A virtual legal assistant sounds great on paper?they lower costs, increase your billable hours, widen your profit margins, help you strike a work/life balance, and improve your client relationships. Ideal for the small firm or solo attorney, virtual talent is great in theory, but how do you actually make it work?
A reasonable query, one that I answer in quick four tips. Here are a few protips for incorporating virtual talent into your practice:
1. Identify and plan for your needs.
Running your practice is like working any case, it requires a goal and an understanding of all moving parts. With these in mind, you’re able to build a strategy and an action plan to reach your next milestone.
But let’s talk about your needs for a second. Are you honest with yourself about them? What are your strengths? Your weaknesses? What tasks do you hate doing? Outsourcing is an excellent way to help you focus on what’s profitable while shifting what you either don’t enjoy or don’t have time for to someone else’s plate. Find a virtual attorney whose strengths are your weaknesses, virtual legal assistants who thrive on those tedious tasks you dislike, and virtual receptionists and legal tech for areas where you are losing money on office management.
In delegating tasks to virtual talent, you regain billable hours for your firm. Attorney and paralegal time can be billed to the client at a reasonable profit margin and you don’t need to cover their overhead as you would a body in your office.
2. Establish clear and proactive communication.
Communication is the key to virtual success. It enables delegation, builds trust, powers efficiency, improves integration, and creates a productive environment. All of which combine to reduce stress and increase efficacy and responsiveness. Clear and proactive communication also reduces the likelihood of errors, conflicts in communication styles, and the oft-raised concern about assistants ‘disappearing’ along with your tasks (aka ghosting).
Good communication involves being direct about expectations, awareness of skills, and realistic time frames; it requires solid procedures and transparent processes. Regularly scheduled calls and virtual meetings, the use of cloud-based technology and/or practice management software all give rise to clear communication.
3. Delegate effectively.
Doing everything yourself results in a self-perpetuating cycle of being overwhelmed, overworked, and overstressed. As your to-do list grows, you become more inefficient and less profitable. Delegate tasks where you can to remain productive and in control of your quality of life.
Mindful planning coupled with effective communication is key to feeling confident that all delegated tasks will be completed. You have a plan, you know your weaknesses; you know you can bill paralegal time, and that by freeing up hours in your day you can focus on the work that generates revenue.
4. Use virtual talent to capitalize on specialties.
You’re a small or solo practice, and sure, while the law is the law there are some nuances to each practice area. You can’t possibly know everything about every specialty, so you inevitably reduce your practice area to focus your work.
So, as an estate planner, what do you do when you discover your client has a patent that is being infringed? How do you handle an immigration case involves human trafficking? You want to give your client the best service possible, so you study and familiarize yourself with the associated nuances. But what’s even better? Hiring a freelance specialist to join your team. A virtual attorney and/or virtual legal assistant who supplements and compliments your own expertise is incredibly helpful. Their knowledge is a significant benefit to your practice, as well as your individual clients.
Master these four tips to integrate virtual talent into your practice, and magic will happen!