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I'm a paralegal. Should attorney hire me as employee or independent contractor for filling out forms for him?

Los Angeles, CA |

I understand lawyer will have to supervise me and check on my final work. He plans to pay me per hour (not fee split or commission) and I don't mind. I just want to make sure that this is okay. Otherwise, how does a paralegal even work with a lawyer? I would be filling out immigration forms and he would sign them after review and pay me for hours worked on application. He prefers I am classified as an independent contractor. Proper?

Attorney Answers 5


  1. Contract paralegals (independent contractors) are common. Nothing at all wrong with it. The reason he wants to do it this way is that so he does not have to pay you benefits (health insurance, 401k, sick days, vacation, etc). You get paid for the time you work and that's it. It's also a tax savings to him...he pays no taxes on your behalf, and does not have to get worker's comp insurance for you.


  2. An independent contractor relationship is perfectly acceptable given you are satisfied with the terms of employment (salary, hours, etc). Just make sure that you are not engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. While it is fine to work for an attorney at and under his direction and supervision you want to make sure that you are not signing the documents, pleadings, or paperwork. You might also want to inquire as to whether you'd be covered under his liability insurance policy if you were ever named in a lawsuit for the work.


  3. I don't think you can pass the Borello Test for employee/contractor. If he pays you hourly, in his office, has to supervise you, provides you the forms...you are an employee. You need a license to practice law, so you cannot really be an independent contractor while working in the Attorney's office. My opinion.

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  4. Generally, to be an independent contractor you must have independence and choose how to perform your work in a manner that delivers results according to schedule. The more control the employer exercises over you, the more it seems as if you are an employee rather than an independent contractor. It's o.k. to be an independent contractor as long as the results of your work are reviewed by a licensed attorney.

    This information is general in nature and is not legal advice to be relied upon for any particular matter.


  5. There is no bright line test for employee vs. independent contractor. Generally, the more control an "employer" exercises over duties, responsibilities, and hours, the less likely someone will be found to be an independent contractor. Some review should be acceptable in a paralegal-attorney arrangement. However, if your hours become fixed, you work only from the attorney's office, and receive constant feedback and coaching from the attorney, you may be considered a non-exempt employee. This means that you would be eligible for overtime.

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