One of the questions that I've been asked the most is, "What is the difference between an independent paralegal and a freelance paralegal?"
The major difference between the two, and the most important too, is the capacity in which they work. I consider myself a freelance paralegal, because a majority of, and I prefer it this way - my work is done from my own office. There are no long-term commitments, giving me ample time for my family, a variety of different projects to work on and an opportunity to pursue other interests without any restraints. An added bonus is that all of my clients are attorneys or legal administrators.
By definition, an independent paralegal mostly prepare forms and documents for the general public without any attorney supervision. In Michigan, this practice is very risky, because even though this work is considered clerical in nature, you come very close to engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. A simple misstep such as supplying a client with a new form because there was an error on their original form, when in fact, they inadvertently obtained the wrong form in the first place, can be viewed as providing legal advice to the client and that means serious complications for the paralegal. Now, they are facing possible unauthorized practice of law charges all because they supplied a client with a legal form or document.
The road to not engage in the unauthorized practice of law is a very thin line and not so easy to follow.
The key to not crossing this line is to simply fill in court forms and documents provided and instructed by the client. Independent paralegals should not provide clients with any pre-packaged court forms or documents. They are to only supply or fill-in the information specifically given by the client, nothing more-nothing less. Otherwise, they run the risk of being viewed as providing legal advice and engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.
Whereas, a freelancer or contract paralegal, such as myself, do not provide services to the general public, nor are we an employee of a law firm, governmental entity or legal corporation. Instead we are retained on an as-needed basis, and our work is only performed under the strict instruction and direction of a licensed attorney.
"i diligunt legem"
"i diligunt legem" is the Latin phrase for "I Love the Law." This blog is created out of my love for the law and my desire to give back to my community.