More often than ever before, people are using paralegals to assist in their less
complicated matters. Paralegals can offer many benefits, such as price.
Technically, a 'paralegal' is a trained legal assistant supervised by an
attorney. A 'paralegal' who works on their own is called an 'independent
paralegal' because they are not supervised by a lawyer.
Statistics show in some states about 75% of divorces and 60% of bankruptcies are
done without lawyers. Many of these do-it-yourselfers have chosen independent
What can an independent paralegal do for you? A paralegal is more than a
clerical person. S/he is familiar with local forms, local rules, and has
knowledge about local processes.
An independent paralegal can NOT give you legal advice, represent you in court,
or choose your forms for you. Many paralegals also do not file your forms at the
court for you or "prepare" your paperwork. Paralegals may avoid these activities
in order to protect themselves from being charged with the crime "unauthorized
practice of law" (UPL). Instead the paralegal may provide information, perform
typing, proofreading, and give other assistance.
In some states, independent paralegals can become licensed and registered. This
shows, once again, the popularity of their services. For example, in California,
independent paralegals 1 or 'Legal Document Assistants' must be
registered with the county and possess a bond.
"Paralegal" Defined by the National Federation of
Paralegal Associations: Choose a paralegal who has at least a 'Paralegal
Certificate' which proves she/he is trained. Ask if the paralegal's training
program was ABA-approved. The most reputable paralegal training courses are
approved by the American Bar Association.
"As defined by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, a Paralegal is
a person, qualified through education, training or work experience to perform
substantive legal work that requires knowledge of legal concepts and is
customarily, but not exclusively, performed by a lawyer. This person may be
retained or employed by a lawyer, law office, governmental agency or other
entity or may be authorized by administrative, statutory or court authority to
perform this work. Substantive shall mean work requiring recognition,
evaluation, organization, analysis, and communication of relevant facts and
legal concepts. "
An independent paralegal is not employed by a law firm or supervised by an
attorney. An independent paralegal does not give â€˜legal advice'