitude, and a greater use of paralegals will be made in the future,” says Perrin

Richard Moorhead, chair of the Trainee Solicitors' Group, says: “Trainees are not in competition with, and have nothing to fear from, paralegals.”

He says Law Society research carried out last year showed 46 per cent of paralegals had no qualification from the Institute of Legal Executives, and 71 per cent said they had no formal training in their area of employment.