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How to Break into the Freelance Paralegal Market: Tips for Going Solo

published April 13, 2023

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( 355 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
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For those looking to take their paralegal career down the path of freelancing, the freedom and flexibility of a freelance lifestyle holds great appeal. Freelancing as a paralegal is an exciting and rewarding career path, but preparing yourself to do so is important.

The first step to becoming a successful freelance paralegal is to build a strong professional network. Networking is essential to this career path, as it helps to build trust and establish you as an expert in the field. Networking is also important for finding clients, so expanding your professional networks will be key. Additionally, having a strong online presence is essential, so having an up-to-date website and being active on social media can be invaluable.

Once you have established yourself in the marketplace, it is important to establish a rate structure that works for your client's needs. A flexible fee structure is a good way to encourage clients and to make sure that both parties are satisfied. Additionally, it is important to be aware of the laws and regulations that govern freelance work, as they vary from state to state.

When working as a freelance paralegal, it is important to ensure you are properly insured and are aware of any taxes or fees you may be responsible for. Having adequate insurance coverage is essential and will protect you in case of any mistakes or issues that may arise. Additionally, research into the tax regulations of the state in which you will be working is necessary to ensure you are in compliance with local taxes and fees.

Preparing to become a freelance paralegal requires planning and research, but can be extremely rewarding. Making sure you have a strong professional network, a rate structure that works with your clients, and are aware of the laws and regulations governing freelance work will go a long way towards establishing yourself in the field. Additionally, having the proper insurance coverage and understanding the local tax regulations will ensure you are both protected and compliant with local laws. Taking the time to plan and prepare will make the transition to a freelance paralegal career smoother and can help to ensure long-term success.

Pursuing a Career as a Freelance Paralegal

The freelance paralegal field has grown significantly over the past decade, with many paralegals offering their services on a contract basis to private firms as well as corporations. This can be a great way to increase your income while still enjoying the flexibility of working independently. As a freelance paralegal, you will have the opportunity to work on a wide variety of legal tasks, from document review to research projects. You will also be able to choose which projects you would like to pursue and when you would like to work.

Skills Necessary for a Freelance Paralegal

When pursuing a career as a freelance paralegal, it is important to possess certain qualities and skills. To start, you should have a strong understanding of the legal system and how it works. Additionally, you should be familiar with legal terminology and be able to use various research tools, such as LexisNexis and Westlaw. As a freelance paralegal, you will also need to be highly organized and able to manage multiple projects simultaneously. Having strong communication skills will also be of benefit, as you will need to be able to communicate effectively with your clients.

Qualifications to Become a Freelance Paralegal

Although a legal degree is not required to become a freelance paralegal, having a degree in paralegal studies or a related field will make you more attractive to potential employers. Additionally, obtaining certification as a paralegal is a great way to prove your expertise and set yourself apart from other candidates. Furthermore, those with experience working in a law firm or court setting will have the necessary understanding of the legal process required to become successful in this field.

Marketing Your Freelance Paralegal Services

One of the most important steps to becoming a successful freelance paralegal is to effectively market your services. This can include creating a website or blog to showcase your skills, as well as promoting your services through social media or promotional materials such as business cards. Additionally, it is important to build relationships with lawyers and other legal professionals, as referrals are often a great way to get your foot in the door with potential employers.

Finding Freelance Paralegal Opportunities

Once you have established yourself as a freelance paralegal, it is important to keep up with the latest trends and opportunities. There are a number of websites and job boards specifically dedicated to freelance paralegals, such as Upwork, Elance, and Lawjobs. Additionally, you can always reach out to local law firms or courts to inquire about potential job openings, as many of these organizations may be unaware of the benefits of hiring a freelance paralegal.

For paralegals who strive to be their own bosses, freelance or independent paralegal work is a lucrative option.
Going Solo: Pursuing a Career as a Freelance Paralegal

Independent paralegals serve attorneys on a per-project basis, stepping in when firms need an extra pair of hands. "Most firms have a base staff of paralegals, but [freelance paralegals] allow firms to have the flexibility to take on larger cases," says Shawn Olley, owner of Midwest Paralegal Services, Inc., a company which employs more than forty paralegals and provides freelance services to attorneys. "We have long-term customers and take on short-term projects as well," says Ms. Olley.

For independent paralegals, there is no such thing as an average day, and variety is one of the greatest rewards of the job. "My tasks are extremely varied," says Liz Miller, an independent certified paralegal from Florida who specializes in medical malpractice and nursing home cases. "I review and summarize medical records, draft settlement demands, interact with attorneys and clients. I do anything that a [full-time] paralegal would do in the office." Many areas of the law use temporary help, positions which can be filled by experienced freelance paralegals. "For example, case production lends itself to needing freelance help," explains Ms. Olley, whose company specializes in litigation. "From large firms to solo practitioners, freelance paralegals [can offer temporary help.]"

Freelancers must master attorney-paralegal relations. "Interacting with attorneys is important," says Ms. Miller. After all, attorneys comprise the brunt of a freelance paralegal's clientele. While a few states allow non-attorneys to offer some independent document preparation and paralegal services to the general public, most independent paralegals and legal assistants work solely for attorneys. "I won't bite the hand that feeds me," explains Ms. Miller, whose clients are all attorneys. "Even simple documents like bankruptcy petitions are tough to do without giving legal advice, which is [reserved for] attorneys only." In fact, many states require paralegals to work under direct attorney supervision, whether they are full-time or freelance.

In addition to working well with attorneys, freelance paralegals must often be diplomatic when it comes to their client's own staff. "It's a challenge to have the attorney's staff think that I want their jobs," says Ms. Miller. "I go to great lengths to befriend the gatekeeper and assure the staff that I love what I'm doing." On the other hand, freelance paralegals are often appreciated for saving the day. "Because we're often called in when people are in critical need, [the staff is] generally grateful towards our services," Ms. Olley recounts.

Independent paralegals and legal assistants may have the luxury of working from a home office for much of the day, but make no mistake: their job is perhaps even harder than that of full-time legal staff. "The flexibility is great, but I admittedly work harder than others. I [put in] an average 90-hour workweek," says Ms. Miller, who recently decided to pursue a law degree. "I spend about twenty hours a week on administrative tasks and marketing alone." Freelance paralegals not only have cases and clients that demand their attention; they also have a business to run. "I have to be very disciplined and dedicated to what I do, because attorneys depend on me to do my job," Ms. Miller says. Not only do independent paralegals have to constantly work to obtain new clients, they often face hardships when trying to reach their current ones. "It may be tough to pin down attorneys and get time with them to discuss cases," says Ms. Miller.

Those interested in freelance work should learn the ropes in a law firm environment first. "Independent paralegals need experience and training, and that's something you can't get fresh out of school," Ms. Olley explains. "You can't really venture out [on your own] until you have a couple of years of working in a law office under your belt," says Ms. Miller. "You just won't know how cases are run." Experienced paralegals also stress the importance of top-notch writing and computer skills, as well as attendance at continuing education seminars and reading up on developments in their field.

Even experienced freelancers may encounter a few hurdles when they first open their doors. "Expect to work very hard and get a few doors slammed in your face at first," advises Ms. Miller, who began freelancing in an unreceptive market in 1988, when independent paralegals barely existed. "But if you're dedicated, [freelance work] can be a very rewarding and lucrative career," Ms. Miller adds.

published April 13, 2023

( 355 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.