Future Law

Lawyers: Need short-term help? Try a virtual paralegal.

virtual paralegalOn November 12, NextChapter and Fastcase announced a new virtual paralegal service. For a starting cost of $300 per case, NextChapter – which was acquired by Fastcase in September – will offer short-term virtual paralegal help for clients on its cloud-based bankruptcy case platform.

The news reflects the profession’s move toward more flexible and even virtual workplaces. According to the American Bar Association’s TECHREPORT 2019, over 50% of lawyers telecommute. Enhanced technology and secure, cloud-based practice management software is making this virtual legal practice easier than ever. Add to that lower overhead and more rate flexibility, and many firms are realizing the benefits of rethinking traditional brick-and-mortar structures.

In fact, Amazon recently tapped the full-service, cloud-based firm FisherBroyles to provide fixed-rate services as part of its IP accelerator. This was due in part to FisherBroyles’ ability to deliver fixed-fee rates comparable to those of small IP shops.

Why hire a virtual paralegal

There’s no doubting the value of in-house paralegals in running efficient and effective law firms. In-house paralegals work for just one firm, enabling live interaction with attorneys, a dedicated workflow and secure proprietary channels for communicating confidential client information.

However, not all law firms have the need or budget for an in-house staff. Virtual paralegals can be a good way for small and solo practitioners to access extra help on a freelance basis. They can also help mid-size and large law firms manage costs on specialized cases.

Like their in-house counterparts, virtual paralegals are trained to take on the routine work of a case, like legal research and documentation, freeing up attorneys to spend more time practicing law. Other benefits include:

  • Reduced overhead: Virtual paralegals provide support without the overhead of employee benefits, insurance, tax withholdings and onsite space and equipment.
  • Flexible hours: Remote paralegals are paid only for the hours they’re needed, offering flexibility in times of high and low caseload.
  • Expanded recruitment: Unlike attorneys, paralegals aren’t generally constrained to working only within certain jurisdictions, expanding recruitment opportunities.
  • Specialized skills: Many virtual paralegals are specialized in a certain area of the law, like IP or tax law.

Where to find a virtual paralegal

Virtual paralegals often work through legal or virtual assistant staffing agencies. However, legal tech companies like NextChapter are providing support options on their platforms.

Before hiring a virtual paralegal, check the candidate’s credentials to make sure they hold an accredited degree and have been certified through an association. Since you’ll be sending confidential client information online, ensure that your firm has appropriate security measures in place. In addition, because virtual paralegals often work for more than one firm, establish a clear framework for the time commitment and job expectations. For example, are you looking for someone to file documents or to perform more in-depth legal research?

Have you thought about hiring a virtual paralegal or leveraging other talent deliverables through a virtual workplace? Share your thoughts below.

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