Do you love conducting research on a variety of topics? Are you interested in legal matters? Can you accurately record data and pay attention to all the little details? If you answered yes to these questions, you might make a great paralegal.
Though paralegals traditionally work in law offices, many companies are beginning to hire paralegals for at-home positions. Freelance paralegals are also becoming more common. If you’re interested in becoming an at-home paralegal, here’s everything you need to know about finding and landing one of these positions.
What Is a Paralegal?
A paralegal is someone who is trained in legal matters, and works in the legal field, but is not actually a lawyer. Commonly, this position is thought of as a lawyer’s assistant. As a paralegal, you can expect to complete some (or all) of the following tasks:
- Legal Research. Helping lawyers prepare for trials is important.
- Preparing written reports. You will need to take the information you find while researching and synthesize it into written reports or presentations.
- Conducting interviews. In person, over the phone, or written interviews will help you gather the facts you need. You may also take notes while lawyers interview clients or witnesses.
- Drafting and editing legal documents. Put your language skills to use by crafting and proofreading a variety of legal documents.
- Office administration. Data keeping, ordering supplies, answering phone calls, and other basic office tasks are often a part of a paralegal’s duties.
- Communicate with clients. Being able to communicate with clients is an important part of this position. You may need to track down paperwork or remind clients to sign in a certain spot on the form. Scheduling appointments, communicating progress, and handling documents for shareholders are also potential tasks.
The specific tasks for your position will vary depending on the type of law firm you are working for. If your firm specializes in a particular field of law, you will work on tasks related to that field.
How Much Do At-Home Paralegals Make?
Most paralegal positions pay reasonably well. According to Salary.com, the average annual salary for a traditional paralegal is between $48,362 and $61,752. Salaries in this field are often determined by education level, experience, and location.
If you’re planning on working as a freelance paralegal, ZipRecruiter lists the average salary as $56,173, which is right in line with the traditional pay rate. You may find it beneficial to determine your hourly rate, so you know what your bottom line is when negotiating with potential clients.
Whether you are a traditional employee, or a freelance contract position, make sure you communicate salary expectations before you begin. As a contract employee, you will need to pay your own taxes, and likely won’t have any benefits, so always calculate those expenses into your desired pay rate.
Education Requirements for Remote Paralegal Positions
While the specifics of every at-home paralegal may vary, most will have an educational requirement of some kind. Occasionally you may find an entry-level position that will accept candidates with only a high school diploma, but those are rare. Most companies want to hire trained paralegals.
So how do you get that training? You have a couple of options.
The shortest route to becoming a paralegal is to complete an undergraduate certificate course. These are offered at many community colleges or training centers. This course of study typically lasts a year. They provide students with a solid foundation in basic legal studies and prepare them for entry-level paralegal positions.
You can also opt for an associate degree in Paralegal Studies. Though this will take you about two years, it is the path the American Bar Association recommends. Many employers list an associate degree as their minimum requirement. You can typically use the credits you earn in your associate program to continue your education with a bachelor’s degree in the future.
A bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies will be required for many higher paying positions. Typically, this course of study will take four years, and require you to complete an internship, and select a specialization to focus on. This in-depth training will make you a highly desirable candidate.
Other Requirements for Home Paralegal Positions
In addition to educational requirements, companies will be looking for several soft skills for this position. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Ability to pay attention to detail
- Good researcher
- Excellent written and oral communication skills
- Ability to multitask and prioritize
When you work at home as a paralegal, your company will also have a list of requirements for your workspace. Here are some standard ones you can plan on:
- Quiet work environment with a closeable door
- The ability to secure confidential information
- Wired high-speed internet connection (not wireless or satellite)
- A separate phone with a headset
- A newer computer that meets company specs
How Flexible Is At-Home Paralegal Work?
Typically, this position is best for a candidate who has a fairly flexible schedule and is able to work standard hours. You will usually have a set schedule as an at-home paralegal. You will be expected to work during your scheduled hours and may need to work overtime as case dates approach. Some companies will want you to work nights and weekends regularly.
As a freelance paralegal, you will have a little more flexibility. However, you will still be required to get your assigned tasks done by the due date. You don’t want to earn the reputation for not meeting deadlines.
Resume Requirements for At-Home Paralegals
When applying for an at-home paralegal job, be sure to read the job description carefully. You want to mimic language from the posting in your resume. Your goal when preparing your resume is to show why you are the best candidate for the job.
Make sure you highlight your education in the paralegal industry. You also want to document your experience. If you don’t have any paralegal experience yet, think of other positions you’ve held with similar duties.
Have you worked as an office manager or a virtual assistant? Do you have experience doing research or writing professionally? These skills all transfer well to this position, as they show you have experience with many of the required tasks.
Remember that hiring managers don’t spend a ton of time looking at resumes. Most are looking for any reason to disqualify a candidate. Always make sure you proofread your application materials carefully and provide accurate information in a visually appealing manner.
Where to Find Work-from-Home Paralegal Jobs
Many different companies hire at-home paralegals. Some will be looking for temporary, short-term workers to prepare for a specific court case. You may find companies searching for paralegal consultants, who are just on call for when they’re needed. Other companies will be looking for part-time or full-time employees.
A few companies known for hiring work-at-home paralegals:
- Net Transcripts – This company has frequent openings for legal transcriptionists. Though they prefer applicants with prior law enforcement transcription or court reporting, other legal experience may be considered. The site says they have files available Monday-Friday with turnaround times of same-day to five days though most are 3-day turnarounds.
- Worldwide101 – This site specializes in virtual assistance. They occasionally have Executive Paralegal Assistant openings. Starting pay is $20 per hour and includes paid vacation, holidays and parental leave.
- eXp Realty – This company currently has an opening for a Legal Administrative Assistant. An Associate's Degree in Law is required plus 3+ years law firm or in-house legal department experience. This is a full-time position that can be done anywhere in the U.S.
- Equivity – This is another virtual assistant company which means I'd encourage you to check out even more VA companies if you have a paralegal background. At the time of writing this post, they had an opening for a virtual paralegal certified in California. Experience should include litigation paralegals, but additional experience in transactional law, IP, or securities would be a plus. This is a part-time position requiring 15 to 30 hours per week.
You may also want to search FlexJobs to find legitimate at home positions. They vet their job leads for legitimacy and you can restrict your search to those positions which are 100% telelcommute. Indeed and Working Nomads also have remote paralegal positions listed.
If you’re ready to apply for a job, remember to also check out local law offices. Often smaller firms will hire virtual paralegals, especially if you are able to deliver documents to the office or attend in-person briefings on occasion. You might even be able to find something like this on your local boards like Craigslist or even Facebook or NextDoor.
Red Flags for Remote Paralegal Positions
When you’re searching for at home paralegal positions, use common sense and watch for red flags. These include no educational requirements, a significantly higher salary than average, or the promise of earning a lot of money for just a few hours of work. Remember: if the position sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you’re in need of training for this position, make sure the school you’re looking into is legitimate. Many scammers want you to pay a bunch of money for what essentially is a worthless piece of paper.