While it may be too soon to gauge the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the paralegal profession, paralegal services can assist attorney in delivering efficient and cost-effective legal services to their clients. In many states, paralegals are deemed an essential service provider and continue to work in-office for firms and government agencies that have remained open. In some instances, paralegals and support staff maintain in-office workstations for others who are working remotely. For paralegals who are now working remotely, the types of services needed are continuing to evolve, as discussed in more detail below.
Although many other law offices have closed their physical doors due to COVID-19, legal recruiters report that they are beginning to see new opportunities in states like Georgia and North Carolina, which have begun reopening. Legal recruiters also report that there are expanding opportunities in the virtual job market. Even in this uncertain time, what has become clear is that the scope of paralegal work is changing with the growing need to provide remote legal services.
VIRTUAL PARALEGAL SERVICES
Attorneys and legal recruiters report the need for paralegals to virtually triage, organize, and manage cases, and to know the ever-changing state and federal court e-filing and hearing requirements. For example, several states, like New Jersey, are facing a rush to expand electronic filing options in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the types of services that paralegals can provide remotely, such as notary services, are continuing to expand. For example, on May 15, 2020, Massachusetts joined more than 40 states that now allow remote notarization of documents. Legal offices and staffing agencies want paralegals to fill jobs remotely or live, full-time, part-time, by contract for one day or one assignment. IT paralegal skills are currently in high demand to address needs related to data security and the increased pressures of electronic case management and e-discovery. Even the American Bar Association sees the Virtual or V-Paralegal as the super star of the law firm.
Attorneys look to paralegals to be quick on their remote fingertips to deliver technology solutions accurately and efficiently while attorneys focus on the novel and complex legal issues arising from practicing law during a pandemic. Legal reporters have already noted a shift in the types of litigation being filed in light of the current extreme economic, medical, and financial pressures of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Paralegals are being called on to meet this need in a variety of ways. They are helping file emergency orders, reviewing employment and contract policies, and working alongside attorneys to determine COVID-19 implications on their legal cases according to legal professionals interviewed for this blog.
On the horizon, paralegal positions are expected to emerge in a variety of areas, including: bankruptcy, mortgage foreclosure, business failures, contract and medical compliance issues, unemployment claims, family law matters, housing and eviction, debtor-creditor cases, and criminal, civil and social justice issues. Legal recruiters interviewed for this blog post confirm that litigation is ramping up for when the courts open. They anticipate that medical malpractice, worker’s comp, labor and employment areas will really boom; trust and estates, family law, finance law should also grow.