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    Post: Independent Paralegal Services for Lawyers

    Posted by Liz Miller, Independent Paralegal on 7/02/05

    How Can Contract Paralegal Services Benefit Your Practice?

    A freelance or contract paralegal is one that is
    self-employed and available to take on short term, long
    term, per diem or per case projects with no committments
    beyond any commissioned assignment. These services can
    range from assisting with litigation preparation, covering
    employee absences, or coming to an attorneys’ office to pick
    up files or overflow work and are generally much less
    expensive, and more reliable than other sources of
    temporary help.
    I read an article recently in which a freelance paralegal
    was quoted describing the independent contract paralegal
    perfectly. She said, “those of us who freelance have
    usually had years of experience within the legal profession
    and understand there is far more to being a legal secretary
    than answering phones and that paralegals are much more
    capable (and much more valuable) than reviewing files and
    documents. We did not become freelancers on a wing and a
    prayer. We have to do what a service business does - we
    present ourselves with credibility and experience and all we
    have to offer is our time and our knowledge. We also know
    the limits of our skills and we know what the job really
    entails.” (author unknown)
    I have been a paralegal for almost 26 years, and have spent
    the better part of the last 16 years working as an
    independent paralegal trying to make attorneys understand
    how an independent contractor, be it a paralegal, legal
    secretary or some other support staff person, can benefit
    their practice. One day I had the opportunity to talk to a
    defense attorney who shared with me how he convinced his
    partners of the financial benefits of employing a contract
    paralegal. I realized from talking to him that most
    attorneys do not see the big picture. I’d like to share it
    with you.
    We all know that the joke about defense work is that they
    get paid by the pound, but, of course, someone has to
    generate the work. So now you have a full-time salaried
    paralegal, and there is a lull in the work. Non- party
    subpoenas are out, discovery hasn’t come in, you cannot get
    anything scheduled and there is little to no work to bill.
    The paralegal is filing or doing clerical work because there
    is nothing else to do at the moment. This is where the
    cost-effectiveness of an independent contractor paralegal or
    any support staff member becomes invaluable. If you retain
    the services of a contract paralegal to work defense (or
    any) files, and that paralegal is only getting paid when
    billable work is generated, the firm is in a win/win
    situation. Let’s suppose the firm is billing their client
    $75 an hour for paralegal time, and paying the paralegal
    $25/hour. If the paralegal bills 40 hours a week, she
    earns $1,000 and the law firm earns $3000. Add into the
    equation the flexibility of not having to pay the contract
    paralegal unless she is billing time, no overhead, no
    health benefits, vacation time, sick time, or taxes to pay -
    this turns into a profitable way for the law firm to
    outsource their work and increase the firm’s revenues
    without interrupting the continuity of the work or the
    paralegal’s familiarity with your files.
    The equation works a little differently in other areas of
    law, but it can still be a financial benefit for the firm.
    If you establish an ongoing rapport with a contractor who
    knows and agrees up front that they will be employed only
    when there is work, and you do not have to provide a desk,
    computer, telephone or copier for her to work, you can still
    have office continuity and not expend any revenues for time
    when no revenues are being generated for the firm by that
    paralegal’s work. In the case of the plaintiff’s practice,
    files that are sitting in a cabinet that need settlement
    demands or medical malpractice notices of intent or
    complaints prepared are not generating revenues for the firm
    either. If the staff is too busy which can happen since
    plaintiff’s offices can be extremely busy due to extensive
    and sometimes daily client contact, contracting a paralegal
    to prepare these documents keeps the cases moving and
    enables you to generate fees through settlements.
    Contracting that work to a paralegal who can pick up a file
    and write a settlement demand for a nominal fee exclusive of
    costs (copying charges), is both cost and time efficient for
    the firm. Although in plaintiff’s cases the fees for a
    contract paralegal cannot be billed to the client as an
    expense, it is worth the investment of sometimes as little
    as $125 plus costs to get a case into demand and get it
    settled. Again, all you are paying for is work that is
    being done - with no added overhead expenses. Running a law
    firm is expensive with salaries, and the cost of benefits,
    overhead, etc. Utilizing contractors can help you to
    maximize your productivity and still keep your operating
    expenses under control.

    Liz Miller
    Independent Paralegal
    26 years experience as a paralegal specializing in personal
    injury, med mal, nursing home, tort litigation, bankruptcy,
    family law, sinkhole and toxic tort litigation, trial work,
    legal research and brief writing

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