Are Virtual Paralegals Misunderstood?

“It’s not easy being green.” Kermit the Frog

“Green” as in different, out of the ordinary; not “green” as in inexperienced.  When I attend local CLE’s or networking events, I am usually the only paralegal not employed by a law firm, corporation, or government agency. One of the most shocking things about working as a virtual paralegal is the number of legal professionals who do not understand what I do.  I just want to clear up a few things…

Virtual paralegals are not unemployed and looking for work.

I recently had an attorney ask me if I did some work for her what would happen when I found full-time employment.  I have learned to not be offended by this type of question.  I politely explain that I am already employed full-time by my own virtual paralegal firm and  have no intentions of seeking full-time employment elsewhere. More shock ensues as I explain that I started freelancing as a paralegal in 1995 before anyone had ever put the words virtual and paralegal together.  Virtual paralegals are business owners, not out of work professionals.

Virtual paralegals do not provide services to the public.

Virtual paralegals work only for attorneys in good standing with their state bar association. The occasional news story about the paralegal  who commits the unauthorized practice of law is a rogue independent paralegal.  Some states now regulate the licensing of Legal Document Preparers who assist consumers with filling out legal forms without offering any legal advice.  LPD’s are prohibited from using the title “paralegal”  to avoid confusion to the public. Virtual paralegals closely guard their reputations in the legal community and nothing would tarnish a reputation faster than a UPL violation.

Virtual paralegals are not out to replace traditional paralegals.

The nature of litigation guarantees an uneven workflow. Paralegals employed by the firms I work with are routinely overwhelmed and grateful for the help.  I am not on a mission to replace a law firm’s paralegals; I am on a mission to help them meet their deadlines and complete their projects efficiently.  When solo clients without support staff grow their practice to the point of being able to hire a full-time paralegal, I gladly assist them in finding a good employee. Traditional paralegals should view virtual paralegals as a trusted resource, not a potential threat.

Virtual paralegals are not expensive.

The drivers for outsourcing in any industry are to boost profit, operate more efficiently, and support growth. The legal industry is no different.  Firms who work with a virtual paralegal save money in overhead by avoiding the costs of office space, equipment, insurance, vacation time, etc.  The biggest way my clients save is by using my services on an as-needed basis.  They pay only for the time they need, when they need it.  Virtual paralegals offer attorneys flexibility in staffing as their workflow fluctuates.

This article is not meant to be a vent or whining session.  I actually enjoy explaining what virtual paralegals are because I LOVE what I do.  If you have any questions about how a virtual paralegal could benefit your practice, please contact me.  I am easy to reach.

Photo by Joel Washing



5 Responses to Are Virtual Paralegals Misunderstood?
  1. Pamela
    October 18, 2011 | 11:42 pm

    Amen!! I just love it when the response is, ‘so, you’re not really here – you’re what, a hologram?’

  2. Misty Sheffield
    October 19, 2011 | 10:06 am

    Hi Pamela, The time is coming when we will not have to constantly explain how seamless working with a virtual paralegal can be. It may not become the norm, but I am not a big fan of normal anyway.

  3. A Virtual Paralegal’s Home Office
    January 20, 2012 | 9:45 am

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Misty L. Sheffield is a freelance paralegal helping solos and small law firms in civil litigation. She has been assisting attorneys for over 12 years. Read More »