Can I Hire a Paralegal Instead of a Lawyer?

A paralegal may not be a licensed attorney, but it may be a budget-friendly decision to hire a paralegal for certain legal matters but not all scenarios. If you do not want to pay up to $150 per hour through a law firm just to be sent to sit with a paralegal, you may want to skip the middleman and hire an independent paralegal directly. All too often, attorneys who are overbooked and constantly in court will employ paralegals to handle clients until it is time to go to court. The problem with this is that the firm will bill their patrons an hourly rate as if they are sitting with the attorney themselves and not their assistant.

If you want to reduce the cost of legal services, it might be in your best interests to have a paralegal assist you if you have a less complicated matter. Read on, and find out what you need to consider before hiring a well-trained but independent paralegal.

What is an Independent Paralegal?

An independent paralegal, which may also be referred to as a freelance professional, is a non-attorney legal professional who provides different types of legal document services to patrons for a fee without being under the supervision of a licensed attorney. Since the paralegal is not working directly under an attorney, there are some strict limitations as to what they are lawfully allowed to do. They cannot actually practice law but they can help individuals with less complicated matters that do not create the need for legal advice. Providing information about certain legal topics is not against the law, but they must be careful how the patron takes the information that is offered.

What Services Are Independent Paralegals Allowed to Offer the Public?

You must be very careful to hire paralegals for only very basic legal services. You can save a significant amount of money if you need help with your legal document preparation, but there are limitations even with this type of service. A paralegal that is not being supervised cannot prepare pleadings when information that is not common knowledge must be provided.

In order for your need to qualify as something that can be handled by a paralegal, it needs to be a legal matter that you already know what you want and just need an experienced legal professional to help you locate the forms and fill them out properly. The legal assistant may not be able to file the forms for you, but they can direct you on how to file or record the documents to prevent delays. Some of the different types of matters that a paralegal may be able to help with include estate planning, probate filings, powers of attorney, bankruptcy petitions, straightforward uncontested divorce forms.

If you want to hire a paralegal for basic legal matters that do not require advice, be sure that you choose the right professional. According to the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, consumers should choose a professional who has no less than a paralegal certificate when they want someone other than a lawyer to perform legal work. This proves that the professional that you hire really is trained and knowledgeable in law and procedures. The choice to hire a paralegal can be a smart one as long as you do your research.