By Dr. Alison Becker  |  06/01/2023

An independent paralegal, or


Legal entrepreneurism, a relatively novel term in the legal community, represents the spirit of innovation in the delivery of legal services. It refers to individuals who launch their own businesses to actualize their ideas of how legal processes can be enhanced, often through a focused legal specialty. This concept holds particular relevance for independent paralegals aspiring to possibly establish their own ventures in freelance contract paralegal work.

In the evolving landscape of the legal industry, these entrepreneurial paralegals are not only challenging traditional norms but also helping to reshape the delivery of legal services. Their roles often involve providing paralegal services like legal document preparation, researching case law, and conducting preliminary investigations.


The Transformative Role of Freelance Paralegals in Legal Entrepreneurism

Freelance paralegals have the unique advantage of flexibility in their work. They have the freedom to choose their projects, determine their work hours, and even set their rates. Moreover, they are not confined to a specific law firm or legal department, which allows them to serve a diverse range of clients.

The path of legal entrepreneurism also demands a keen understanding of business operations, management skills, and a thorough knowledge of the legal system. This blend of legal acumen and entrepreneurial spirit often enables these professionals to potentially fill gaps in the legal market, providing services that are both necessary and cost-effective.

The rise of legal entrepreneurism signifies a shift towards more accessible and affordable legal services. By bridging the gap between law and business, freelance paralegals are not only carving out a niche for themselves but also helping to contribute to the wider objective of promoting justice and equity in the legal system.


The Emergence of Freelance Paralegals

The emergence of legal entrepreneurism represents an invigorating and demanding addition to the legal world. It's largely influenced by a growing consciousness within the legal community of the access to justice movement.

This movement has led to the expanded capacity of paralegals, in certain regions, to deliver services directly to clients.

These services, which may be provided by individuals often referred to as legal assistants or legal document preparers, are usually offered at a lower cost than that of a licensed attorney. This shift has opened up avenues for paralegals to set up a law firm or venture into freelance services.

Freelance paralegals, who may also be known as independent paralegals are helping to reshape the legal community's landscape. These professionals operate independently, offering services like document preparation directly to clients without the need for attorney supervision. Within the freelance paralegal community, they work under the guidelines provided by their respective paralegal associations.


The Independent Paralegal: Helping to Revolutionize the Legal Profession

Independent paralegals are leaving their mark on the legal field. By establishing or helping a law firm, they provide direct and much-needed services to clients, creating a broader range of affordable legal assistance. This shift towards legal entrepreneurism is not only helping to revolutionize the legal profession, but it's also offering a more accessible and cost-effective avenue for legal services to clients.

While independent paralegals do not have the authority to practice law or represent clients like an attorney, they concentrate on specific tasks within their purview. These tasks often involve legal document preparation or specialized duties such as formulating bankruptcy petitions.

This focused legal specialty renders them invaluable in various work environments including law firms within larger organizations, and governmental bodies. Their services are not only essential but also help streamline operations within these diverse workplaces.


Expanding Opportunities: Legal Entrepreneurism for More than Just Paralegals

Legal entrepreneurism is not confined to paralegals; it also encompasses individuals from diverse fields such as communications, marketing and technology. For instance, a software designer with an innovative idea for a legal software program may possibly benefit from gaining an understanding of how law firms operate.

A clear understanding of a paralegal's job description, including the nature of their services contract, the breadth of paralegal services they provide, and the governmental organizations they may interact with, might potentially help the designer to build more effective tools.

However, it's crucial for these professionals to be aware of the boundaries of their roles, such as the unauthorized practice of law, which is typically restricted to licensed attorneys. Even as paralegals identified with legal entrepreneurism diversify their roles and extend their services, they must remain within the legal and ethical parameters of their profession.

In this way, legal entrepreneurism often opens up new avenues for individuals from various professional backgrounds to contribute to the legal field, often leading to possible increased efficiency, innovation, and accessibility in legal services.

The future of legal entrepreneurism holds potential for experienced paralegals, contract paralegals, and the option for a person to become a virtual paralegal. As more paralegals work towards their freelance business, the legal field can expect a surge in innovative services and models - which independent paralegals provide.


The Challenges and Advantages of Being a Freelance Paralegal

However, this path also comes with its share of challenges. Legal entrepreneurism involves managing a business, which means independent paralegals must understand business operations. This often extends to practical matters like securing their own health insurance and maintaining an office space.

Yet, many freelance paralegals find that the benefits outweigh the challenges. Freelance paralegals often work in diverse environments, taking on a variety of legal matters. This diversity of work often helps to keep them engaged and possibly build a wide range of expertise.

In addition, they have the flexibility to choose their projects, set their rates, and determine their work hours. Freelance paralegals may also have the opportunity to work remotely as virtual paralegals.


Certification and Training for Freelance Paralegals

To meet the demands of this evolving field, many paralegals are choosing to further their education. Earning an associate degree related to the paralegal field, or a bachelor's or master's degree - or perhaps a graduate certificate - often helps to provide a freelance paralegal with a competitive edge.

Earning specialty certification is also often beneficial. For example, a freelance paralegal may wish to earn specialty certification from a national association like the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA).


The Legal Community and Freelance Paralegals

The legal community has recognized the value that independent paralegals bring to the table. Law firms and legal departments often outsource paralegal work to freelance paralegals, especially when dealing with large case loads or specialized legal document services.

Freelance paralegals provide a valuable service, filling a gap in the market by offering affordable and accessible legal document preparation services.

This model often allows law firms to manage their costs more efficiently. Instead of maintaining a full-time staff of paralegals, firms can assign their freelance paralegals work to work on a contract basis.

This approach often reduces overheads related to expense accounts, vacation pay, and even the provision of a company cell phone.


The Exciting Future of Legal Entrepreneurism

Legal entrepreneurism, with its focus on freelance paralegals, is transforming the legal field. The rise of independent paralegals is creating more efficient and accessible services, leading to a more equitable justice system.

As more paralegals pursue their freelancing career, the legal community will likely continue to benefit from this change.

Whether they are interviewing witnesses, preparing documents for trial preparation or providing legal document preparation services, the role of the paralegal is becoming increasingly pivotal to the operations of a law office.

Thus, legal entrepreneurism, with its emphasis on the role of the freelance independent paralegal, is not only a fascinating addition to the legal field but also a potential pathway to a more accessible and efficient legal system.


American Public University's Bachelor's Degree in Legal Studies

American Public University (APU) offers a Bachelor's Degree in Legal Bachelor's Degree in Legal StudiesStudies. This comprehensive degree program to equip students with a profound understanding of the United States legal system.

This program's curriculum provides a rigorous exploration of legal principles, ethical considerations, case law, and various facets of law that underpin the operation of legal institutions.

Recognizing the potential and challenges of legal entrepreneurism, the University recently introduced a concentration in legal entrepreneurism as part of this undergraduate degree program.

This concentration incorporates some business courses, designed to aid students seeking more entrepreneurial and business knowledge.

Students who opt for the legal entrepreneurism concentration are often uniquely poised to develop more efficient, ethical business models to potentially close the "justice gap" and fix breakdowns that often occur within the nation's court systems. The curriculum includes entrepreneurial business management as well as various legal topics.


Flexible and Asynchronous Coursework Schedule

One of the significant advantages of APU's program is its flexible, asynchronous class schedule. This structure recognizes the diverse needs of its students, many of whom balance their studies with personal and professional commitments.

The asynchronous class schedule allows students to access coursework and engage with learning materials at their convenience, enabling them to learn at their own pace and on their own time.

Another key feature of this degree program at APU is its affordable tuition. APU is committed to providing a high-quality education that is financially accessible.

APU boasts a cadre of knowledgeable faculty members who bring a wealth of experience and expertise to their teaching. The faculty comprises seasoned professionals from various legal backgrounds, who enrich the learning experience with real-world insights and practical examples.

Their commitment to student success is demonstrated in their engaging teaching methods, responsive mentorship, and dedication to the provision of a supportive learning environment.


About the Author
Dr. Alison Becker

Dr. Alison Becker has practiced governmental law for more than 25 years as well as provided various kinds of legal instruction and training. She earned a B.A. and a J.D. from Northern Kentucky University prior to earning an Ed. D. from Northcentral University, with special emphasis on legal e-learning

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