Lawyers in solo practice often find themselves wearing too many hats, between answering phones, managing their staff, handling marketing, tackling IT issues…in short, solo lawyers are so busy trying to do EVERYTHING they don’t have enough time to be lawyers. There is a simple solution to this problem..getting help by hiring virtual assistants.
The Virtual Assistant to the Rescue
As a lawyer, you may feel that having a virtual assistant is the first step in losing control over your law practice. This doesn’t have to be the case. Even though you have a solo practice with no or few employees, this doesn’t mean you have to handle every detail all by yourself. Virtual assistants work especially well with paperless law practices. According to Paperless Chase, whether you are ready to use a VA depends on many factors, including tech-proficiency, control and trust. It may take some time to find the right arrangement for you, but the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant greatly outweigh the risks.
Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant
Using his or her own office and equipment a virtual assistant takes care of the work that you or your employees don’t have time to handle. According to Attorney at Work, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks:
- No need for space in your office.
- You don’t pay for what you don’t use.
- Virtual staff can lighten your workload on non-essential tasks.
- A marketing-oriented virtual assistant can increase your marketing presence.
- Some VAs come with experience and expertise your practice needs, especially if you are new lawyer.
You can also find a VA who is fluent in more than one language to help you build your bilingual practice. A bilingual virtual assistant can help lighten some of your workload by translating documents, interpreting conversations, and even answering your phone calls.
Why to start with a Virtual Receptionist
A virtual receptionist could give your practice the opportunity to provide better services to your clients. If your secretary/paralegal/legal assistant is with a client, filing papers or out for the day, who will handle your incoming phone calls? Virtual receptionists can transfer calls, connect the call to voicemail or take a message and email it to you. Additionally, virtual receptionist can also track incoming calls and return calls on your behalf.
Ernie the Attorney relied on Ruby Receptionists when he was in solo practice. Doing so, he learned that a VA agency can cover the phones, leaving current and potential clients with courteous and friendly phone service, all at a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee. As my practice has grown, I’ve used virtual receptionists from Total Attorneys and am now using Alert Communications because of their bilingual answering services.
Why to hire a Marketing Virtual Assistant
Let’s face it, the last thing you want to be thinking of is marketing your practice. In an ideal world, you could just focus on being a good lawyer and clients will just come to you. That may be the case for lawyers who have built a practice on referrals from clients. However that takes time, too. You’re a solo lawyer and you don’t have time to focus on marketing. You have to focus on meeting with clients, working on their case, and trying to build your practice.
Because lawyers who own small practices only have a limited number of hours in the day and week, marketing activities tend to fall to the end of the “to-do” list. A virtual assistant with strong marketing skills can take over most, if not all, of your marketing responsibilities, according to Law Business Mentors. A brief list of these activities may include:
- Lead follow-up.
- Monthly newsletter.
- Mailing out letters and packages to clients and prospects.
- Scheduling speaking engagements.
- Drafting copy for your website and blog articles.
- Managing your social media accounts.
If you hire a marketing VA that is bilingual, he or she can help your reach out to potential clients who speak another language as well.
Transcription Virtual Assistants
Even paperless solo law practices have to generate legal and other types of documents. Your secretary or legal assistant may not have enough time in his or her workday to type out, proofread and print out the documents you need. Transcription VAs can handle your firms typing tasks and if they are proficient in another language they can translate the document for you as well.
Legal Typist points out that your Virtual Typist doesn’t have to be working on-site to help you out. Working from his or her home, they will rely on mobile technology to complete your outsourced work assignments.
VAs That Help You Get to the Bottom of Your To Do List
As a solo practitioner, you don’t have the time to give attention to non-important tasks, especially when they are not urgent. FancyHands, a company with thousands of assistants in the U.S., gets to work on those small tasks so you can focus on the more important tasks that will build your practice. FancyHands handles anything that can be done online or over the phone (as long as it’s legal) for as little as $25 per month for 5 requests. Here are some common requests.
How to Hire a VA Team
Now that you are ready to hire a virtual assistant, how do you start? A great way to test out working with VAs is by looking to outsource your one-off tasks, like creating a logo or translating a document. For $5 you can hire a Fiverr to help you with graphics & design, online marketing, writing & translation, video & animation, music & audio, programming & tech and much, much more. If you have a slightly larger project, like designing your website or managing your adwords campaign, you can look to Elance or ODesk to hire a freelancer. The great feature about these websites is that after you can look over reviews and sample work before choosing the right freelancer that fits your needs and job requirements.
Once you are ready to hire a virtual assistant on a part-time or full-time basis, companies like Virtual Staff Finder can take care of all of the activities you would normally have to do when hiring staff for your practice. Virtual Staff Finder saves you time and aggravation. They will select candidates based on your requirements, test those candidates and then they will present you with the top three candidates for your position so you can interview and choose the right one for you.
The Four Hour Workweek and Virtual Freedom
If you’ve read Tim Ferriss’, “The 4 – Hour Work Week“, you know that it recommends using virtual assistants to outsource your way to an ideal life. However, he didn’t tell you how to do it. That’s why Chris Ducker just launched “Virtual Freedom,” a book that explains how to work with virtual staff to buy more time, become more productive and build your dream business. As a solo lawyer, you don’t have to do everything. You can hire virtual assistants and build a team that will run almost every aspect of your practice, leaving the legal work and business building to you. To learn more about working with virtual staff you can also listen to the Virtual Freedom Podcast, where in each episode Chris gives an overview of each of the books major sections.
I really do hope you take some of the advice here and put it into action. So now that you know how virtual assistants can help you build your practice so you don’t have to do everything, what’s stopping you?
How to Win a Free Copy of Virtual Freedom
Because I believe in Virtual Freedom so much, I picked up 5 copies of the book and I will be giving away 3 copies.
To enter to win, share this article and leave a comment with a link to your share. In addition to the link, please give a small explanation of your strategy with virtual assistants/freelancers. Why did you use a virtual assistant/freelancer, and what was your thinking behind it? Why do you think it is effective?
You have until Sunday, May 11th at midnight (EST) to leave your comment. After that I’ll choose the top 3 people who are completely nailing the Virtual Freedom concept.The top 3 will be announced here on the blog and within the post by Monday, May 12th.
I look forward to reading your comments. Best of luck!
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.
10 comments on “How Lawyers Can Work with Virtual Assistants to Build a Bilingual Practice”
Great article with lots of useful tips that saved me hours of scouring the Internet, as I’ve been thinking about using a VA. Thanks.
Thank you Everett. Please do let us know how it turns out for you.
Nice post. I tried CallRuby. They were great, but with our call volume it was just too expense. We’ve recently started using http://www.thetelephonesecretary.com. They are much more affordable, and have been great for us. An answering service makes us much more productive as we are not constantly taken “off-task” to field incoming calls. It has definitely been a good thing for us. I also use Fiverr.com for graphics for my website. I’ve probably purchased about 40 gigs from them and have been happy with 85-90% of the results.
Thanks for the comment Nick and thank you for recommending http://www.telephonesecretary.com, I’m going to try them out.
Totally agree on not being taken off-task by incoming calls. I schedule an hour a day to return calls and have my virtual receptionists schedule the appointment.
I’ve used http://www.Fiverr.com for translations, wordpress help and graphics. I love it.
I also recently started using http://www.FancyHands.com and am finding it really helpful. Not only to take care of time-wasting tasks, but also to help me better think of how to properly delegate tasks.
Congrats Nick. You’ve won a copy of Virtual Freedom. I hope it helps you build your dream business.
Good post. What attracted me was the title since I don’t remember seeing any post title even mention bilingual marketing for lawyers. (Then again, I don’t come every day in here so I may have missed some). I’ve personally experienced the benefits you’ve listed from hiring a VA.
I started using a local VA around 2009, and have never looked back. As I am expanding the services I offer as a divorce lawyer to other family-related services, I’ve already lined up a second VA just for that.
Having VAs handle some of the paperwork for me leaves me enough time to speak directly with current and prospective clients; I prefer to do this rather than handing them off to receptionists, and this personal touch is much appreciated by my clients.
Thank you Vivian. You should read my previous posts on building a Bilingual Practice at solopracticeuniversity.com/author/pjperez/ and subscribe to receive future posts.
How did you go about finding your VAs? What were some of the challenges you’ve faced working with VAs?
Your last point is a great one. VAs help attorneys focus on the important, like client engagement.
I considered some of the VA outfits but decided against it, and went local. The first VA I still use, was a secretary at a firm I worked at. The second VA is someone I met in our local courts. I prefer to keep it local because I help foster the local economy (I think, lol), and like to meet with them a few times a year.
My current challenge is using “cloud” services so that no info is stored on their computer; but I’m testing something that might work for all of us.
My first older challenges were rather minor, I think; they included explaining the process to the VA–but, hey, they love the extra income without having to incur additional cost of gas, and commute time.
Thank you for the reference to the bilingual resources, I will check them out.
This is an outstanding article, and it couldn’t be more germane to where I am at with my solo practice.
I left the military, and I started a solo practice out of my extra bedroom. In less than two years, I’ve been fortunate enough to grow it to a point where I’m strapped for time. Early on, I delegated and outsourced some things, such as designing my logo and business cards. Most everything else, I did myself, such as designing my website. Several months ago, though, I hired an internet marketing company to build and market a dedicated criminal defense website, http://www.keywestcriminaldefense.com.
Soon, I found myself incredibly busy – clients came calling from all directions, some website, some referrals, some media coverage, some word of mouth, etc.
I’ve been desperate to get some margin in my practice. I hired a virtual paralegal, which is to say a local, part-time paralegal who works from home. She’s been a lot of help.
I think this post nailed the early friction that we feel, “As a lawyer, you may feel that having a virtual assistant is the first step in losing control over your law practice.” Once we embrace that outsourcing and delegation frees us up to do the things that only we can do (phrased differently, do the legal work that brings in a higher return, while buying others far less to do things that they can do), it’s like a light being turned on.
My struggles are finding resources that are specific to my state. I didn’t know about some of your resources, but I’ve used Fiverr and Fancy Hands and had good results. It’s be nice, though, to find resources for paralegals and contract lawyers with experience in our jurisdictions.
All in all, great post. Virtual Assistants are crucial for the busy solo to gain margin in our practice. I’m just scratching the service – but, soon, I hope to be more productive, live more balanced, and better serve my clients with a virtual assistant team.
Alan, thank you for the thoughtful comment.
To expand on your idea further, it would be great if there were a company that helped attorneys find and screen virtual paralegals and attorneys. That would be a great resource to have.
Please do report back on how you build your virtual team.
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