Don’t Make This Mistake When Contracting with a Paralegal

Is there a difference  between a freelance paralegal and a virtual paralegal?  Which one should  an attorney look for when needing some extra help?

I don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence, but the only difference is that  a virtual paralegal’s work is all done virtually and a freelance paralegal’s work can be done at the brick and mortar law office.  I work as both a freelance and virtual paralegal.       

If you are an attorney interested in outsourcing paralegal work you need to consider which arrangement will work best.  Most of the attorneys I work for do a combination of both; a few I work with virtually only.  The virtual only relationships work very well with firms who are almost paperless.  When all files are stored in the cloud a virtual paralegal’s work  is very seamless.

When I go into a physical office, it is usually for one reason: that is were the paper is located.  I spent a week in a small law firm this summer getting a file ready for trial.  The files had taken over the conference room with with stacks of paper on the table, floor, and in chairs.  The case needed to be organized and a trial notebook or binder created.  This could not be accomplished virtually.

Before you hire a virtual paralegal, take a look at how you run your practice.  If you think you may want the paralegal to come to your office at times or possibly accompany you to a trial, you need to look locally.  If you foresee all of the outsourced paralegal work as virtual, you can broaden your search geographically.  You also need to think about the types of tasks you will outsource and whether knowledge of local court rules and state laws will be a factor.

Not all virtual paralegal services offer on-site freelance paralegal services.  If on-site services are available ask if there are any additional fees involved such as mileage or a  trip fee; time billed for travel; a minimum number of hours per trip; or a different hourly rate for on-site services.

Be sure to think through all the possible duties and tasks you would like to outsource to a paralegal before making a decision.  The difference  between a freelance and virtual paralegal  is small, but it can make a big difference to  the hiring law firm or solo attorney.


Photo: “Clouds” by Brian Kerr

Photo: “Atlanta, Georgia, skyline, dusk”   by apple.white2010


5 Responses to Don’t Make This Mistake When Contracting with a Paralegal
  1. Daphne Drescher
    January 31, 2012 | 1:05 pm

    Misty, this is such a helpful post. In my experience, many lawyers are so accustomed to having support staff physically on site, that they don’t realize initially how much of their work really could be done virtually, particularly now when so much of our work is done electronically.

    As for me, currently all my clients are virtual only, primarily because they’re not located close enough for me to work on-site on a regular basis. That technology has made it possible for attorneys to make this choice is a huge benefit for the industry.

    Thanks for helping sift through this issue!

  2. Misty Sheffield
    January 31, 2012 | 1:15 pm

    Hi Daphne. Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope that more attorneys will move to the virtual only model. It is much more cost effective. Congratulations on being truly virtual.


  3. Kristina
    April 24, 2012 | 3:00 pm

    Great article! Makes a very good point. As Daphne said, attorneys are stuck in the thinking that everything has to be done on-site. With today’s technology, that is no longer true!

  4. […] In today’s legal market, many small firms and solos operate on tight budgets with little or no support staff.  What some attorneys fail to realize is that there comes a point when doing everything yourself actually costs you more than getting a little help from a contract, freelance or virtual paralegal (I use the terms interchangeably).  Here are seven great reasons why attorneys should consider using a contract paralegal. […]

  5. […] needing some extra help?” According to Misty (and I agree) there’s not much difference. Follow this link to learn why this is so.Benefits of Paralegal Support Services For Solo Practitioners and Small Firms. Of the four major […]

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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 »