The legal landscape has transformed profoundly over the last few years. Law firms are becoming virtual as the boundaries of legal access are changing. This change requires legal managers to seek cost-effective methods to boost their legal practice’s productivity at minimal costs.
Outsourced paralegal services are one solution to the growing challenges for law firms. Delegating work to outsourced paralegals allows law firms and legal departments to access specialized skills and expertise without the time and expense of hiring full-time employees.
What Is an Outsourced Paralegal?
An outsourced paralegal is a legal professional who provides paralegal services to law firms, attorneys, or legal departments on a contract basis.
Outsourced vs. Full-Time Hired Employee
Outsourced paralegal services can help your legal practice manage its resources efficiently and focus on its core legal activities while delegating specific tasks to these experienced professionals. It is essential to carefully assess your firm’s requirements and resources before deciding on the most suitable approach.
Differences in Pay, Benefits, and Hours
Your legal practice should consider pay, benefits, and hours when hiring an outsourced paralegal or a full-time employee.
- Pay: Outsourced paralegals are typically paid hourly or project-based. Outsourced paralegal pay may vary depending on the complexity of the tasks, the paralegal’s experience, and the prevailing market rates for outsourced legal services. While full-time hired paralegals receive a regular salary, usually based on an annual or monthly rate.
- Benefits: Outsourced paralegals are usually responsible for arranging their benefits. By comparison, full-time hired paralegals often receive employee benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, and other perks.
- Hours: Outsourced paralegals have more flexibility when it comes to hours. They schedule their work hours based on the project’s requirements and deadlines. Conversely, full-time hired paralegals typically work standard office hours and follow the organization’s regular schedule.
General Roles and Responsibilities
Outsourced paralegals typically perform various tasks that support the legal process, including legal research, document drafting, case management, administrative support, and other assignments related to legal proceedings.
Paralegal vs. Virtual Assistant
Paralegal and virtual assistant roles have distinct focuses and responsibilities within different contexts, particularly in the legal industry.
What Is a Virtual Assistant?
Virtual assistants can work across various industries, serving businesses, entrepreneurs, professionals, and individuals who need help with administrative work. Virtual assistants typically work remotely and communicate with clients through online tools and virtual collaboration platforms.
Paralegals play a crucial role in supporting attorneys with legal research, drafting legal documents, organizing case materials, conducting interviews, and more. A virtual assistant provides administrative and support services to clients remotely, including managing emails, scheduling appointments, data entry, bookkeeping, and other administrative duties.
Paralegals are often required to have formal education or training in paralegal studies and should adhere to ethical guidelines and standards in the legal profession. This may include completing a paralegal studies program or obtaining a paralegal certificate. On the other hand, virtual assistants provide general administrative support and do not require astringent training. Virtual assistants can receive vocational training in administrative assistance programs.
Can Paralegals Work Remotely?
Through technological advancements and the availability of secure communication tools and legal case management software (LPM), many law firms and legal departments have considered remote work options for their paralegals. Is it possible?
Yes, with the Right LPM Software
Having the right legal practice management software makes remote paralegal work possible. An LPM software provider such as PracticePanther furthers remote work by providing legal practices with cloud-based software, secure access to documents, contact information, and workflows from anywhere.
Do Remote Paralegals Need Special Accreditation?
The qualifications and requirements for remote paralegals are generally the same as those for traditional in-office paralegals. In addition to conventional certification, remote paralegals must be proficient in using legal case management software to handle the work for fast-paced law firms.
Benefits of Outsourced Paralegals
Outsourcing paralegal services can benefit your law department in many ways. Here are some of the advantages of using outsourced paralegals:
Flexibility and Scalability
Outsourcing provides you with flexibility in terms of hiring resources as needed. Your legal practice can quickly scale up or down by engaging outsourced paralegals based on workload and project requirements.
Hiring a full-time paralegal also provides a consistent and dedicated resource within your legal practice. However, scaling your workforce may require more time and effort, including recruitment and onboarding processes.
Cost and Expenses
Outsourcing can sometimes be more cost-effective, as it allows your legal practice to avoid costs related to full-time employment, such as benefits, taxes, and overhead expenses.
Hiring a full-time paralegal involves higher fixed costs. It can provide a more stable and predictable expense structure for your practice in the long run.
Expertise and Specialization
Your legal practice can access specialized expertise by outsourcing specific tasks or projects to paralegals with relevant skills and experience in particular areas of law.
Full-time paralegals become intimately familiar with your firm’s operations and legal practice areas over time. Full-time paralegals potentially offer a deeper understanding of the organization’s unique needs.
Control and Oversight
While outsourced paralegals work independently, your legal practice controls the scope of work and project deliverables. Communication and coordination will ensure alignment with your firm’s goals.
Your legal practice directly controls and supervises full-time hired paralegals, allowing real-time collaboration and management.
How to Hire a Remote Paralegal
Let us focus on how to hire a remote paralegal. Hiring a remote paralegal involves a process similar to hiring an in-house paralegal, with additional considerations related to remote work.
Find a Good Outsourcing Company
Look for an outsourcing company that can establish a long-term partnership, providing consistent support as your firm grows. Use search engines and legal directories to identify potential paralegal outsourcing companies and look for companies with a solid online presence and positive client reviews.
You should also inquire about their quality control processes. A reputable paralegal outsourcing company should have mechanisms to ensure accurate and reliable work.
Ask Around in Your Network
Contact your professional network, colleagues, or industry forums for recommendations. Personal referrals can often lead you to trustworthy outsourced paralegal services. Also, many legal associations and professional networks have job boards or directories where you can find qualified paralegals. Examples include the American Bar Association, the National Association of Legal Assistants, and your local bar association.
Provide a Learning Curve Time Frame to See Progress
As the paralegal gains experience and becomes more attuned to your firm’s needs, they should be able to handle more complex tasks and even contribute insights to legal strategies. The paralegal should be able to follow established procedures and produce work that meets your quality standards over time. Eventually, the remote paralegal will be able to manage tasks without constant oversight and start suggesting process improvements.
Enhance Your Productivity with Outsourced Paralegal Services
Managing outsourced paralegal services can be simple. Hiring remote paralegals can be a cinch, too. Successful remote work requires effective communication, trust, and clear expectations, and technology. Virtual law firms require outstanding legal case management and software systems. It is the heart of the process.