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The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Successful Freelance Paralegal

Published on: Jun 7, 2024

The legal industry has undergone significant changes in recent years, particularly regarding the role of paralegals. Instead of hiring full-time in-house paralegals, more law firms are opting for freelance ones. Although they may be employed differently, freelance paralegals typically perform the same legal work as their in-house counterparts. This includes conducting legal research, filing court documents, drafting and preparing legal documents, communicating with clients, and assisting attorneys. 

In this article, we will provide you with a deeper understanding of the typical career as a freelance paralegal, their daily responsibilities, the types of clients they work with, and the pricing strategies they use, and introduce you to what you’ll need to know about becoming a freelance paralegal.

To Begin, the Common Role and Responsibilities of a Freelance Paralegal

Freelance paralegals are self-employed professionals who offer legal services to law firms and attorneys on an as-needed basis. They are often known as an independent paralegal, contract paralegal, or independent contractor. These professionals may specialize in a specific area of law and work remotely or on-site. Freelance paralegals usually enjoy a flexible schedule and can work and collaborate with multiple law firms or attorneys simultaneously.

However, while the tasks the freelance paralegal can perform will depend on the job they take, in general, the duties these paralegals are often responsible for include document preparation, legal support, case management, legal research, litigation support, contract services, and family law assistance.

Preparing to Start a Freelance Paralegal Business

Due to the nature of their role, freelance paralegals can work for a variety of clients and organizations. For instance, these paralegals are often retained by corporations in their legal departments, government agencies, non-profit organizations, large law firms, or solo attorney practitioners. Essentially, freelance paralegals can work in any environment that uses the knowledge and skills that a paralegal can bring to the job.

Freelance paralegals have rapidly changed the legal services market with their flexibility and cost-effectiveness. As a result, emerging trends such as virtual paralegal services have become a more popular solution for solo and private practice law firms, who need help handling daily tasks flexibly.

Pricing Strategies for Freelance Paralegals

As a freelance paralegal, determining what rates to charge is one of the most challenging tasks after finding clients. On the one hand, these paralegals do not want to charge too much and drive clients away, but on the other hand, they do not want to undervalue their skills and hard work. Fortunately, there are different strategies that paralegals use to set their pricing, such as hourly or project rates or even more complex value-based pricing. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that freelance paralegals are paid fairly for the time, effort, and talent they put into their work.

Hourly Rate

Many freelance paralegals charge an hourly rate for the work they provide. However, to set a fair hourly rate, freelance paralegals will usually need to calculate their monthly living expenses and business costs to determine how much they need to earn to survive as a freelancer.

In general, an experienced paralegal who lives in a large urban area and works on complex projects will have the highest rates. However, on average, freelance paralegals bill anywhere from $22 to $45 per hour.

Charge Per Project

Many freelance paralegals charge a fixed rate for their services rather than tracking the time spent on a project and charging an hourly rate. This fee structure emphasizes the outcome rather than the time spent. However, if you are considering charging per project, it is important to take into account your experience, speed, and reliability when calculating project fees to ensure you are paid a fair amount.


It can be quite nerve-wracking for freelance paralegals to wait for payments after completing their work. To avoid this, many freelancers request a portion of the payment in advance before starting the project. This provides peace of mind and ensures commitment from both parties that the project is underway. The client can be assured that the paralegal is dedicated to completing the project, while the paralegal can focus on their work, knowing they will not have to wait a significant time before any money comes in.

A Day in the Life of a Freelance Paralegal

Traditional paralegals usually work in a fast-paced, constantly changing environment. They spend most of their days scheduling interviews, researching, writing, and completing other tasks that are assigned to them. However, the specifics of these tasks will change depending on the area of law they are in or the law firm they work for.

Freelance paralegals, on the other hand, may have some differences in this structure, as their days can vary dramatically from that of a traditional paralegal. Since they are self-employed, they have more flexibility with their work schedules. However, once they start working, their days tend to focus on more substantive legal work rather than clerical work. They might be required to draft discovery responses, collect documents, or prepare record summaries. 

As a result, time management as a freelance paralegal is critical, and these paralegals have to learn how to manage multiple clients and handle stringent deadlines.

Preparing for a Career as a Freelance Paralegal

The educational requirements for paralegals can vary from employer to employer. However, most employers require some educational experience or certification. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most paralegals hold an associate degree or certificate in paralegal studies, although some may have a bachelor's degree.

Furthermore, freelance paralegals should consider gaining experience in one or more legal specialties before starting a freelance career. Although the type and duration of experience will vary depending on the individual, it is generally recommended that those interested in pursuing a freelance role should have at least three to five years of work experience.

This experience can help build a network of connections and advance a person’s career, but it also allows clients to better assess a person’s skills and dependability as a paralegal, making it easier to secure contracts.

Challenges and Opportunities

As a freelance paralegal, you have the advantage of controlling your workload and schedule. However, it also means that you are responsible for finding clients and marketing your skills, which will heavily influence your income. If you prefer the stability and security of a consistent paycheck, freelancing as a paralegal may not be your best option. On the other hand, freelancing can be a fantastic opportunity if you have an entrepreneurial spirit. Working outside of a law firm can provide you with a better chance to balance your work and personal life, work on projects that interest you, specialize in niche areas of law, and earn a significant income.

When considering working as a freelance paralegal, weighing the advantages and disadvantages before making any decision is important. If you are highly organized and self-motivated and do not mind working without the security of a regular paycheck, then freelancing might be an excellent option. However, if you prefer a steady income and benefits, you may want to consider a more traditional paralegal career path. 

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether or not being a freelance paralegal is the right choice.

Evaluating the Freelancer Path

Although becoming a freelance paralegal may sound like an amazing opportunity, being a freelance paralegal takes determination, business sense, and persistence. That is why, before jumping head-on into this career path, there are several factors that you should consider and questions that you need to answer to determine whether this is the correct route for you.

  • Why do I want to go out on my own? This question will help you determine what you want to do as a freelance paralegal that you cannot do in a more traditional role.

  • What can you bring that distinguishes you from other paralegals? You will be competing with traditional and other freelance paralegals to obtain work, so you will want to know what helps you stand apart from the competition to help market yourself.

  • Can you work independently? You should make sure you can handle this type of work before pursuing this career full-time.

  • How will you get your freelance paralegal role off the ground? You will want to ensure you are prepared to take on this role and can handle any challenges that may come up during the process.

As you answer the questions and plan your next steps, you may consider starting to work part-time until you build a client base before transitioning to full-time freelance paralegal work. While looking for clients, it is important to market yourself and demonstrate the skills that can make you a successful freelance paralegal, such as effective business management, self-motivation, and strong communication skills.

Resources for Aspiring Freelance Paralegals

Interested in pursuing a career as a freelance paralegal but do not know where to begin? We’ve compiled several resources to provide additional guidance and help get you started. These resources include a list of paralegal associations, books, tools, and software that can assist you in managing your business.

Paralegal Associations

Tools and Software to Manage a Freelance Paralegal Business

  • Clio

  • PracticePanther

  • Legal Software

  • MyCase

  • Smokeball


  • The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style by Bryan A. Garner

  • Black’s Law Dictionary

  • Paralegal Today: The Essentials by Roger LeRoy Miller

Is Freelancing the Right Path for You?

There are several reasons why paralegals may choose to freelance, such as their work environment, available opportunities, career growth, independence, benefits, flexibility, and income. However, to gain a better understanding of whether this career path is suitable for you, we recommended that you take the next steps by exploring the resources mentioned above, connecting with other paralegals who are in a similar position, and evaluating the questions and factors to determine if freelancing is the right choice.

About the Authors

Written by:

Kasia Nelson, Esq.

Kasia Nelson is a licensed attorney and skilled legal content writer with years of experience. With a background in corporate immigration law, she is well-versed in the intricacies of producing legally accurate and well-researched work. 


  • Michigan State University, B.S.

  • Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Law Licensures

  • Michigan

Kasia Nelson

Kasia Nelson, Esq.


Education: Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Knowledge: Corporate Immigration Law

Reviewed by:

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Ryan P. Duffy is an attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey, North Carolina, and South Carolina. His practice focuses primarily on Estate Planning, Personal Injury, and Business law. 

Law Licensures

  • New Jersey

  • Pennsylvania (inactive)

  • South Carolina

  • North Carolina

Ryan Duffy

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Editorial Lead

Education: Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, J.D.

Knowledge: Estate Planning