Freelance Paralegal: Career Planning and Career Goals

Freelance Paralegal: Career Planning and Career Goals
by: Melanie Feltham, B.A., B.Sc.
If you are in the situation where you believe it is time for a change and you have already been in the paralegal role for quite some time, freelance paralegal work may be attractive to you. Freelance paralegals can earn significantly more money, make their own hours, and work from anywhere.
There is a lot of work available for freelance paralegals. Many young lawyers cannot afford a full time paralegal on staff and so are quite happy to pay by the hour for the service when they have an overflowing workload. In addition, freelance paralegals can be called upon in the instance of a staff member shortage due to such things as maternity or sick leave, and vacation relief.
Freelance Paralegal Career Planning- Do Not Jump
It takes time to build a client base so plan to be out of work for at least a year before quitting your full time paralegal job. This means having enough money saved to support yourself and to pay for all the associated business expenses that you will incur as a self-employed individual. 
In addition, be sure you have adequate experience in the paralegal role before you break out on your own. You need to prove that you are a viable resource through your previous work experience. 
Get the Materials for Freelance Paralegal Success- Small Initial Career Goals
As a freelance paralegal, you will have to make sure you keep detailed books, pay your taxes regularly, and take out liability insurance. You will also need samples of your legal work to attach to your resume and a rate sheet that describes the types of services you provide and the hourly rates that are associated with each service. Start your rate sheet low until you have proven yourself in the freelance paralegal field. You may increase your rates as you become more in demand and have built a good name for yourself.
Build Your Network
Many paralegal positions are filled by word of mouth and are never advertised. Take advantage of online networking tools such as LinkedIn that allow you to create an easily accessible online resume. Plan to spend at least two hours a week updating your profiles on these sites. 
Use your existing knowledge of the legal industry and make a list of lawyers you already know to start your client base. Attend conferences, networking events, and local paralegal association meetings. Take copies of your resume and rate sheet with a sample of your work to these events to distribute to potential clients.  
Don not plan to just go after lawyers. There are many other businesses that need freelance paralegal services including banks, insurance companies, state and federal agencies, and realtors. 
Plan to contact at least ten new people every day. The best way to contact potential employers is to call and make an appointment. Be sure to record all transactions and their result so that know who to contact again and who not to contact again. E-mail potential clients that are unavailable for meetings and attach a resume with your rate sheet and a sample of your legal work.  

If you believe it is time for a change and you have already been in the paralegal role for quite some time, freelance paralegal work may be attractive to you. Freelance paralegals can earn significantly more money, make their own hours and work from anywhere.

A young lawyer may not be able to afford a full-time paralegal on staff; such a lawyer would pay by the hour for your services. Freelance paralegals can also help during a staff member shortage, due to such things as maternity, sick leave and vacation.

Do Not Jump

It takes time to build a client base, so plan to be out of work for at least a year before you quit your full-time paralegal job. This means having enough money saved to support yourself and to pay for all the associated business expenses you will incur as a self-employed individual. 

In addition, be sure you have adequate experience in the paralegal role before you break out on your own. You need to prove that you are a viable resource through your previous work experience. 

Set Small Initial Career Goals

As a freelance paralegal, you will have to keep detailed books, pay your taxes regularly and take out liability insurance. You will also need samples of your legal work to attach to your resume and a rate sheet that describes the types of services you provide and the hourly rates you charge for each service. Start your rates low until you have proven yourself in the freelance paralegal field. You may increase your rates as you become more in-demand and have built a good name for yourself.

Build Your Network

Many paralegal positions are filled by word of mouth and are never advertised. Take advantage of online networking tools such as LinkedIn that allow you to create an accessible online resume. Plan to spend at least 2 hours a week updating your profiles on these sites. 

Use your existing knowledge of the legal industry to make a list of lawyers you already know who might start your client base. Attend conferences, networking events and local paralegal association meetings. Take copies of your resume and rate sheet with a sample of your work to these events to distribute to potential clients.  

Do not plan to go after lawyers only. Other businesses, including banks, insurance companies, state and federal agencies, and real estate agencies, also need freelance paralegal services. 

Plan to contact at least 10 new people every day. The best way to contact potential employers is to call and make an appointment. Be sure to record all transactions and their results so you know who to contact again. Email potential clients that are unavailable for meetings and attach a resume with your rate sheet and a sample of your legal work.