Times are tough. This is no news bulletin; and companies are tightening their collective belts at the expense of good workers who now find themselves on the unemployment line. I myself was “downsized” from a large firm last April, and after a number of wonderful interviews that went nowhere, I decided to strike out on my own to create a paralegal service run from my home. Others in the same boat have continued their job search, but are finding the eligible jobs are becoming fewer while the candidate pool grows. The question is, with the loss of paralegal jobs - has the need for our services gone as well? That’s difficult to answer, especially since the candidate pool no longer includes only paralegals – but now attorneys as well. So what does an unemployed paralegal do when the available jobs are so few? With technology now enabling the prospect, some are starting their own virtual paralegal services.
First things first, take note that the word “virtual” is scary to those that understand it, or its use in the industry. People fear change of long-used systems, and if they don’t understand how your virtual service works or can benefit them, they will not stray from the overly beaten path of familiarity. Attorneys are creatures of habit, and resist changes to the norm as much as they can. Look at how long it is taking some to trust and accept electronic legal research, or even the lack of need for lined legal sized paper anymore if you need examples. That being said, there is a new breed of tech savvy attorneys out there that do see the benefit of outsourcing paralegal work on an as-needed basis. You just need to find them, or make it easy for them to find you.
There is a definite benefit to attorneys who outsource their paralegal work. Besides the obvious cost benefit of not hiring a direct employee (overhead, insurance, vacations, etc.), just a few are:
Flexibility: Often times in a law firm environment, a paralegal works with more than one attorney on a variety of projects, and urgent or last minute projects need to be prioritized. That being said, that particular project may not necessarily be a ‘priority’ to them, when it is to the attorney. On the contrary, contract paralegals can give precise timelines for when work will be done, and will stand by that deadline or lose the client. That’s a pretty big incentive to get something done.
Experience: Most virtual/contract paralegals have at least 5 to 10 years of paralegal experience under their belt. There is no ‘on-the-job-training’ needed, and they can hit the ground running with a particular project. A lot of paralegals also specialize in different areas of law, so finding one for a particular type of legal issue also allows the attorney to expand their practice areas.
Better Client Service: With the cost savings mixed in with the shorter turn-around time and experience involved, the client benefits the most. They will have better quality legal representation at a lower cost overall. The attorney can focus more on the client’s needs (and bringing in more clients); it’s a win-win situation for all involved.
Next post I’ll delve into the ups and downs of starting your own Paralegal service.