Ultimate Guide to Working From Home As a Paralegal

With the recent global pandemic, more people than ever have learned what it’s like to work from home, but for paralegals, working from home has always been a great option. After all, online paralegal programs are everywhere – why not remote work?

Qualified paralegals who take the time to get their certification can easily find jobs that let them work from home. Remote positions for paralegals work out well for hiring companies that don’t have to pay overhead costs or provide office space. It’s becoming more frequent for law firms and corporations to hire virtual paralegals to offset the workload of in-house professionals.

Requirements For Work From Home Paralegals

Later, this article covers educational, licensing, and certification options for paralegals. This section covers character and setup requirements to become a work-from-home paralegal.

  • Set-up requirements. Remote paralegals need reliable internet service and a decent laptop to perform the job without stress or technical delays. For those who have an extra room, that is ideal. However, at-home workers can set up a corner of any room to serve as a workspace.
  • Character requirements. Patience, diligence, dependability, and hard work can get candidates far in this position. The job often has a lot of pressure and looming deadlines. Those who can handle the stress of working from home will be successful in this career. Great communication skills help paralegals deal with clients and handle interviews from their home office. maintaining confidentiality may also challenge work-at-home paralegals.

Do Paralegals Work From Home?

Yes. In fact, work from home paralegal jobs may prove quite lucrative for professionals who currently spend a lot of time and money commuting to work. According to Ziprecruiter, virtual paralegals bring home nearly $50,000 a year on average. That equates to an hourly wage of nearly $24 and a weekly take-home pay of $958.

The salary range, based on education, experience, and employers, varies greatly. The lowest 10% of paralegals working from home average $18,500. Most positions range between $34,000 and $52,000. However, top earners can make as much as $70,000 per year. There is a lot of room for advancement and increased pay as candidates progress in their careers.

What is a Virtual Paralegal?

What does a remote paralegal do? The duties of remote paralegals include preparing legal documents, interviewing witnesses and preparing experts to give testimony in litigation, arbitration, and criminal trials.

According to the International Virtual Assistants Association, virtual legal assistance work from their home or private office and support one or more legal clients across a variety of specialties. Basically, those who work from home as a paralegal fit this description. Other organizations have stricter definitions. For example, the National Association of Legal Assistants categorizes paralegals who help attorneys complete legal services and who work from home as virtual paralegals. Technically, this definition wouldn’t include those who work for corporations, nonprofit organizations, and other entities.

Formal education requirements for this position are somewhat vague. However, legal assistants who work from home must have expertise and knowledge that attracts potential employers.

Per the American Bar Association, a person with the necessary training and education to complete administrative work in a law office, governmental agency, corporation or other employer qualifies as a paralegal.

ABA and NALA definitions recognize those retained by attorneys to perform work under supervision as paralegals. Virtual paralegals also work under the supervision of one or more attorneys but perform the work remotely. They can work directly for their employers or as independent contractors. However, most firms that hire virtual paralegals hire them as 1099 contractors rather than W2 employees.

Contract Paralegal Work From Home Advantages and Disadvantages

There are many advantages for employers who hire virtual paralegals. By hiring independent contractors, employers have no overhead costs such as equipment, office supplies and paid time off. They can also build clients for the entire cost of paralegal work. Typically, there’s no training involved because virtual legal assistants usually have some work experience. Additionally, employers pay no benefits, taxes or insurance costs for contract paralegals.

Of course, many of the advantages for employers are disadvantages for the workers themselves. Here’s a look at the advantages and disadvantages of working as a home-based paralegal.

Advantages

Perhaps the biggest advantage is the opportunity to work from home or any remote location you choose. This can be a great advantage for paralegals with young children at home or who prefer to work in the privacy of their own home. There is no dress code, no daily commute, and a much more flexible work schedule. Although clients can be demanding, you can still take the time to run errands and handle things around the house between assignments. There’s something you simply can’t do from the office.

As a virtual paralegal, at-home workers can set their own hours. For example, those who prefer to work late at night could take clients in different time zones and those who need to make the afternoon school pick up can work part-time or a split shift that works for their employers.

Having more than one employer can get hectic period however, being able to work for more than one employer allows paralegals to work as much or as little as they prefer. As an independent contractor, paralegals don’t typically have to have a set work schedule. this may leave more free time to handle family and other obligations.

For paralegals just entering the field, becoming a virtual paralegal provides the opportunity to explore different areas of law. This can help paralegals determine which field that they would like to specialize in or give them a broad base that can lead to lucrative employment opportunities.

Disadvantages

Contract paralegal work from home also has disadvantages. As self-employed paralegals, workers have to handle their own paperwork for taxes, look for their own insurance, and make arrangements for retirement and vacation savings. Typically, there are no paid sick days or leave for vacations. This could be a major disadvantage to those with complicated health situations or family members who rely on them for insurance. Those who are disciplined can put money aside for taxes, insurance, and other needs typically handled by an employer. However, it is a challenge and a major disadvantage of this role.

Independent virtual paralegals have to pay their own taxes, which are typically higher than if they were working in an office. However, there are W2 contracts for virtual paralegals that include taxes and other benefits.

Due to recent trends following COVID-19, there is more competition for virtual paralegal jobs. Many people are realizing the benefit of having their own business and taking control of their career. However, opportunities in this field are also growing as attorneys realize that hiring virtual paralegals can save them money on overhead costs, benefits, and other expenses related to hiring W2 employees.

Education and Licensure/Certification Requirements

Can paralegals work from home without a degree, license or certification? The short answer is yes. The rules governing the paralegal profession vary greatly and most states don’t have a formal requirement for performing paralegal activities.

According to the American Bar Association, California is the only state with specific regulations for paralegals working in the state. As of 2000, in order to use the term legal assistant or paralegal to describe themselves, individuals must meet experiential and educational requirements determined by the state.

Certification refers to non-governmental agencies that recognize individual qualifications for specific positions. Usually, individuals with a certification or license have to complete certain educational requirements and then sit for a standard examination. This examination is prepared, sponsored and governed by the applicable association.

The American Bar Association doesn’t have a certification program that applies to paralegals. So, no paralegal can say that they are ABA-certified. Putting this on an application raises a red flag and can result in potential employers moving on to the next candidate. However, paralegals can be ABA-approved because the ABA does approve certain educational programs.

No state has a certification exam for paralegal professionals, whether they work from home or in an office. Currently, the lack of certification is a point of contention in the field. There are many proponents of instituting certification processes for paralegals. Legislators, bar associations and paralegal professionals have varying opinions on whether or not certification would improve consistency and produce more highly qualified candidates.

According to US News, there are three main academic credentials that help prospective paralegals obtained positions. These include an associate degree, baccalaureate degree, and postbaccalaureate certificate. It can take two to four years to complete an associate degree online, depending on whether someone attends part-time or full-time. A bachelor’s degree and paralegal studies can take anywhere from four years or longer, also depending on whether the student takes full-time or part-time classes and whether they take classes during the summer.

In order to get a postbaccalaureate certificate, candidates must already have earned a bachelor’s degree. However, the degree does not have to be in a legal field. Students can complete a postbaccalaureate degree within one year. A future work from home paralegal can choose the credential that best meets their interests and career goals.

Keep in mind that many attorneys and firms prefer a baccalaureate degree and that the higher the degree, the higher the pay for virtual paralegal positions.

Should Paralegals Be Licensed and Certified?

Lawyers love to hire paralegals because they can offer lower billing rates and increase profits by employing legal professionals to handle some of the administrative tasks. The type of work expected of paralegals varies from state to state. However, online jobs may transcend state boundaries because many law firms share virtual paralegals for offices across more than one state. Each law firm, corporation or private entity hiring a paralegal will have their own rules and needs.

Lawyers have to meet strict guidelines to provide legal services in each state. This means that they have to have a license and pass the state bar examination. Solo attorneys are likely to expect virtual paralegals they hire to have experience and a deep understanding of the state’s legal code.

There is some contention in the field of proponents and opponents of formalizing standards for the paralegal profession. Any rules adopted would probably apply to both virtual paralegals and those working in an office setting. There are currently no barriers that restrict individuals from acting as paralegal professionals in most states and jurisdictions. For example, paralegals can have a high school education or a graduate degree.

Opponents of widespread state regulation of paralegals say that the field has plenty of voluntary oversight. NALA and other professional associations offer certifications that paralegals earn on a voluntary basis. Earning certifications can assist those looking for work from home paralegal jobs.

Who Will You Work For?

Work from home paralegal opportunities exist across a spectrum of industries. Of course, major employers include law firms and individual lawyers. However, corporations, health care organizations, and nonprofit organizations also hire virtual paralegals.

Paralegals working from home have a different experience than those working in a traditional setting. Although you may perform the same duties, many solo attorneys or law offices prefer paralegals to be on the job in person.  It all depends on what your prospective employer prefers.

Here is what the Bureau of Labor Statistics says. There are nearly 340,000 jobs for legal assistants and paralegals. Legal services hire the vast majority of these individuals. In fact, legal services hire 76% of paralegals. The federal government hires 4% of paralegals in the workforce and local governments hire another 4%. Finance and insurance agencies higher 3% of all virtual and traditional paralegals while state governments hire another 3% of legal assistants.

How do paralegals work from home? Virtual paralegals may work with other paralegals, attorneys, and other legal staff. According to the BLS, most paralegals work in offices. However, there is much more demand for virtual paralegals due to recent work-at-home trends. Legal assistants may have to handle depositions or assist with trials and perform other duties as assigned, whether they work from home or in an office.

Those working from home must have incredible organizational skills and discipline in this fast-paced job. In addition to strictly legal positions, there are also work-from-home nurse paralegal jobs. Often, those who work as nurse paralegals previously worked in the nursing field.

Although some virtual paralegals can find work as direct employees of law firms, most virtual paralegal jobs involve independent contractors who work for different attorneys.

According to the ABA, paralegals can provide numerous services remotely, including notary services. For example, Massachusetts recently joined more than 40 states that now allow remote notarization. Legal recruiters report a shortage of virtual paralegals needed to organize and manage cases. Many states have convoluted rules for court e-filing and other requirements. This is all work that can be completed from home.

Can paralegals work from home in particular niches? Staffing agencies often hire virtual paralegals for part-time contracts and one-day assignments. IT paralegals are also in high demand due to relatively recent changes in privacy and cybersecurity laws. Since many IT professionals already work at home, this could be a great area to get into for those who want to work exclusively from home.

Work from home paralegal jobs for other specializations include mortgage foreclosures, bankruptcies, contracts, and business failures. Specializations in family law, unemployment claims, civil and social justice, and other areas can help virtual paralegals stand out from the competition.

Paralegal Recruiting Agencies

There are many recruiting agencies for work from home paralegal jobs. The downside of using a recruiting agency is that they will charge employers a fee that may decrease the amount that you get paid.

Although there are plenty of work-from-home paralegal opportunities on Indeed, Glassdoor, and other online jobs sites, you may prefer to work with a recruiter who will do the legwork and find jobs for you. If you have friends in the field, word of mouth is always the best way to get your foot in the door. However, you can also find plenty of local and national recruiting agencies such as:

Professional paralegal associations can also help job candidates secure a position. Virtual paralegals with memberships in NALA and other well-known professional associations show that they care enough to stay abreast of changes in the legal industry. Joining local, state and national professional associations can provide contacts and opportunities to network with local law firms and other organizations that hire virtual paralegals.

Not all virtual paralegals want to work online full-time. However, there are many competent paralegals looking to supplement their income with part-time work. Therefore, even if you plan to work in an office, it’s a good idea to understand what opportunities you have for weekend and evening assignments that can help you pay off student loans and save for the future.

There are some well-known companies that hire virtual paralegals:

  • Net Transcripts – For those who prefer transcription work, this company can connect qualified paralegal assistance with law firms and solo attorneys who required their services. The demands for this type of work vary, but most assignments have a three-day turnaround, giving paralegals some flexibility in their work schedule.
  • Worldwide101 –  Although this site specializes in virtual assistants, it often has job opportunities for virtual paralegal assistants. Many of the jobs posted here include benefits and time off, making this site worthwhile for those looking at possible work-from-home opportunities.

Work from home nurse paralegal jobs and other specializations can be lucrative but hard to find. Therefore, if you have special skills and experience, it’s worthwhile to talk to virtual paralegal recruiters.

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations often provide leads for work from home legal assistant jobs. Joining professional organizations can greatly improve employment opportunities for those who are new to the field. For students who have just completed their associates or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies, professional organizations often offer discounted memberships, and this is widely regarded as a smart career move.

Here are the five top professional organizations for virtual paralegals.

  • National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). This nonprofit organization provides continuing education and development opportunities for legal assistance and paralegals. NALA has 18,000 members and publishes information on a variety of topics of interest to those in the paraprofessional field.
  • The American Bar Association (ABA) welcomes a variety of legal professionals including lawyers and paralegals. The American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional organization on the globe. It has 400,000 members in a variety of legal roles. ABA also has specialty groups that are useful for networking purposes.
  • The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) is one of the major professional organizations for paralegals and virtual paralegals. NFPA preceded all other professional associations for legal assistance. The organization consists of 50 member associations with 9,000 total members.
  • The National Paralegal Association (NPA) provides an opportunity for networking with other paralegals working in big corporations, legal offices, and other settings. NPA focuses on continuing education. Students involved in paralegal studies can join the NPA prior to graduation. This can give students an advantage when looking for work and scoping out various paralegal courses online or in traditional classroom environments.
  • It’s also worthwhile to join local professional associations for paralegals. You may even be able to find programs that cater to virtual paralegals. By joining local organizations, paralegals can learn about job opportunities in the legal community where they live. This can be particularly valuable for those who work at home and may not have an opportunity to circulate with lawyers and other legal professionals in person.

Work from home legal assistant jobs provide great opportunities for paralegals who have small children or other obligations that prevent them from working in an office full-time. As more offices move to remote work strategies, there will be an even greater demand for qualified virtual paralegal professionals. It’s worth the time and effort to learn about recruiting agencies and professional organizations that can help you land your first job at a law firm, corporations, healthcare organization, or nonprofit agency.

Related:

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