Whether it is drafting employment contracts or ensuring that debts are chased and collected, it is very likely that someone on your team will be performing tasks with a legal element to them. This requires an element of expertise. Of course, staff can be trained to systematically do the job, but would it not be better to offer them qualifications to give a better understanding of, not only what they are doing, but also why?
Today it is more important than ever to retain good staff and create a positive working environment. Not only because a happy employee means a happy business, but also because well trained and qualified staff can help promote your business and give your customers/clients confidence.
In the legal sector, many law firms employ ‘paralegals’. Some of whom may want to eventually become solicitors but there are many who do not – they wish to retain their paralegal status as a career in its own right. It is quite common for a law graduate to apply to a law firm for a ‘paralegal’ position. However, just because they have gained a degree, it does not mean that they necessarily know the practice and procedure of law. A law degree means that they should have knowledge of academic and substantive law. However, it requires further training to be an effective and useful paralegal (i.e. one that can offer genuine service to your firm and not just do the filing, make the tea or carry out a bit of research). To be trained and educated to perform certain tasks is the key to the success of any employee and therefore ultimately of any company. This is why sponsoring your staff to gain further knowledge is a must.
A very famous entrepreneur (Sir Richard Branson) once said that as long as you keep your employees happy, they will make your business successful. This premise is paramount in maintaining a healthy and contented workforce and a healthy and successful business. There is nothing worse than an employer regarding their staff as replaceable commodities: a ‘there’s plenty more to fill your role if you don’t like it’ mindset. Employees need to know that they are respected members of the workforce. Not only that, they must be given proper remuneration and recognition for the work they do. Employing an individual at a basic wage may satisfy them initially as they may be grateful for the employment in the first place, but that is not sustainable.
The businesses that retain their employees are those that regard them as ‘the business’ and without them, there would be no business. Far too often you hear about individuals who say, ‘I am only in this business to cream off the income and make myself a fortune’. It is usually these businesses that have a huge turnover of staff and fail to be sustainable.
But legal training is not just about retaining employees, important as that is. It also about giving confidence to the person carrying out the tasks. With greater knowledge and greater confidence, they will be more effective, will need fewer hours spent managing the work they do, and ultimately, they will instil trust in the clients they work with. In addition, proper training helps to ensure that tasks are carried out accurately and thoughtfully, and potential problems are identified because the person doing the job has a deeper understanding and knowledge of their work and its implications. Following the right legal procedures is not only the right thing to do, but it will also ensure that should an issue need to be taken further, perhaps all the way to a tribunal or court, you can be sure of your legal position and have a stronger chance of winning the case.
Paying for your employees to be trained and qualified must be budgeted for if you are to sustain the objectives and aims of your business. In employment law terminology, as an employer, you owe a duty of care to your employees, and your employees owe a duty of loyalty to their employer. A duty of care means that you must nurture your staff, make them feel secure and safe in their employment and give them a reason to be happy to wake up with a smile on their face. A duty of loyalty needs to be earned and by looking after your employees, you will see that loyalty grow.
So, whether you are a business needing that extra legal expertise or a law firm wanting to retain your paralegal staff, it is a good strategy to sponsor them through some extra training.
Training courses can now be delivered in many different ways – in-house, remote at set times, remote at times to suit you, and in-person in a college setting. They can be anything from short intensives to longer term courses carried out alongside normal working hours. There are so many options that there is really no reason not to sponsor an employee to boost their skills. And training does not need to be expensive either. For example, NALP Paralegal qualifications start at £450 at the basic level.
So, ask yourself these two questions: Is it worthwhile nurturing your employees to encourage them to nurture and help your business grow? Is it also beneficial to have your customers and clients gain more confidence about liaising with your well trained and qualified staff?
If the answer to both these questions is ‘yes’, then you know what to do.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Hamilton is Chief Executive of the National Association of Licenced Paralegals(NALP), a non-profit membership body and the only paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its Centres around the country, accredited and recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for those looking for a career as a paralegal professional.