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Being a freelance paralegal might be a good fit for someone who has spent years in the legal field and needs more free time or someone just starting out who has other responsibilities (school, other employment, etc.). Some paralegals who become freelancers like the advantage of having a more flexible schedule and the ability to work for various attorneys, not just one who might try to lord it over them.
What is a "freelance" or "contract" paralegal? A freelance paralegal is someone who is essentially self-employed. Freelance paralegals are available to take on short-term or long-term assignments. These projects may include assisting with litigation preparation, covering employee absences, or coming into an attorney's office on a daily basis to pick up overflow work that someone may need assistance with.
Freelance paralegals can be a great help to any firm. They may bring with them more expertise in their field because of their varied experience. Generally, freelance paralegals are retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, or other entity for the purpose of performing specifically delegated substantive legal work on an as-needed, per-assignment basis.
There are different kinds of contract or freelance paralegals. Some like to work from home. Often they will arrange to visit the offices of those for whom they are working, either as needed or on a regular basis, to pick up any overflow work. This can be a great help for a young lawyer or solo practitioner who is just starting out. It can be especially helpful to the young lawyer who might have a legal secretary but cannot afford a full-time paralegal and may need the extra assistance. By using the services of a freelance paralegal, it is possible for someone to arrive on the scene, ascertain the situation, and pick up the slack, thereby freeing up otherwise billable time.
Contract or freelance paralegals can be very helpful during employee absences. They can provide temporary coverage when a support staff member goes on vacation or maternity leave. Many times lawyers are disappointed with the temporary help available from temporary agencies, and the temporary help is sometimes expensive and doesn't have the training or experience required for the job. What an attorney really needs is a paralegal during this time.
By hiring a contract or freelance paralegal, one has more leverage in terms of getting someone who has the necessary experience, knows how to get the job done, and most likely has the skills that an attorney needs. An attorney can be more confident that he or she is dealing with a professional whose skill level is familiar and who can cover whatever need arises.
One freelance paralegal has this to say about the profession: "Those of us who freelance have usually had years of experience within the legal profession and understand there is far more to being a legal secretary than answering phones and transcription and that paralegals are capable of much more than reviewing files and documents. We did not become freelancers on a wing and a prayer; we have to do what any service business must do — present with credibility and experience. We also know the limits of our skills and what a job really entails."
There are some other benefits to being a freelance or contract paralegal. First of all, the experience might help you forge your career path. It might help you decide if you want to be a career paralegal, if you want to go to law school, or if you want to avoid the legal profession entirely.
Secondly, being a paralegal might be a great help in getting into law school. Admissions officers may consider your experience as a paralegal a great asset that demonstrates that you have carefully weighed your decision to enter the field of law. Also, if you work for an attorney at a firm and he or she is impressed with your work, his or her recommendation might count for a lot when applying to law schools.
Thirdly, having paralegal experience might help you get another job. For instance, if you work as a paralegal at an investment bank, an insurance company, or any other major business, there may be opportunities to move laterally within the company. So even if you decide that the legal field isn't for you, your years of paralegal experience won't have been a waste.
Being a freelance or contract paralegal can have many benefits. You can have a more flexible schedule and gain a great amount of experience working for various firms. It's a great help in determining if you even want to be in the legal profession or not. And freelance paralegals can help law firms by offering flexibility and experience. They can assist with preparation of pleadings and correspondence, transcription, file organization, litigation preparation, and legal research as well as provide coverage for staff who are on vacation or maternity leave. So if you are a paralegal, or are considering going into the field, you might want to consider being a freelance or contract paralegal for the many benefits it has to offer.
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