Paralegals Charting New Pathways

The paralegal profession began nearly 50 years ago to assist attorneys with their growing caseloads, and also made access to legal assistance more available to those who might not be able to afford a lawyer. The paralegal profession was officially recognized by the American Bar Association in 1968.
Today, more than two-thirds of all U.S. attorneys use the services of paralegals and that number is increasing.

As of 2007, about 1,000 schools in the U.S. had paralegal programs, with more on the way. In 2012 there were approximately 277,000 paralegal jobs, and the job outlook for the next decade (2012-2022) was projected for a 17% increase (faster than average). Clearly, this is a flourishing career choice.

As the profession continues to develop, some paralegals are charting new pathways to success. Jamie Collins founded The Paralegal Society with the goals of educating, encouraging, and inspiring paralegals across the U.S. She is also a Guest Blogger on The Estrin Report, the only paralegal blog on the website Vicki Voisin has a podcast called The Paralegal Voice on Legal Talk Network, in which she discusses the current trends in the field and issues that directly affect paralegals and legal assistants. Jeannie S. Johnston, founder and CEO of Paralegal Gateway, Inc., recognized the need for an online source of information, products and services to help paralegals on a daily basis and so created one. Perhaps the most well-known paralegal is Erin Brokovich, whose story of her legal work in a case against PG&E in 1993 was the subject of a film starring Julia Roberts.

Now the field is evolving even more with the emergence of Independent Paralegals, a movement that began in the 90’s.  An independent paralegal is a non-attorney who provides legal document preparation services to the public, and may be referred to as a legal document preparer or forms practitioner. Independent paralegals help their clients save money on legal document preparation when they already know what they want and simply need someone experienced with the Courts and filing pleadings to help them locate the correct forms, fill them out properly, and follow the right procedure for filing or recording the documents. Independent paralegals may prepare bankruptcy petitions, uncontested divorce forms, powers of attorney, deeds, or estate planning and probate documents.
Because an independent paralegal does not work under the supervision of an attorney, there are limitations on what services he or she is allowed to provide. Independent paralegals need to be very careful to avoid practicing law by preparing pleadings under the supervision of their clients.  Read more:

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Do you feel inspired to follow in the footsteps of these trailblazers and become an Independent Paralegal? If you are self-motivated, organized, business-minded, persistent, and have the necessary legal knowledge, this could be a great career for you. Owning your own business can be exciting and fulfilling, but you must be aware of certain prequisites that are needed after you obtain your paralegal certification and before you open for business.

You will need a strong business and financial plan prepared before you venture out. It’s also necessary to know what licenses are required in your city, county, and state and to know what type(s) of insurance you will need. A well-thought-out marketing plan is also critical to your business success.

All of this can be a little overwhelming for someone who has never been a business owner before. But the good news is, you don’t have to do it alone! Divorce With Dignity (DWD) provides you all the support you need in their Network of legal professionals, including Independent Paralegals, who own their own divorce legal services business as DWD providers. The great advantage to this is all the training you get in how to set up and run your business as an independent paralegal, which includes help with your business/financial plan, your marketing plan and training on how to service your clients as a non-attorney. There’s ongoing training and support as well, so you always have guidance to keep you on the path to success. Why not take this opportunity to chart your own new pathway to a divorce legal services career as an Independent Paralegal and a Divorce With Dignity affiliate owner? Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

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