Paralegals becoming independent of Jamaica law firms and loving it!
More and more paralegals are opting to work as independent paralegals in Jamaica. That is being unsupervised by an attorney.
Some of the paralegals spoken to for this article claim that they are forced based on the ill treatment and impractical salaries by attornies.
Independent paralegals will be discussed below, but it must be noted that although freelance paralegals work on their own – they differ from independent paralegals as they are supervised. Freelance paralegals are therefore contract paralegals or freelance legal assistants for want of a better terminology.
The actions of some Jamaican attornies force more paralegals to decide against working for an attorney in or out of office.
An independent paralegal, as a nonattorney may also be called a legal document preparer or forms practitioner:
Internationally independent paralegals are known to assist select clients to save loads of money on legal document preparation. They work in instances where the client who already knows what they want seeks assistance with filing pleadings, selecting forms, understanding the right procedure for filing or recording documents.
Some tasks that independent paralegals may carry out therefore include preparing powers of attorney, deeds, or estate planning and probate documents, uncontested divorce forms, bankruptcy petitions.
The drawback of the independent paralegal are the perimeters within which he or she must operate.
Independent paralegals must ensure they do not practice law. They must recognise the thin lines they can easily cross when preparing pleadings. They must ensure they shy away from doing pleadings that go beyond facts that are basic information or common knowledge. Special care must be taken as well in providing information in such a way that it is not interpreted as legal advice. They are to therefore confine themselves to topics and procedures. Some assist with legal research.
LAWS AND EDUCATION on being an independent paralegal
Jamaica laws dictate that paralegals should be trained. For many years it was debateable whether paralegals could operate as independent or just be freelancers.
A closer look at the Legal Professions Act by some attornies in modern times however has resulted in more liberal interpretations.
Where the section states that documents should be done only by a trained persons, this is now being interpreted to include paralegals who are trained. Certainly with the recognition of more institutions who offer paralegal certificates, diplomas and degrees.
Still a handful of persons, some seen loitering at the Court offices are street trained and do a good job at preparing forms for especially lower courts. These individuals mainly do landlord-tenant and dent collection cases.
They are filling a gap as many Jamaicans are challenged with reading, and research, moreso challenged in filling out forms.
BENEFITS, CHALLENGES of being an independent paralegal
Of course as an independent paralegal means running a business. So the independent paralegal needs to stay updated with the latest changes. He or she must ensure that the team operate as paralegals and not lawyers.
The challenges include handling accusations by actual attornies at law who sometimes rumour them as acting like lawyers. Not to mention the court staff who tend to be abusive, for lack of understanding on the tier at which independent paralegals operate. There is at times negative competition for the bottom line client/ customer.
That aside independent paralegals cannot post bail in Jamaica for anyone.
Still, its a great opportunity for a self disciplined, highly motivated humanitarian.
There is a wider scope of opportunities as independent paralegals take advantage of a wide array of advertising avenues which cannot be trod by attornies or their freelance counterparts.Above all, remember an independent paralegal is not an attorney-at-law and should constantly make this known to everyone he or she deals with.