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The Virtual Paralegal Allows Paralegals to Work at Home or Offsite

published August 19, 2009

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
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Some sole owner attorney businesses and small to medium sized law firms are farming out their work to Virtual Paralegals. Law firms that can't afford to employ a full staff of paralegals or a small firm whose work ebbs and flows are using services that offer paralegal work online as it is needed. The use of Virtual Paralegal reduces overhead and streamlines the private attorney's practice and it increases productivity for small firms who need extra help in more hectic times during the month or year.

 
The Virtual Paralegal Allows Paralegals to Work at Home or Offsite

Special requirement for a Virtual Paralegal

A freelance contract Virtual Paralegal must be supervised by an attorney. Virtual Paralegals cannot give legal advice or perform legal work for individuals. This is why Virtual Paralegal services are specifically offered to lawyers and small or medium legal firms where there are attorneys to review the work before it is sent to a client.

Lawyers and Firms can get services they would from traditional legal in-house staff except there is more efficiency at a lower cost. A Virtual Paralegal can still perform office duties typically done in house like scheduling, data entry, and preparation of legal documents. Here is a list of some services a Virtual Paralegal can perform when requested:


  • Case Review and Analysis
  • Trial Preparation
  • Briefs
  • Stipulations
  • Motions
  • Legal transcription
  • Legal Research
  • Drafting of legal correspondence
  • Demand Letters
  • Complaints
  • Discovery Motions
  • Create PowerPoint presentations
  • Interrogatories and Request for Production of Documents
  • Request for Admissions
  • Deposition Notices
  • Motion for Summary Judgment
  • Motion to Dismiss
  • Legal Briefs
  • Petitions
  • Medical Chronologies
  • Deposition Summaries (text or electronic)


The Virtual Paralegals have taken years of in-house experience and merged with today's technology. All work is completed by email, fax, or through the daily mail for the most cost efficient work possible to law firms and attorneys.

Salary and Job Outlook for Virtual Paralegals

Virtual Paralegals can expect a growth rate similar to other paralegals through the economic crisis. This profession is really coming through the downturn with good results. This is due to the fact the Virtual Paralegals can provide a savings on attorney fees that would normally be charged at higher rates. A legal firm's expenses for Virtual Paralegals are approximately $48K per year where in house the legal firm would pay about $62K. The difference is a streamline effect because firms pay only for the service and time they require to get the job done.

The annual salary to the Virtual Paralegal might be about the same as the in house Paralegal. A Virtual Paralegal can increase his load when extra work is available thereby increasing his salary. Also, the Virtual Paralegal might be able to accept less work when joining forces with a team of Virtual Paralegals. When the work is there, Virtual Paralegals might have the opportunity to accept or reject it according to his or her schedule. Nevertheless, the needed work can still be done by other Virtual Paralegals. It can be a win-win situation.

Frequently Asked Questions
 

What Is A Remote Paralegal?


Paralegals are capable of handling substantive legal work, which is assigned and supervised by a licensed lawyer. Remote paralegals are also types of paralegals who work remotely, often as outsourced, freelance paralegals. As directed by a lawyer, a virtual paralegal may review client files, conduct legal research, interview clients, draft certain written documents, and more.

If an attorney supervises them properly, paralegals can work remotely. A law firm (and its paralegals) must also have the technological capacity to facilitate secure remote work. Paralegals cannot practice law, so they must be supervised by attorneys. Because virtual paralegals provide their services remotely, they must communicate with their clients, lawyers, and law firms through secure channels. Email and cloud applications are some of these communication channels.

Virtual paralegals and virtual legal assistants are similar as they both:
 
  • Work remotely (often from home) to help law firms run more efficiently.
  • Help reduce the workload of lawyers by taking on non-billable hours, tasks, or providing administrative assistance.
 

What Accreditation Do Remote Paralegals Have?


Remote paralegals must be paralegals. Remote paralegals can get their experience from learning on the job, formal paralegal training or certification, or both. For example, The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) are reputable certification programs for paralegals. 

For more on guidelines for lawyers working with paralegals, you can review the ABA Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services.

Note: Some states do not certify or license paralegals, while other states require paralegals to be certified. That is why it is essential to check and abide by your state’s rules before hiring a virtual paralegal (or any type of paralegal).
 

How Much Do Virtual Paralegals Make?


Attorneys have varying levels of specialization when it comes to virtual paralegal billing rates.  Virtual paralegal rates should not be confused with hourly employee rates.  Paralegals who work virtually provide their own computers, software, office supplies, and other tools.  They do not receive employee benefits, vacation, or sick leave, or overtime pay.  Experienced virtual paralegals with good specialization skills charge anywhere from $55 per hour up to one-third of the attorney's hourly rate.  New virtual paralegals will probably make $30-$40 per hour.  Depending on how much time and money you invest in your business, you may generate a net income after expenses.
 

What Is An In-House Paralegal?


Paralegals employed by corporations or other organizations with paralegal needs are described as in-house paralegals. In-house paralegals are often full-time employees, but their schedules can vary depending on their employer's needs. Even though many corporations still outsource their legal needs, large corporations in big cities with many corporations are starting to hire in-house counsel and paralegals. Financial institutions, medical corporations, insurance companies, and research firms employ in-house paralegals.
 

The Rise of In-House Paralegals


The increased scrutiny and accountability of corporations has led to many of them hiring in-house paralegals to ensure that their legal matters are handled by a trusted internal employee rather than an outsider. Furthermore, many corporations find it more cost-effective to employ in-house paralegals on a salary rather than an hourly wage.
 

In-House Compared to Private Paralegals


Even though in-house paralegals may work for very different types of corporations, there are some similarities among their positions. It is common for in-house paralegals to be exempt from billable hour requirements. In-house paralegals also tend to have more regular hours, and they do not need to work overtime as often as paralegals who work at law firms.

As opposed to paralegals employed by law firms, in-house paralegals have different responsibilities. Generally, attorneys or senior paralegals assign paralegals to work in law firms. Most in-house paralegals in corporations have more autonomy, variety, and responsibility in their legal roles. In-house paralegals typically handle a wide range of tasks and duties including but not limited to managing business licenses, business transactions, contracts, employment law issues, intellectual property matters, compliance with federal and state laws, and litigation.
 

Do Paralegals Have Their Own Office?


Paralegals usually have their own offices. This depends greatly on the size of the firm, the availability of floor space and open offices, and, as always, the desires of the attorneys.

It is likely that paralegals at BigLaw firms have their own offices. Likewise, paralegals at large firms may have their own offices. Paralegals at smaller firms may have their own offices or maybe assigned space in the cube farm.

This question cannot be answered yes or no. There is no definitive answer.
 

How To Work With A Remote Paralegal?


Lawyers who hire virtual paralegals face unique challenges and responsibilities. Furthermore, it is always the licensed lawyer's responsibility to assign work to and supervise any paralegal. Lawyers, however, can take steps to make their working relationship with remote paralegals as efficient and productive as possible. Here are some tips:
 

1. Implement Cloud-Based Legal Technology


Cloud-based legal technology is critical for collaborating smoothly and efficiently when working remotely with an outsourced virtual paralegal. 

When working with a paralegal remotely, cloud-based legal technology can help facilitate data security, which is essential when handling sensitive client documents. 

In order to maintain the confidentiality of client information, anyone working on behalf of your firm must use secure encrypted communication channels. Sending files through unencrypted emails leaves data vulnerable. The multiple security features and protocols in cloud-based software like Clio help protect client information and firm data.
 

2. Ensure Your Remote Paralegal Fits Your Firm's Needs


You would thoroughly vet candidates when hiring for an in-house position. You should do the same when hiring a remote paralegal. It is important to consider what specific background and traits a remote paralegal would need to fit well with your firm. You should also factor in technology skills and experience with the software. For instance, knowledge of your particular practice area.
 

3. Consider Your Management And Work Styles


You should also consider your management style when looking for a remote paralegal since you'll be working with them remotely. Think about how you prefer to delegate work and communicate with coworkers and staff.
 

4. Set Clear Expectations


Having virtual paralegals available to cover heavy workloads can be beneficial for law firms, but the swings between high volume and slow periods can be stressful for paralegals. Set clear expectations from the beginning in order to maintain a mutually beneficial working relationship with remote paralegals. Burnout is ultimately a loss for all parties involved when a paralegal suffers from it.

You can give remote paralegals a stronger sense of control and more defined parameters to meet by clearly defining your expectations in key areas like timelines and scope of work.
 

5. Establish Clear Communication Channels


To work remotely with an outsourced paralegal, clear channels of communication are vital. Establish from the beginning how you will communicate with them and how often you expect to do so. Check-ins may be done through email and calls may be conducted through a specific video conferencing platform.
 

6. Establish Processes And Workflows To Stay Organized


There can be a lot of differences between law firms, so you cannot expect a remote paralegal to understand your processes automatically. The fact that an outsourced remote paralegal is not a permanent employee makes it imperative to establish clear processes and workflows so they know how things work. Outline, for example, which tools and apps your firm uses and for what purpose. 

By establishing clear processes and onboarding virtual paralegals, you can help create a smoother, more seamless working environment.
 

7. Provide Clear Instructions


When assigning tasks to a remote paralegal, be sure to provide clear, detailed instructions. You are more likely to make unintentional mistakes when working in a virtual environment. You should be explicit when assigning paralegal tasks so that they can complete them to your standards.

Please see the following articles for more information about paralegals and paralegal jobs:
   
Please see the following articles for more information about legal staff positions:
 

Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

More about Harrison

About LawCrossing

LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit www.LawCrossing.com.

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