NRF Offers Qualification Route to Process Group Paralegals

One challenge for the paralegals in law firm process groups, which are often based in locations far from the head office, is what happens to those staff who want to fully qualify as lawyers? Norton Rose Fulbright is addressing this challenge by launching a new graduate solicitor apprenticeship route to qualification for its existing and future paralegals at its Newcastle Hub.

The global law firm is also hiring in new lawyers to the Hub, which is in the North East of England and about 280 miles from London.

An increasing number of law firms have process groups, which are primarily aimed at handling legal work for clients that would be too costly to do at their main bases, such as London or New York. For example, supporting large-scale contract review tasks are a classic scenario for a law firm process group.

Now, not all paralegals in process groups want to become qualified lawyers. They may find they have a good and stable career as a paralegal, may not need to worry about serving clients directly, nor have the pressures of the sometimes brutal ‘up or out’ regime of associate life in a big commercial law firm.

But, likewise, some of the paralegals will want to become associates, i.e. in the UK, qualified solicitors. Not offering this option means some key staff may leave, or that you might not be able to attract all the talent you’d like to. Moreover, associates that have come from the process world will be highly skilled in tech use and project management – exactly the people any modern law firm would want.

The introduction of the graduate solicitor apprenticeship route from September 2021 follows the launch of the firm’s new UK school leaver apprenticeship programme, which includes a two-year paralegal programme in Newcastle and a six-year solicitor programme in London, both beginning September 2021.

Kiran Radhakrishnan, Commercial Director and Head of Norton Rose Fulbright’s Newcastle Hub, said in a statement: ‘Our Newcastle office has gone from strength to strength over the past five years and our people have worked on some of the firm’s most complex cross-border mandates, delivering innovative and more efficient solutions for our clients.

‘The addition of these associate roles in Newcastle, along with a new route to qualification for paralegals, is the next step in our evolution. Our ambition is to recruit and retain the most talented lawyers and future lawyers in the North East region.’

Artificial Lawyer also reached out to Radhakrishnan about how many paralegals this would see taking the new route. He told this site the number was not fixed and that: ‘The application process is ongoing and the outcome of that will determine the number for the first cohort. [But] we expect several to go on to this graduate solicitor apprenticeship scheme.’

Peter Scott, Managing Partner, Europe, Middle East and Asia at Norton Rose Fulbright, also added in a statement: ‘We are creating new opportunities for the many talented students, paralegals and lawyers outside of London, and particularly across the North East, to work with us.

Our Newcastle office is an integral part of our practice internationally, and these roles give a wider and more diverse group of talented individuals the opportunity to forge successful legal careers at Norton Rose Fulbright. The last 18 months have seen a fundamental shift in cross-office teams operating as one and this presents an opportunity for qualified lawyers based in Newcastle to work in teams across our international platform.’

Norton Rose Fulbright’s Newcastle office opened in 2016 and has a full range of business services teams. Additionally, the Newcastle office is at the heart of the firm’s global change and innovation programme, NRF Transform, which includes paralegals, legal technologists, legal process designers and data analysts.

NRF Transform works with all practice areas and offices in delivering traditional client work more efficiently and effectively, as well as enabling the firm to provide new and innovative legal products and services.

[ Main pic: The Angel of the North, approx. 6 miles from Newcastle. Created by Antony Gormley, erected at Low Eighton in the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead, North East England. Completed in 1998, it is the largest sculpture in Britain, at 20 metres / 65.6 ft. (Info: Wikipedia.) ]