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3 Things to Consider When Becoming a Virtual Paralegal

As advances in technology are continually made, and with the rise of individuals working from home, there is an increase in the need for and interest in virtual paralegals. This field already provides a valuable asset to attorneys and the work that is done on cases.

What is a Virtual Paralegal?

Depending on who you ask, the definition of a virtual paralegal varies.  The International Virtual Assistants Association defines virtual assistants as “independent contractors who, from a remote location, usually their home or office, support multiple clients in a variety of industries by providing administrative, creative, and technical services.”  Therefore, “virtual” would require that the person work from a remote location, such as their home, rather than working in the office.

The National Association of Legal Assistants defines a paralegal as a person who assists “attorneys in the delivery of legal services. Through formal education, training, and experience, legal assistants have knowledge and expertise regarding the legal system and substantive and procedural law which qualify them to do work of a legal nature under the supervision of an attorney.”

A virtual paralegal is a paralegal who works under the direct supervision of an attorney but works from home or another remote location other than the attorney’s office.  Some virtual paralegals are directly employed by the law firm but work from home while other virtual paralegals work as independent contractors for one or more attorneys.  The key is that the paralegal works under the supervision of the attorney to avoid crossing the line into practicing law without a license.

What are the Benefits of being a Virtual Paralegal?

Working from home—when you work from home, you can spend more time with your family and avoid the daily commute, dress code and work schedules associated with working in an office.

Set your own hours—because everything is done virtually, and therefore remotely, there is flexibility that a standard 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. desk job doesn’t offer. This option provides an opportunity to work hours that are most productive for the individual. So whether you are an early riser or a night owl, you can choose the time of day to complete assignments. However, it is important to remember that you must meet your deadlines, and emergencies can come up that need immediate attention.

Working for more than one attorney—a virtual paralegal working as an independent contractor, has the opportunity to take as many jobs as they are capable of handling. They can choose to increase their income by accepting more jobs or accept fewer jobs so that they have more free time.

Variety—for those that enjoy variety, being a virtual paralegal provides the opportunity to work within several areas of law. Rather than concentrating on only one or two areas of the law, consider accepting jobs from different attorneys in different legal fields.  This will expand your business through experience in a variety of areas of law.

What are the Disadvantages of being a Virtual Paralegal?

Instability—a virtual paralegal may not have the consistency of working with an attorney on cases consistently. If one assignment is completed, but they do not have another one to pick up, there will be a gap in employment.

No Benefits—as a paralegal practicing independently, there are no health insurance benefits, retirement plans, such as 401K’s, or paid vacation.

Growing Competition—the world of virtual working employees is growing exponentially, which means there will be opportunities to pursue work as a virtual paralegal. However, more individuals want to enter into this field virtually.

What Should Be Considered When Choosing a Virtual Paralegal?

A firm should assess their needs and decide what roles the virtual paralegal will play. Some of the tasks that may be given include processing and handling medical records summaries/chronologies, deposition summaries, document drafting, which can include responses, motions, and briefs, and legal research. Having a strategy of what tasks need to be finished will be key in distributing work and ensuring it is finished in a timely manner.

It is important for a virtual paralegal to have a reliable computer and internet to do their work remotely. Because the individuals will not be in a traditional office space, it is typical for the firm to do background checks and outline the expectations for confidentiality. Also establishing a work email is crucial to ensure top level security so that all cases are handled in a safe, sensitive, and secure format.

Finally, communication and organizational skills should be prominent qualities in the virtual paralegal. Making sure everyone in the firm is updated on what is going on is essential to providing reliable and accurate information. One way this can be done is through virtual conferences or meetings to check in with other members of the team. Furthermore, staying organized can eliminate mistakes, ensure deadlines are met, and keep information stored in an orderly manner, especially during a busy season or when working multiple cases.

Want to Learn More About Becoming a Paralegal?

Blackstone Career Institute (BCI) offers a paralegal/legal assistant course that meets the 900 clock-hour requirements needed to sit for NALA’s certification exam. BCI paralegal graduates also qualify to sit for the Accredited Legal Professional (ALP) exam and/or the Professional Paralegal (PP) certification, given by NALS, the association for legal professionals.

The goal of Blackstone’s Paralegal program is to prepare students for entry-level positions as a paralegal or legal assistant, while providing a strong foundation for further training and career advancement. This objective is met by helping students define law and identify basic legal terms, explain legal concepts, related to contracts, identify aspects of torts, identify legal cause, negligence, and deceit, and demonstrate an understanding of civil and criminal defamation.

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