trx-paralegal-upl guidelines

Credit Yourself: How to Play by the Rules and Receive Acknowledgement

As a paralegal, there are certain things you’re not allowed to do in order to stay compliant with the rules that govern the unauthorized practice of law (UPL). You can’t establish an attorney-client relationship, set legal fees, charge a client for legal representation, or give legal advice. All of that is as it should be. However, you might sometimes feel like all of your hard work is done in the background, and you’re not getting credit nor putting your legal knowledge to work outside of your day-to-day job.

However, you can showcase your expertise, give your professional opinion, and build your reputation in the legal realm while staying compliant with the UPL guidelines. Here are four ways to do so…

  1. Write a blog

Writing a blog gives you a venue for publishing posts that you write that demonstrate your legal knowledge. And it’s easier than ever to start a blog these days. You have several free yet professional platforms to choose from. Wordpress and Blogger are both popular because they make it so easy to create and manage a quality blog using predesigned templates that look as if you had hired a professional to build. However, you still have to do the actual hard work of writing.

Before you decide to start a blog, make sure you’re willing to commit to writing a post at least once per month. This means you have to put it on your calendar and task list to ensure it gets done, because otherwise chances are that it won’t. You’ll gain more traction as a blogger if you publish posts weekly, but aim for once a month to start.

Once you choose the platform you’ll use, get your blog started. You can pay a little money to buy a domain name for a more professional look for your blog—or not. Choose one of the templates but don’t overthink the look of your blog. What it looks like is less important than what it says. Also make sure to do a bio for the about page. This helps to build your credibility. And a professional photo is a must-have.

Next, brainstorm some topics so you won’t sit down to write and end up staring at your screen with nothing to say. Then keep a running list of ideas that come up as you go through your busy work days.

Make a publication schedule for yourself, to help ensure you publish regularly. Allow some wiggle room in there for proofreading so you’re not dashing off some haphazard post full of incomplete sentences and typos.

Once you’re comfortable with posting, start to spread the word about your blog, sharing your posts with your social networks and on LinkedIn.

This blog has nothing to do with your personal career in the office, but rather it’s a space for you to share your insights, knowledge and expertise on legal subject matter – completely legal.

  1. Get more social

A blog is a lot of work, and you must be willing to commit to that work on top of all of the other demands on your time. So maybe a blog is too demanding. That’s okay. You have other ways to showcase your talents, including tapping into your social networks for sharing content that demonstrates your knowledge and expertise.

Although you have plenty of social networks available to you, Twitter and LinkedIn are probably the only two you should consider as they are more professional and popular for professionals. In order to use these channels, you don’t even have to create content. You can simple comment on posts and articles or retweet tweets to get involved and get noticed. Also start following people you consider experts or influential, and remember that their other followers will see what you’re saying and sharing, so you can potentially increase your connections and exposure this way as well.

As with blogging, however, building a reputation with your social networks requires a commitment and consistency. Make it part of your regular to-do list to really maximize the effect—and payback.

  1. Be on a conference or advice panel

If you’d like something less regular, look into upcoming events and see if any conference are looking for panelists, then put your name forward as one. For something more regular, check with your local bar association and ask if you can join a legal forum. You can also contact local universities that might need panelists for their law school or other events.

  1. Volunteer at a non-profit

If you want something regular, but less public, consider volunteering. Non-profits are always looking for volunteers, of every kind. Perhaps a non-profit in your neighborhood needs someone with legal knowledge? You get to use your expertise outside of the office while also supporting a cause you care about, gaining experience, and building a reputation in your community. You can also sign up for pro bono projects with groups like the Volunteer Lawyers Project.

Although you as a paralegal must follow the UPL guidelines in your daily practice, you can still have a voice and showcase your in-depth legal knowledge with the outlets mentioned above. Doing so will show that you are knowledgeable in the legal field and credible—and possibly that you should be hired by another law firm, should that be your goal.