Life as a Virtual Paralegal

As technological advances have made it increasingly feasible for freelancers working remotely, one profession to notably benefit has been that of the paralegal. Law firms that can’t afford to employ a full staff of paralegals or smaller firms requiring more sporadic assistance may use online paralegals as necessary. 

Virtual paralegals reduce overhead and increase productivity for firms with limited resources needing extra help only at certain times of the year or for special cases. Office duties such as data entry, scheduling and legal document preparation can be done from home, as can research, legal correspondence, motions, case review and analysis and many other duties.    

 Many have begun virtual paralegal practices as a natural evolution from previous freelancing. The flexibility provided in being able to choose hours, clients and branches of specialization is a particularly attractive option for those with children, but the idea of working from home and having more time for non-work related projects is appealing for many. No more boredom in rush hour traffic, parking, wear and tear on the car. No driving and less paper in the virtual office means less of a burden for the environment. Society is rapidly shifting in this direction and the ubiquitous connectivity provided by smartphones and computers means that working “virtually” is the next logical step. Lawyers already communicate via electronic messaging and courts are embracing the efficiency of this technology.    

Proficient computer skills are essential for any paralegal, at least word processing basics but ideally advanced database and case management approaching IT training. A good computer with abundant memory storage, back-up drive, large monitor and printer/copier/scanner/fax are important tools for an aspiring virtual paralegal with a dedicated telephone business line.  

Going independent means that you should develop a realistic business plan, continuously revising your goals to stay abreast of the current environment. Working virtually provides the opportunity to pursue expertise in your own field, practicing in the areas that are more interesting to you and developing blogs or teachings to creatively apply your knowledge while marketing yourself. With the time saved commuting and selective work assignments you may choose to focus on a specialty or expand into other freelancing opportunities, such as taking payroll courses. There are many modes of virtual networking and attorney associations who accept affiliate paralegal members. Overhead costs can be kept to a minimum with the simplicity inherent in needing little more than a computer and by making the most of the free online resources and social networking available.    

Successful professionals that have used their experience and knowledge from paralegal courses to go virtual, recommend creating a dedicated work space to provide a level of separation between work and domestic life. Proper time management and organization is especially important when self-employed so you need to know when to eliminate distractions and when to take a break.   

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