Laurie Mapp, virtual paralegal and owner of Halo Secretarial Services, gets JobShadowed.  You can find her and her services at www.halosecretarialservices.com.

What do you do for a living?

Virtual Paralegal

How would you describe what you do?

Support lawyers from my home office-it involves a lot of typing and editing 🙂

What does your work entail?

I do a really wide variety of things. Some days I type out letters from digital dictation files. Some days I do first drafts of estate planning documents. Some days I edit spreadsheets. All in between little kid snuggles, big kid chauffeuring and occasional attempts at working out.

What’s a typical work week like?

Most days I get my older kids off to school, do a couple of hours work in the morning, do a little social networking, take a midday break, work a little more, do normal family stuff for the late afternoon/early evening and then if I have projects to catch up on I work again from 8-10pm. I don’t work Saturdays almost at all now (I did my first couple of years) and I do calendar planning and catch up work most Sundays for a couple of hours at least.

How did you get started?

I read about virtual assistance and really wanted my own business. I realized that I could specialize in paralegal work, given my in-office experience. Things really took off after my third child was 1 year old and my maternity leave was over. I was happy to be able to start Halo Secretarial rather than go back to my previous job.

What do you like about what you do?

Variety of the work, choosing which lawyers to work with, flexibility of hours.

What do you dislike?

Marketing myself is harder than I expected, other than that I don’t dislike much!

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

I am paid in 6-minute increments, invoiced to clients monthly. Most pay by cheque, some by PayPal.

How much money do Paralegals make?

I make more hourly than most in-house staff, but I don’t work full-time, at least I don’t have full-time billable hours. I only get paid for hours worked, since I’m self-employed! A paralegal can probably make anywhere between $30,000 and $60,000 a year or so. I make much less than that (maybe $20,000/yr), but like I said, I only work part-time.

How much money do/did you make starting out as a Paralegal?

Starting salary can really vary, and it can be hard to get into entry-level paralegal jobs. Quite often you need to start as a legal secretary and work into a paralegal position.

What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?

I have a technical school diploma, some places may have college diploma or degree programs. To be a virtual paralegal you also need some training in running a business – marketing, basic accounting, etc.

What is most challenging about what you do?

Managing my time well.

What is most rewarding?

Being really available for my kids!

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

Being a virtual paralegal is a great option if you are a dedicated self-starter type. Be prepared to grow slowly and adjust to the market as needed.

How much time off do you get/take?

I don’t take a lot of time off – I usually take my laptop with me and work even while on vacation. Last year I did take off one week. I also take long weekends fairly frequently with no consequence.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

I think it’s a very common misconception to guess how much time you put in behind the scenes. People expect to be able to bill a full 40 hours a week, but that would likely only happen if you put in a 60 hour work week total, or even more.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

I’ve added a subcontractor to my practice this year and ultimately I’d like to have a small team working under me to keep growing my business.

What else would you like people to know about your job/career?

It’s not easy to work for yourself, especially if you have spent a lot of time in a traditional paralegal job, but once you adjust and gain some comfort with being your own boss, it can be an amazing change!