Some Things Aren’t True, Even on the Internet

February 23, 2015

Please save me from idiots who claim to provide accurate information about paralegal careers, whether they be traditional, freelance, independent, and/or virtual.

This morning I received a comment for moderation. This one was linked to Note to Self: Just Let it Go to Voice Mail“:

new comment 2-23-15

On its face, the comment is complimentary – ignoring, of course, the fake email address, the author’s inability to correctly type/spell “a lot”, and ending a sentence with a preposition. (Yes, I know, we all do it; it’s something I strive to avoid.) BTW, how exactly does one ‘wonder a question’?

Still, I was intrigued and clicked on the link. Could it be that the author had assembled helpful, shareable information?

In a word, no.

The site – one that shares no contact, about, or other site related background information – purports to educate the reader about careers in 2015. I can’t speak to any other careers they might be ‘splaining, but they sure as hell didn’t get ‘paralegal’ right.

To clarify, they got the basics mostly right, then went horribly off track.

I’m not comfortable with ‘paralegals as legal agents’, but that is the least of my concerns. The site attempts to define freelance, independent, and virtual paralegals and their duties. They got enough of it right to be incredibly problematic. Yes, freelancers are business owners and they market their services (preferred over the phrase ‘marketing themselves’) – to law firms; however, it would be more correct to say that they (we) market our services to attorneys.  The term ‘law firm’ feels a bit restrictive.

The author then ‘defines’ independent paralegals as follows:

horribly wrong info

On the next page, Paralegal Duties, the author enters the twilight zone:

horribly wrong info 2

NO! NO! NO! and HELL NO!

Every word in that definition is wrong! Independents, a term that includes freelancers and virtuals, do not:

  • act as or form law firms;
  • provide services directly to clients (okay, we provide services to our attorney clients);
  • represent clients in court, and
  • they (we) N E V E R provide advice

unless under very specific guidelines in a limited number of jurisdictions or in certain administrative fora.

Those descriptions scream of UPL.

Allow me to clarify, a legitimate independent, freelance, virtual paralegal ONLY works for, and under the direct supervision of, an attorney and never gives advice. (see disclaimer above for possible exceptions)

How difficult is it to get it right? As Mulder would say, ‘the truth is out there’. I know. I have written several articles, blog posts, and comments on the topic, including “To Boldly Go . . . Outsourcing to Virtual Paralegals” (GPSolo Magazine) and “Two Words: Virtual Paralegal” (Paralegal Today).


3 Responses to “Some Things Aren’t True, Even on the Internet”

  1. Bob

    The paragraphs seem to describe Ontario “paralegals.” These legal professionals can practice law within the confines of their licenses. That said, I seriously doubt the writer is aware of Ontario paralegals. Moreover, terming these licensed legal practitioners as paralegals and comparing them to stateside paralegals utterly confuses the issue.

    Further, when I was working in my second firm any number of times incoming callers would ask for a “paralegal.” Invariably these callers wanted some kind of legal advice. I would explain I am not an attorney licensed to practice law and cannot provide legal advice, but they always persisted, saying “No. I only want to talk to you.” Aside from not understanding the role, these callers obviously were trying to get something for nothing.

    It remains disappointing to have to suffer the continued ignorance about paralegals.

  2. Bob

    Just to be clear I am referring to the writer of the paragraphs Pamela quoted. Certainly not Pamela!!

  3. Pamela J Starr

    Thank you Bob! I thought, maybe, just maybe, they meant non-US paralegals. Even if they had,the article is rank with misinformation.

    There’s nothing like a plate of stupid to go along with your morning coffee.