Today, I’ll concentrate on legal work, the online collaboration of paralegals (also known as virtual legal assistants) and attorneys. I frequently hear the same worries voiced when discussing the effects of virtual professionals on the sector with lawyers. The top five are what I’d want to talk about right now, along with how I, a virtual legal assistant, handle them.
1. I know little about virtual legal assistants
Although I’m not surprised to hear this, don’t let inexperience breed suspicion. Attorneys typically adopt new technology slowly, despite the virtual assistant (VA) sector expanding at a double-digit rate during the past ten years. The concept of a remote assistant is quite weird unless they work for a large international law company. But we are remote assistance, and that is what we do.
Some solo practitioners or small-firm attorneys quit more significant firms to form their own. People who fit these criteria may have experience using a virtual assistant.
Perhaps you worked on a team in another office with a paralegal who managed cases. The same experience is had by working with a freelance virtual legal assistant.
The thought is intimidating for individuals who have never benefited from this. Although you might be able to see them at your workplace, controlling them remotely is going too far. These feelings are ones that I entirely comprehend. Why start now when you have yet to receive assistance for all this time?
In either scenario, the need for assistance is clear: Everything is not always possible. You can practise law because you have the necessary skills and access to resources like IT, accounting, HR, secretarial pools, and paralegals. You did want it, right? to practise law?
The best way to ease this worry is to realise that remote or virtual employees are staff. Allowing a virtual team to handle the rest will enable you to expand your practice, practise more law, or practise the existing quantity of regulation more effectively, cheerfully, and passionately. There is nothing odd there.
2. My online legal assistant vanished
This one worries me. Speaking of unacceptable, What would you do if your aide stood in front of your door? They would likely be dismissed after being immediately disciplined. But none of it brings any comfort when it comes to finishing the work, does it?
There could have been indicators. More communication was required. There may be a need to define expectations. More questions needed to be resolved. You should have gotten in touch. It’s crucial to remember that these red flags might appear in both directions, especially if you need to get used to working with others. This anxiety can be reduced by keeping regular contact via phone and email and asking specific questions during your initial interview (yes, you should interview each other).
In reality, a significant portion of VLAs providing substantial services are individuals seeking supplemental income while juggling other obligations or employment. Some of them make as little as $10 per hour in pay. Others use flexible services like Upwork, although they are only paid $15–20 per hour. Your best option might not be to hire one worker part-time.
A virtual receptionist should offer multiple receptionists at various times, ideally around-the-clock, to accommodate your required services. Additionally, they frequently charge considerably less than what is typical for competent, experienced legal staff.
Hiring specialised professional workers could be more expensive because of their technical knowledge and experience. However, that price includes a code of ethics similar to the one you uphold as an attorney. Depending on the work, a professional freelance virtual paralegal can be hired for anywhere from $30 to $75 per hour. Niche practice areas like litigation and intellectual property will cost more, just like in the legal profession.
You and your virtual team members should communicate. Ensure your local or virtual team is aware of your expectations so they can assist you when necessary. Consider your demands while keeping long-term objectives and ambitions in mind. With those objectives in mind, interview potential employees and explore available services. And here at the necessary level. Engage a freelancer and pay them fairly to be your on-call virtual legal assistant with experience.
3. My virtual attorney does not finish the work assigned to her (on time or at all)
Building trust requires constant communication between attorneys and virtual legal assistants about expectations, deadlines, and objectives. Make sure you and your remote employees are in regular contact, if not every day, then at least once every week. Because it’s so crucial, I’ve created blog pieces about communication.
Following are some typical problems and solutions:
Solution: Share the order of the tasks. Unless you notify your staff, they will know whether this change is more crucial than that client pitch letter. If you typically turn over documents in two days but need one today, only count on your workers to be aware of the difference once you inform them.
Problem: You must finish your assignment since your aide needs further details. However, you are occupied and cannot respond to inquiries.
These illustrations demonstrate effective communication, but you must carefully manage expectations. Communicate your needs and expectations, and your virtual legal assistant should respond by letting you know if they can meet them and what they require or anticipate from you to do so. You must collaborate.
Example: My most recent project is a fantastic example of expectations. A client required a meeting transcript to be sent the same day. This conveyed to me that he desired a flawless transcription of an audio file, complete with any ups, likes, laughs, and sidebars that may have been present. I informed him that even though I was worried about making his deadline, I would still get it to him the same day, even if that meant delivering it by midnight. Four hours later, approximately halfway through, I gave him an update on my progress, letting him know that I needed to finish the fifth and final pass through the file and that I anticipated spending a few more hours. He called me immediately to inform me that the transcript wasn’t for court and he didn’t need anything nearly that accurate. I was overjoyed. This required fewer passes and a drastically different delivery time, which reduced the remaining work in half. That day, we both learnt a valuable lesson: my customer now clearly communicates his expectations, and I question more before assuming.
4. I cannot incorporate someone who is not in my office (safely).
Although the approach is comparable to training someone in your office, there are some unique practical considerations when incorporating virtual personnel.
The main worries I’ve heard from lawyers are listed below:
How do I communicate tasks and determine their status?
Use a virtual task entry or project management system, as was indicated in step three, to assign tasks and monitor their progress. Please ensure the site you chose is secure for sharing legal documents by researching it. Make sure to explain the study’s requirements and due dates.
How do we develop a rapport? Is our working relationship productive?
Similar to task assignments, you should interact with your virtual legal assistant and establish expectations for interpersonal issues. To spend time together face-to-face, start with a video call. Make sure you check in on everything on a weekly and quarterly basis. You need to be aware of any upcoming vacations or time off they may need, just as with a staff member you have in the office. Remember that even though they are virtual, your virtual assistant is still a living, breathing human being, and set aside just a few minutes to speak with them.
How can I safely transfer files to another computer network?
Do some research on the virtual document-sharing sites you use. This will show how your business manages security and confidentiality generally. While I’ve covered the specifics elsewhere, using strong passwords, keeping your operating system and antivirus up to date, and educating everyone who comes into contact with your data on basic security procedures are the keys to reasonable protection.
Nowadays, most files will already be in digital format; however, you still need to scan or take a photo of physical boxes of client files and handwritten notes to email to your assistant. Dictation software can be used to produce digital voice memos and audio files.
Invest in a scanner with a large document feeder for lawyers with many physical files. As an alternative, think about bringing your documents to a store like Office Depot. You can organise your files, share them effortlessly with your virtual legal assistant, and free up a tonne of room in your workplace by digitising all your documents.
Example: Here’s an illustration of how I get materials from my clients, carry out the required activities, and return them to them all via electronic means.
My customer informs me they met with a new client and require drafting a will and trust. A picture of the meeting notes is hidden in the email’s text. I quickly create a folder in our cloud-based document-sharing system with the client’s intake details and the emails’ notices. Then, depending on the details in the meeting notes, I add an engagement letter appropriate for the job I’ve asked of my customer and draft the required documents. I shall get in touch with my client (the attorney) through their preferred method of communication if I have any questions.
I notify my client that the assignment is finished and send a URL to the folder after all these papers are in the file.
Many of my clients use cloud drives, and I have editing access. When you don’t have a lot of technological resources, using this shared drive to share documents and information is easy, secure, and private. Although integration may seem complicated, it is a simple process.
With the proper research and communication, you can move past these myths and start outsourcing to improve your business. Remote legal assistants are professionals; work with them to address your client’s concerns. While this post is generally related to working with a virtual legal assistant – the principles apply to working with any virtual professional. Outsourcing to virtual staff saves you time, makes your business more cost-effective, and you can even pass some of that savings onto your clients.