After 25 years as a paralegal for reputable law firms and nonprofit corporations, I felt confident in my skills, experience and knowledge to start my freelance paralegal business. I also had financial security as a paralegal studies professor at The George Washington University (GWU) and the University of San Diego School of Law. These teaching opportunities came after earning my master’s degree in paralegal studies at GWU.
Currently, while I do much of the traditional work I did previously, every workday is different. I draft correspondence, answer emails, conduct research, and generate invoices. However, the responsibilities of being a freelance-independent paralegal and maintaining a successful business are enormous and varied. Many work weeks include Saturdays and Sundays. It is crucial to always keep your ideal client and customers at top of mind. In addition to working with clients in real estate and trademark areas of law, I spend a great deal of time copywriting and editing for attorneys and other professionals. In addition, as a solopreneur, I offer legal writing courses to the paralegal community under the company name The Paralegal Writer™.
My business plan is always in the background, directing my goals each quarter. My marketing and advertising plans must be visited frequently to adjust for work opportunities and other professional collaborations. As a freelance-independent paralegal, I have the opportunity to take on as little or as much work as I want or need to reach my short-term and long-term goals. I have the flexibility to set my own work hours and accept fewer jobs when I want free time.
I keep in constant contact with several coaches who assist me with creating advertisements, designing courses and graphics, and maintaining my website at https://theparalegalwriter.com. It is critical to schedule regular appointments with an accountant as well to manage capital and prepare for tax liabilities. While the pandemic restrictions over the past year have increased the time spent in virtual meetings, the component of “peace and quiet” still prevails when working in my home office.
Networking and participating in national and local paralegal associations provides new ideas, socialization, and credibility with my peers. These organizations also offer opportunities to attend continuing legal education (CLE) events to maintain my paralegal certification. I also volunteer as a member of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) Continuing Education Council and serve on their Paralegal Educators/School Relations Committee. Giving back to the paralegal community that has greatly supported me over the years is very important, and I enjoy the opportunity to offer leadership and write articles for publication.
Of course, there are pros and cons to being a freelance-independent paralegal. Perhaps the biggest advantage is working from home, without the cost of a commute or the expense of maintaining a professional dress code. I have extra hours in my mornings and late afternoons without a commute. As mentioned, work hours are flexible (although can be demanding based on the amount of work to be completed for meeting deadlines). As long as deadlines are met, I can work late at night or early in the morning. The variety of work is also a benefit of freelancing. Accepting jobs in different areas of law, designing a webinar for a law firm or paralegal association, or doing extensive legal research creates diversity rather than concentrating on a single area of law.
However, the disadvantages must also be addressed. As a freelance-independent paralegal, I do not have paid health insurance, vacation, sick leave, or retirement. If you wake up feeling sick, you are not getting paid. I am responsible for self-employment taxes. Perhaps the most challenging disadvantage is the ongoing competition. The pandemic created greater opportunities for virtual paralegals as law firms sought to reduce overhead costs. At the same time, many paralegals are wanting to spend more time with their family and be in control of their time, which increases the competition. As a successful freelance-independent paralegal, I must be responsive to my clients, responsible for my business decisions, and respectful of legal deadlines. Let’s not forget, virtual paralegals must also do the secretarial and administrative “stuff” that is often delegated to someone else when working in a law firm.
In writing this summary of what my day as a virtual paralegal looks like, I realized that truly no day is the same. There are scheduled tasks that must be attended to on a daily basis, but the overall work week depends on current or upcoming projects. I use Trello to organize my projects and a digital calendar to time-block my schedule.
Daily Must-Do Tasks include responding to emails, editing documents, writing content, and checking deadlines. Most days there is an educational webinar to attend. Check-in meetings with coaches and posting on social media are completed on an almost-daily basis. There are monthly obligations to complete accounting forms, attend association meetings, and review work accomplishments versus prospective goals.
Some weeks, my focus is solely on copywriting and editing documents to meet legal deadlines for a client. Other weeks, my focus is grading student papers, during which time I take on fewer outside jobs. There is an occasional week when all hours are spent on creating PowerPoint slides and generating content for professional presentations.
In summary, I love being a freelance-independent paralegal. The work is hard. The flexibility is beyond perfect.