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Downsides of Virtual Paralegal Services & Why You Should Utilize Freelance Lawyers Instead

By Kristin Tyler
October 29, 2020

Whenever we tell attorneys that they can and should delegate paralegal-type work to freelance lawyers instead of virtual paralegals, they’re surprised that this is even a possibility. If given the choice, it seems like a no brainer to get the critical eye and expertise of a lawyer (especially for more complex paralegal tasks) but we usually get these questions:

  1. Is it really possible to hire a talented freelance lawyer for the same price as a virtual paralegal?

  2. Are there really freelance lawyers willing to do tasks that would otherwise be delegated to a virtual paralegal?

While this may come as a surprise, the answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes!

In the next few sections, we’ll go through specific scenarios where it makes the most sense to hire freelance lawyers instead of virtual paralegals. Following that, we’ll discuss why some freelance lawyers intentionally choose to take on paralegal type work, and how you can work with them to get that work done at a similar cost to a virtual paralegal. 

Note: Join thousands of attorneys who use us to effectively delegate legal work and get the help they need, when they need it most. LAWCLERK is the only nationwide, ethically compliant freelance lawyer marketplace, with the largest available talent pool of freelance lawyers. Learn more here and sign up for a free account.

 

When Does It Make Sense to Hire a Freelance Lawyer to Take on Paralegal Type Work?

99% of the time, if you’re going to delegate work to a virtual paralegal, whether it be a simple or complex project, you might as well hire a freelance lawyer who has far more expertise and has been trained — in both law school and professional roles — to think in a more critical way. Not only can they complete the project with greater efficiency and quality, but they’ll usually charge a similar amount as a virtual paralegal. 

With that being said, there’s certain paralegal type work that is so simple that it doesn’t truly make a difference who takes it on. So it becomes most advantageous to hire freelance lawyers for paralegal type work that is more complex and requires greater critical thought, and in this section, we’ll touch on a few of those examples. 

 

Scenario #1: Litigation Work (i.e. Drafting Answers to Complaints) 

Let’s say you run a litigation practice, and your client has just been served with a complaint. You need someone to review it, draft the answer, and include pertinent affirmative defenses that would go into the allegations in the complaint. 

Traditionally, most law firms would delegate this type of work to a paralegal who would draft the answer and include likely objections that an attorney would then review and edit. 

Instead, if you delegate this type of work to a freelance lawyer who is even more familiar with the relevant objections that should go into that answer, it pushes that work further down the road of being completed and ready to file off to court. For example, an attorney drafting the answer to a complaint can catch details like problems with the statute of limitations, proper venue, and standing.

As we’ve touched on, this is a major advantage to hiring attorneys, since they can pay freelance lawyers the same amount as a virtual paralegal, but the quality of work is higher (and likely gets done faster). 

 

Scenario #2: Transactional Work (i.e. Lease Agreements)  

Let’s say you’re a busy attorney who runs a small firm that focuses on real estate work. You’ve got a number of clients that own commercial properties. And from time to time, when a client is leasing out property to new tenants, they need customized lease agreements. In a traditional brick and mortar law firm setting, a lot of this drafting work may initially be delegated to an in-house (or virtual) paralegal. 

In contrast, a better approach to processing that workflow is to delegate it to a freelance lawyer, and have them go through and edit the document according to the specifications of the deal (which could involve intricate complexities that a lawyer is more likely to understand than a paralegal).  

 

Scenario #3: Substantive Legal Work 

We hear stories of lawyers who are having their paralegals draft substantive motions with complex legal arguments. That may work for some cases and some practices. But given the chance, delegating that type of deep, substantive work to a freelance lawyer (who has perhaps practiced in that area for years, if not decades) is a no brainer. The lawyer is almost guaranteed to do a much stronger job of drafting that document than a paralegal.

 

Scenario #4: Any Complex Paralegal Type Work You Can Think Of!

The examples we touched on above are just the tip of the iceberg, and the scenarios where it makes the most sense to hire a freelance lawyer instead of a virtual paralegal vary by practice area. But as we’ve mentioned, the one commonality is that freelance lawyers come in most handy for more complex paralegal type work, rather than basic tasks that could be done equally well by a paralegal. 

 

Common Misperception: Freelance Lawyers Aren’t Willing to Take on Paralegal Type Work

What most lawyers who work in traditional 9 - 5 law firm settings don’t realize is the massive market of freelance lawyers that exists nationwide. Why? Because the legal profession, by its very nature, produces very talented lawyers who choose not to work in traditional full time roles at a law firm, which typically come with long hours and poor work-life well-being. 

As a result, there are many talented, experienced lawyers who: 

  • Chose to start a family and thus left the grind of a firm, but are still available for freelance legal work.

  • Have a day job (i.e. work for a non-profit or a government agency) and are choosing to earn extra income on the side through freelance work. 

  • And a myriad of other life circumstances where a freelance lawyer would happily take on work that might otherwise go to a paralegal.

As we mentioned, another reason for this misperception is that attorneys think a freelance lawyer is going to be 10X the price of a virtual paralegal. However, that’s not always true, and the attorneys who catch on to this and use our marketplace gain a major competitive advantage, since they get back higher quality work, faster, and at a similar cost to a virtual paralegal. And the better the work, the less time attorneys have to spend reviewing and editing it.  

 

Additional Advantages of Delegating to Freelance Lawyers: Profitability and Scalability

We’ve helped thousands of hiring attorneys nationwide delegate all types of legal projects. As we’ve written about extensively before, beyond delegating paralegal type work, regularly using talented freelance lawyers as a heavy part of your law firm staffing strategy has important business advantages, namely: 

Running a more profitable and nimble firm where your in-house staff is kept to a number that can be utilized at 100% capacity, additional work can be handed off to incredibly talented freelance lawyers, and overhead expenses are kept to a minimum.

In fact, this was the very basis for building LAWCLERK, as we detail in our founding story and this article about improving law firm profitability.

 

Interested in Trying Out LAWCLERK?

You can choose from over 2,900 talented attorneys throughout the U.S. for your next small or large project. Registering for an account is simple. There are no signup fees and no monthly fees. 

After you sign up, a dedicated LAWCLERK advisor will reach out to schedule an onboarding call. They’ll help you create the best strategy for your firm (at no cost), and show you how other firms like yours are getting more work done faster and more profitably by delegating work to freelance lawyers.

Note: For more information on how LAWCLERK works, see our FAQ page.

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