Major Trends Threatening Your Career As A Paralegal

Although the demand for paralegal services is expected to continue growing over the next five years, it pays to keep informed about the changes taking places in the legal industry and how they might impact your job prospects.

Our list of 9 threats to the paralegal industry distills the changes you need to be most aware of.

Technology

By some estimates, up to 25% of a lawyer’s time is automatable. Most of this time is spent completing tasks of the administrative variety, or completing forms or submitting documents. This is especially bad news for paralegals and legal assistants, whose jobs often consist of managing the law office and handling administrative tasks.

Although full-scale automation will be a long time coming, in order to remain competitive in the future paralegals will need to acquire skills in new areas such as technology management.

Outsourcing

In the interest of cutting costs and increasing efficiency, many law firms are looking to domestic or overseas contractors to complete legal work. This also allows firms to access expertise in areas that their team lacks – for example coding, and draw on additional support in busy periods.

Although the demand for paralegal services is increasing in general, it is possible that some of this will be accounted for through offshoring.

E-Discovery

Ever since electronically stored information such as emails, messages and calendars have been made discoverable for litigation in 2006, law firms have been seeking out paralegals and support staff that can manage technology and e-discovery systems in addition to paper discovery.

Paralegals who have not adapted to this may find that their skills are no longer as valuable, especially in litigation.

Budget Conscious Law Firms

The changing nature of work has been facilitated by apps and websites that offer the services of educated, accredited professionals on a freelance or contract basis.

Now, rather than take on a paralegal full-time or even part-time, cost-conscious firms can seek the services of a freelance paralegal when necessary. There are still many roles for traditional paralegals, but job security may become increasingly difficult to come by.

Changing Nature Of The Legal Market

As general legal services are outsourced or automated, the demand for expertise in niche fields of law will increase. This trend is already visible, and more firms are moving away from a general-practice structure towards building and promoting their specialization.

Law firms in the future will be looking to employ paralegals that can add value to the firm through their experience in and specialized knowledge of the firm’s area of expertise.

Virtual Law Firms

Virtual law firms allow lawyers to leave the traditional structure of a law firm and offer their services through a firm that exists on the Internet alone. Clients can now access legal services on a freelance style platform that lets lawyers submit proposals and bid for the best price, or simply outsource legal work to a lawyer who works remotely.

These virtual law firms have little need for paralegals that work in an office, and paralegals that decide to freelance their services may find that they are competing with qualified lawyers to complete similar work.

Cyber Security

Law firms that make use of the Internet in their operations put the security of their client’s information at risk. Given the highly sensitive nature of this information, it is vulnerable to hacking and misuse.

Consequently, security risk management is imperative for all law practices. Paralegals who are not trained in secure information management – such as how to encrypt an email – pose a real risk to the firm and its clients.

Social Networking

Social media is changing the way that law firms and legal professionals recruit, find work, connect with clients and build their professional profiles.

Savvy technology users employ social networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to expand their networks and manage their careers. In the future, paralegals that are unable to utilize these platforms may find it increasingly difficult to build up a professional reputation and maintain contacts in the field.

New Billing Models

Tech-savvy clients have the tools at hand to put pressure on law firms and register their dissatisfaction with the traditional billable hours structure of charging clients.

This is forcing law firms to adopt new models for billing their time, including making the price for particular tasks more predictable and using Customer Relationship Management software to manage the expectations of their clients.

These changes in client-lawyer relationship could lead to some law firms reconsidering the need to take on full-time paralegals.

What do you think of this list?

Are you noticing the impact of these changes in your own workplace?

How do you think paralegals can overcome these threats?

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9 Threats To Paralegals & The Paralegal Industry

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