Opportunities for paralegals to work remotely are opening up across the country as courts liberalize the use of digital filings and states broaden the services paralegals can provide.

An article on the American Bar Association website says legal recruiters are reporting “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.”

Just last month, Massachusetts became the latest of the now 40 states that allow remote notarization of documents. Several states – most recently New Jersey – “are facing a rush to expand electronic filing options in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says the ABA article.

Particularly in demand, are paralegals with IT skills “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,” says the article authored by Sally Dahlquist, J.D., director of the paralegal program at Inver Hills Community College, Minnesota and attorney Alicia L. Shelton with the national firm Zuckerman Spaeder.

Legal recruiters say the demand for paralegals is only going to grow as more courts reopen, according. The recruiters the authors interviewed, “Anticipate that medical malpractice, worker’s comp, labor and employment areas will really boom; trust and estates, family law, finance law should also grow.”

Although jobs for entry-level paralegals at Big Law and corporations are fewer this year, those with limited experience may find greater opportunities at small offices and with solo practitioners, as well as with non-profits.

However, paralegals with deeper backgrounds who are comfortable working remotely, will find a stronger job market, the authors report. “Experienced paralegals with the ability to navigate the new virtual landscape are well-positioned to be effective liaisons for attorneys, clients, and court.”

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Why Is Hiring So Difficult?

With unemployment at a historic high, filling jobs shouldn’t be difficult. Yet employers say it’s hard to find qualified people to hire.

The National Federation of Independent Business says a third of its members report having jobs they couldn’t fill. In the organization’s June survey, 84% of business owners hiring or trying to hire workers reported finding “few or no qualified applicants.”

The Federation’s members are small business owners who, in good economic times, typically have more difficulty filling jobs than large organizations that offer better pay, benefits and opportunities for advancement. Yet, more owners have at least one unfilled job today than they did at the height of the Great Recession a decade ago.

What accounts for this difficulty?

Multiple factors, according to Gad Levanon, VP of labor markets for The Conference Board. Writing in Forbes recently, he says the largest share of workers expect to return to their job once their business reopens.

Many others who might otherwise be job-hunting aren’t because of a generous COVID-19 unemployment supplement. Some hesitate because they fear becoming infected. Still others have no childcare with schools and summer camps closed.

“In sum,” he writes, “While the number of unemployed workers is historically high, the number of unemployed people who are seriously trying to find jobs is much smaller. Jobseekers are competing against a much smaller number of people for new spots than the unemployment rate suggests, making it easier to get a job.”

Of the17.8 million Americans counted as unemployed, 10.6 million say they are only temporarily laid off and expect to be called back to work once their business reopens.

Many of the other 7 million-plus aren’t actively looking, at least until the special $600 unemployment supplement expires at the end of the month.

“Two-thirds of [unemployment insurance] eligible workers can receive benefits which exceed lost earnings and one-fifth can receive benefits at least double lost earnings,” the National Bureau of Economic Research estimated in an analysis released in May.

Levanon expects the job picture to change significantly in the coming months.

With COVID-19 cases surging, states are reconsidering decisions allowing businesses to reopen. For some workers, that will mean their temporary layoff will become permanent, he says. Others will be motivated to start looking once their unemployment benefits are reduced.

Says Levanon, “The unemployment rate overestimates the slack in the US labor market. But not for long.”

If you’re having trouble finding just the right person for your opening, give us a call at 212.683.1988. You’ll talk with a recruiter who specializes in your industry and knows where the best people are.

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