Alternative Things Paralegals are Doing for Work

Paralegals are doing
What Paralegals are Doing.
A paralegal education, training, and experience can be put to good use without working as a paralegal, and in today’s job market, many paralegals are branching out and finding fun and interesting things to do with their skills. Working as a Credit Report Specialist, Consumer Assistant, Mediator, Private Investigator, or Process Server requires some of the same skill and knowledge that many paralegals already possess. Many other opportunities may also be available for those who cannot find a job as a paralegal, want to change careers, or just want to do something else for a while.

Credit Report Specialist

A credit report specialist helps consumers obtain their credit report, reviews the report with the consumer, explains information contained in it, and assists clients in improving their credit score.  Credit specialists review financial and legal documents, draft correspondence, write reports, and assist clients in disputing negative information contained in their credit report.
Many of the skills used by a paralegal are transferable to a credit report specialist and the job can be done for an employer or independently as a freelance contractor. If you are interested in becoming a credit report specialist, the first step is learning all you can about credit reports, how to obtain them, what the information means, and how to correct them. A great place to start is the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC”) Free Credit Report page. The Federal Reserve also publishes some great information on its Credit Reports and Credit Scores page.

Consumer Assistant

A consumer assistant helps consumers lodge and resolve complaints against service providers, companies, and corporations that a consumer feels has taken advantage of them in some way.  This is a new field that allows paralegals to use their skills to help the public, without having to be supervised by an attorney. A consumer assistant does not provide legal advice, but helps consumers prepare correspondence, file complaints with the Better Business Bureau, Secretary of State, and other appropriate private and government agencies, locate needed contact information or required forms, and performs other administrative tasks, such as copying, faxing, and mailing documents. They may also assist clients in removing themselves from mailing and e-mail lists, review and explain correspondence or other consumer documents, and anything else that helps consumers protect themselves from fraud, scams, and rip-offs.
If you are interested in starting your own freelance business, you may want to consider working as a Consumer Assistant instead of a paralegal in addition to providing paralegal services. A good place to start learning about consumer complaints and how to resolve them is the US Government’s Consumer Protection webpage, which contains information about filing consumer complaints with federal agencies, links to state consumer agency, sample complaint letters, and a Consumer Action Handbook. You may also want to bookmark Consumer Action’s Consumer Resources page, which provides links to 100’s of private and government consumer advocate agencies.

Mediator

While state requirements for divorce, Court, and public mediator’s all differ, most require only 30-40 hours of mediation training and no specific type of education or degree. This makes working as a mediator in many states an available opportunity for paralegals who are looking for a career change, additional services to offer, a second job, or just need a break from being a paralegal. The writing, listening, research, and people skills you use as a paralegal carry over to a mediator’s job perfectly, and as more and more begin requiring divorcing parties to attend mediation, the field should be expanding.
If you are interested in becoming a mediator, the first step is to check your state’s requirements and regulations, which you can find on the Mediation Training Institute’s website’s State Requirements for Mediators page. Paralegals in most states will meet the minimum requirements once they have completed a few hours of mediation and/or dispute resolution training.

Private Investigator

Contrary to what you may have seen on television, private investigators (“PIs”) are generally not chasing suspects, having shootouts, or narrowly escaping explosions, but rather, are sifting through financial records, conducting online research, or making information gathering phone calls. Many paralegals have the evidence and information gathering, communication, and observation skills that can make a good private investigator and already have some experience sifting through information to find the facts. If you are creative, resourceful, and good at finding people and information, a job as a private investigator may be for you.
Private investigators may work for attorneys, private agencies, or freelance their services to the public. Most states require that PIs work for an attorney or licensed investigator, or obtain a license themselves. Licensing requirements for your state can be found by following the appropriate link from PI Magazine’s Private Investigator License Requirements by State page.

Process Server

As a paralegal, you are probably already intimately familiar with process service and some of the problems that can arise when an attorney or private party needs to serve someone in person. You likely have drafted affidavits and filed them with the Court as well. If this is the case, you already have the skills and knowledge you need to work as a private process server, or to add process serving to your list of available services.
In many states, a person only has be eighteen years of age to qualify to serve process. A handful of states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Illinois, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, and Washington), and three localities (certain counties in Florida, the city of St. Lois, and the city of New York), however, require education, training, and/or licensing. A description of these requirements can be found on the National Association of Professional Process Server’s State Laws Licensing Process Servers page.

Collections Specialist

Collections specialist work for collection agencies, large corporations, financial institutions, or may perform freelance work for attorneys. A collections specialist locates account holders, corresponds with them in an attempt to collect a debt, tracks accounts, and assists with settlement negotiations and collections suits. That information gathering, communication, computer, and dispute resolution skills that most paralegals already possess can translate into great qualifications for a job as a collections specialist.
No certification or license is required to work as a collections specialist and many companies do not require any previous experience. However, any experience you may have collecting on accounts while working for an attorney, either for the firm or for a client, will help you break in to this field of work. When applying for jobs, you should also highlight your communication, people, research, and problem solving skills, and mention any experience you have had with bookkeeping, billing, and customer service.

More Ideas for Jobs Paralegals Can Do

Some other job titles a paralegal who is ready to get out of the field may want to consider include:
  • Loan Specialist or Loan Processor
  • Bankruptcy Petition Preparer
  • Office Manager (somewhere other than a law office)
  • Receptionist
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Copy Writer/Blogger
  • Research Assistant
  • Copy Editor
  • Personal Assistant (for someone who is not a lawyer)
  • Legal Analyst
  • Human Resources Assistant

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3 comments:

Olga Aquino said...

There are University jobs in technology transfer and sponsored programs where a legal background is appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I've checked into all the alternative suggestions posted in this article. Bottom line? They all pay less than $10/hour and are truly scraping the bottom of the barrel if you've been a paralegal for more than 20 years. Better to head into something more alturistic such as hospice care.

Jenny Tucker said...

I agree that some of these are lower paying jobs. Agreed that many of these are better suited to less experienced paralegals that are unhappy in their paralegal jobs. However, at least in Missouri, several of these jobs including Legal Analyst, Process Server, Office Manager, Copy Writer/Editor and Private Investigator can earn substantially more than that. Let's not forget that benefits are often offered with these jobs as well. If a paralegal has 20 years experience, some of the options available include Litigation Support Specialist, Paralegal Manager or HR manager at a larger firm, Virtual or Independent Paralegal and more.

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