Will robots either replace or greatly assist lawyers in the decades ahead? The thought is truly fascinating, sure, but did you know that you can already find the legal assistance you need and you don’t need to read a manual, learn computer programming, or take out a loan to buy it? In fact, you don’t need to train them, worry about payroll tax, or make sure you have an empty office where they can sit. If you need more support but aren’t ready or willing to bring someone physically into your practice, virtual assistants and paralegals may be the answer.
Take administrative tasks out of your day
Using a cloud-based practice management solution like Clio certainly frees up massive amounts of time by keeping your files and data organized and easy to access. However, despite the massive efficiency gained by using Clio, every minute spent setting up a new matter or updating contact information is time that you could spend doing billable work, growing your practice, or taking a prospective client out for coffee. Or, adding additional time to your beloved Clio days!
A virtual assistant (such as those who make up CuroAssist, a virtual assistant and paralegal platform offered by CuroLegal) that is integrated with your Clio account can free up valuable time by creating new contact profiles, setting up new matters, or maintaining existing instances of both. Simply email your virtual assistant, submit a request, or create a task in Clio and watch the annoying but necessary maintenance work be completed while you focus on value-added work for your clients.
Manage Email/Calendar via Google Apps Delegation
One of the greatest documented time drags in modern business is managing an email account. Obviously you cannot simply stop checking your email or you face both an inability to practice law and an inevitable ethics violation. Instead, delegate access to both your cloud-based email account (such as one from Google Apps for Business) and calendar to your virtual assistant and let them check your availability for appointments, reply back to repetitive emails with the standard response or appropriate attachments, or organize your inbox and archive old emails so you can get to inbox zero.
Collaborate on Discovery
As the discovery phase of litigation becomes less and less dependent upon paper, it has become increasingly possible to use a virtual assistant or virtual paralegal to help organize and prepare discovery responses, search and sort discovery provided to you, and to collaborate within cloud-based e-discovery platforms. Cloud-based document storage inherently allows for collaboration with a remote assistant or paralegal by providing a common space for electronic documents and files. However, when using a properly equipped and trusted virtual assistant, you can simply direct respondents to send discovery documents to your remote staff so that they can be scanned, OCR’d, and uploaded to your cloud-based document storage platform, such as Nextpoint.
Prepare Automated Documents
An often overlooked Clio feature that integrates perfectly with virtual assistants is the document automation engine. For example, say you are creating new complaints for property evictions. To really practice more efficiently, you can task your virtual assistant with setting up the desired custom fields in Clio (i.e. one for the amount of rent due), create a list of those custom fields, and then add that list to the relevant eviction matter. Then, send your virtual assistant the necessary documents by email, share access to your third-party cloud storage, or simply upload them into Clio and send them a task to open the documents and to propagate the relevant fields. Finally, your virtual assistant can use one of your custom templates to create a draft complaint for you to review and to sign (and, if you are in a jurisdiction that allows e-filing, you can task your virtual assistant to file it on your behalf).
Use Virtual Assistants to Create a Profitable Next Year
The days are over where the use of a virtual assistant required providing them access to your network through a corporate VPN, a desktop viewing program like LogMeIn, or the unsecured and ethically questionable sharing of your email account login. Instead, we have entered the golden age of efficient and cost-effective remote staffing through widely-used cloud email, document storage, and practice management tools.
Make it your goal to delegate some of the aforementioned tasks; so you can streamline your practice and create more billable hours a day by focusing on your legal objectives.
Will Harrelson is the Director of Operations for CuroLegal where he leads product management and market entry for various product lines including CuroAssist (virtual assistants and paralegals), outsourced bookkeeping and accounting, technological consulting, and marketing and drives technology innovation with strategic partners. He also maintains a commercial litigation and business advising practice with Faust, Harrelson, Fulker, McCarthy & Schlemmer, LLP in Troy, Ohio.