Becoming A Virtual Paralegal: Facts To Learn & Steps For Getting Hired
Because plenty of offices today are becoming virtualized, law firms are now hopping into the fray and are urging online job seekers to assist them. In this post, let’s delve into the ins and outs of what it takes to work at home while helping lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals.
What You’ll Learn Here:
- Traditional Paralegal VS. Virtual Paralegal
- Your Salary Range As A Virtual Paralegal
- Tasks of A Virtual Paralegal
- Virtual Paralegal Qualifications
- People You’ll Deal With As A Paralegal
- Tools Used By Virtual Paralegals
- Where Should You Apply?
- Tips For Getting Hired
Traditional Paralegal vs. Virtual Paralegal
A paralegal in a traditional sense is a legal professional who works under the supervision of a lawyer to provide a variety of legal support services. Paralegals can perform tasks such as conducting legal research, drafting legal documents, organizing case files, and assisting with trial preparation. They work in various settings, including law firms, corporate legal departments, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.
Paralegals must have a solid understanding of the law and legal procedures, as well as excellent communication and organizational skills. While paralegals cannot provide legal advice or represent clients in court, they play a critical role in supporting lawyers and legal teams in delivering high-quality legal services to clients.
Nowadays, plenty of corporate legal departments have high demands for workers who can commit to them remotely through the use of technology and online communication tools. Because of this, the need for virtual paralegals became evident.
Virtual paralegals perform many of the same tasks as traditional paralegals. However, virtual paralegals work remotely and may be contracted on a project or as-needed basis rather than being full-time employees. This arrangement allows law firms and legal departments to access specialized legal support without the cost and commitment of hiring a full-time employee.
Your Salary Range As A Virtual Paralegal
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for paralegals and legal assistants in the United States is $52,920 as of May 2020. However, this data does not distinguish between virtual and traditional paralegals.
In general, virtual paralegals may charge hourly rates that range from $30 to $75 per hour or more, depending on their level of experience and expertise. Some virtual paralegals may charge a flat rate for specific projects, such as document preparation or legal research.
It’s important to note that virtual paralegals are often self-employed or work for a virtual paralegal service provider, so they may have additional expenses related to running their business. This can include expenses related to technology, marketing, and legal fees.
The salary of a virtual paralegal can vary depending on a number of factors, but they can often earn competitive wages for their legal support services.
Tasks Of A Virtual Paralegal
As a virtual paralegal, you will still perform many of the same tasks as a traditional paralegal. The only key difference is that you will be doing it remotely. Here are some common tasks you will deal with while working from home:
Legal research: supporting lawyers and legal teams in preparing cases, drafting legal documents, and making strategic decisions.
Document preparation: drafting legal documents such as pleadings, motions, and discovery requests.
Case management: managing case files, including organizing and maintaining documents, tracking deadlines, and scheduling court appearances and meetings.
Communication: communicating with clients, witnesses, and other legal professionals to gather information, share updates, and coordinate case-related activities.
Trial preparation: preparing evidence exhibits, coordinating witnesses, and drafting trial-related documents.
Administrative tasks: billing clients, maintaining legal databases, and managing email and calendar appointments.
Virtual Paralegal Qualifications
The qualifications required to become an online paralegal can vary depending on the jurisdiction, the employer, and the specific role. However, some common qualifications for becoming a paralegal include:
Education: Many paralegal positions require at least an associate’s degree or a certificate in paralegal studies. Some employers may prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree, particularly in a related field such as law, criminal justice, or political science.
Training and certification: Some employers may require paralegals to complete a training program or obtain certification from a professional organization, such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).
Relevant experience: Employers may prefer candidates with experience working in a law firm, legal department, or other legal settings. Some paralegal positions may require a specific type of experience, such as experience in a particular area of law.
Skills: Paralegals must have excellent communication, research, writing, and analytical skills. They should also be proficient in using technology, including legal research databases, document management systems, and other software used in the legal profession.
Ethics: Paralegals are bound by ethical rules and regulations, and must conduct themselves in an ethical and professional manner at all times.
Continuing education: Many paralegal organizations require members to participate in continuing education programs to maintain their certification and stay up-to-date with developments in the field.
It’s important to note that the qualifications required to become a virtual paralegal can vary widely depending on the employer and the specific role. The good thing is some employers do not require you to have a college degree or that you must attain some valid certifications. As long as you can communicate well and is knowledgeable about certain online technologies, you would be deemed good enough.
People You’ll Deal With As A Paralegal
As a paralegal, you are expected to work with a variety of people, including:
Lawyers: you will work closely with lawyers, providing legal support services such as conducting legal research, drafting legal documents, and managing case files.
Clients: you will communicate with clients to gather information and provide updates on case progress.
Court personnel: you may work with clerks and judges, to file legal documents and schedule court appearances.
Witnesses: you may assist in coordinating witness interviews and preparing them for testimony in court.
Other legal professionals: you may work with experts in various fields or outside counsel, to support legal teams in complex cases.
Administrative staff: you may work with receptionists and office managers, to manage client billing, schedule appointments, and maintain office records.
Bear in mind that your job requires you to work with a variety of people to support the delivery of high-quality legal services. Effective communication and collaboration with all stakeholders are essential to success in this role.
Tools Used By Virtual Paralegals
Working with a legal team means being equipped with a range of digital tools that enable you to work efficiently and effectively. Some of the tools commonly used by virtual paralegals include:
- Cloud-based document management systems such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive that allow them to store, access, and share files securely and remotely.
- Communication tools like Skype, Zoom, and Slack that enable them to communicate with clients, attorneys, and other team members in real time.
- Legal research databases such as Westlaw, LexisNexis, and Fastcase that allow them to access case law, statutes, and other legal resources.
- Billing and invoicing software like Clio, QuickBooks, and TimeSolv that help them manage client billing and time tracking.
- Electronic signature tools such as DocuSign, HelloSign, and Adobe Sign that allow them to obtain signatures remotely.
- Project management software like Asana, Trello, and Basecamp that help them organize tasks and track deadlines.
- Online scheduling tools like Calendly, Acuity, and Doodle that help them schedule appointments and meetings.
You must learn some of these tools, depending on what your employer requires. Your knowledge about them will enable you to work proficiently and provide high-quality legal support to attorneys and law firms.
Where Should You Apply?
The following are the establishments you need to reach out to so you can become a full-fledged virtual online paralegal. You can look for them in your own locality or you can browse for them online.
Law Firms: Law firms of all sizes often employ paralegals to assist with legal research, drafting legal documents, and managing case files.
Corporate Legal Departments: Many large corporations have in-house legal departments that require paralegals to assist with legal matters related to the company’s operations.
Government Agencies: Federal, state, and local government agencies often hire paralegals to assist with legal matters related to government operations.
Non-Profit Organizations: Non-profit organizations that focus on legal issues, such as civil rights, environmental protection, or social justice, may employ paralegals to assist with legal research and advocacy.
Legal Support Service Providers: Legal support service providers, such as legal research companies, court reporting firms, and document review services, often hire paralegals to assist with legal projects.
To find job openings as a paralegal, you can check job search websites, such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor. You can also check with local paralegal associations or reach out to staffing agencies that specialize in legal staffing.
Tips For Getting Hired
Here are some tips that may help you get hired as a paralegal:
Gain relevant experience: Look for internships or entry-level positions in law firms, legal departments, or government agencies. Volunteering for legal organizations can also be a great way to gain experience and network.
Develop legal vocabulary skills: Paralegals need to communicate effectively with clients, lawyers, and other professionals. Strong writing skills are also essential for drafting legal documents and correspondence.
Stay up-to-date with the latest legal developments: Read legal publications, attend legal conferences and seminars, and join professional organizations to stay informed about the latest legal trends and developments.
Build a professional network: Attend networking events, join legal associations and groups, and connect with other professionals in the legal field. This can help you build relationships and find job opportunities.
Customize your resume and cover letter: Tailor your application materials to specifically fit a legal setting. Highlight your relevant experience as well as your passion for working with people who seek justice and fairness.
Remember that getting hired as a paralegal can be competitive, so it’s important to be persistent and keep improving your skills and knowledge. Good luck!