If your law firm has not hired a virtual legal assistant before, you may be wondering why you should work with one. But if you’ve ever been overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work involved with running a legal practice, delegating work to legal virtual assistants can significantly free up your time. Since the 2020 Legal Trends Report found that law firms only spend an average of 2.5 hours each day on billable work, it’s more important than ever to find ways to do more billable work and improve your law firm’s profitability.
Also, legal virtual assistants can help your law firm increase efficiencies, scale more rapidly, and provide a client-centered experience. They can complete routine administrative tasks and improve customer service by managing client calls, coordinating important meetings and deadlines, and more.
Legal virtual assistants are also a great option for your legal practice if you are not ready to add another full-time in-house staff member. Ultimately, virtual assistants save your law firm money, since hiring a virtual legal assistant costs less than hiring another lawyer or in-house employee for your firm.
In this blog post, we’ll share how you can choose and work with a virtual legal assistant for your law firm, including what virtual legal assistant services are available.
What is a virtual legal assistant?
Think of a virtual legal assistant as an extension of yourself for administrative tasks, allowing you to focus on lawyering and billable work. A remote legal assistant can take care of a wide range of routine tasks. These include managing client communication (calls, live chat, email, etc.), scheduling appointments, legal researching and writing, managing contracts, and accounting.
How to choose a virtual legal assistant
Regardless of whether you’re using virtual legal assistant companies or hiring individuals, you’ll want to set up a thorough hiring process to choose the right virtual assistant for your law firm. Below are the main ways you can select the right remote legal assistant for your law firm’s needs.
Vet potential virtual legal assistants thoroughly
As you start researching your options for outsourcing legal administrative tasks to virtual assistants, you’ll likely get overwhelmed with the number of options. You should thoroughly vet potential candidates and companies to narrow down your options. Make a list of all the qualities you need in a virtual assistant. Be sure to check their previous experience and ask for references. Some key qualities to consider:
- Work ethic
- Personality and rapport
- Flexibility and adaptability
- Writing and communication skills
- Project management skills
- Legal research skills
- Technology experience
- Experience in your practice area
- Special skills in areas like marketing and accounting
- Willingness to learn
Consider how they fit your work style
If you are used to managing the administrative tasks at your law firm, you may find it challenging to delegate work to someone else. After all, you’ll need to spend time onboarding your virtual legal assistant and getting them used to your law firm’s processes. That’s why finding a virtual assistant who fits your work style is critical. This helps ensure a smoother transition for your firm, while increasing their chances of success.
Determine what virtual legal assistant services you need
Think about all the non-billable work you’re currently doing and determine exactly what help you need. In addition to routine law firm tasks like billing clients, document management, managing client communication, do you need your virtual legal assistant to do more? Do you require your virtual assistant to also help with accounting and marketing?
To avoid miscommunication and disappointments on both sides, be sure to set expectations with your virtual assistant from the beginning. This could mean having a written contract or agreement so both parties are clear about what’s expected of the professional relationship. Some points you should consider including in your agreement include:
- Clear and regular communication. In a virtual law firm environment, having clear and regular communication is a top priority. This will help you stay in the loop with project and task updates, and will ensure projects stay on track.
- How you will communicate. If you prefer communicating via email, make that clear. You don’t want your virtual assistant assuming that video conferencing works at all times. Agree on the communication platforms you will use as well since there are many communication tools available.
- Your law firm’s processes and workflows. Not all law firms work the same way. To ensure your virtual assistant works seamlessly with your existing processes and workflows, spend time onboarding your virtual assistant. This way, they will have a clear understanding of how things work.
- Your management style. Do you expect your virtual legal assistant to work mostly independently? How will you delegate tasks to them? Is there a project management system you use? How often do you expect updates and reports on their work? How often and in what way will you provide them with feedback?
Tips for working with virtual legal assistants
Get to know your virtual legal assistant
To facilitate a more successful working relationship, it’s important to get to know your legal assistant. This way, you’ll understand them better on a personal and professional level. It’ll also help you build two-way trust and get them invested in your law firm’s success. Virtual team-building games like online escape rooms or even simple icebreaker games done over video conferences can be lots of fun.
Be prepared to project manage
Although virtual legal assistants should significantly free up your time, you should still be prepared to spend time working with them and managing projects. Another option is to delegate the task of project management. If you do end up delegating project management, you should still spend time introducing your virtual assistant to your law firm, its processes, workflows, and technology stack.
Set clear expectations
Be sure to communicate clearly and regularly with your virtual assistant. Also, discuss how you will communicate and on what platforms. Let them know what reports you expect to receive and how often. Make it clear what your virtual assistant’s priorities are. For example, do you require a weekly report on your remote legal assistant’s tasks? Are you using a project management platform for visibility into their task list?
Give clear instructions
In a virtual law firm environment, walking to a colleague’s desk to ask a question isn’t quite possible. However, that doesn’t mean your virtual assistant should be guessing how you want them to complete each task. By giving them clear instructions for each task—whether it’s emailing clients according to your law firm’s messaging guide or collecting payment from clients—the higher the likelihood of them completing the task successfully.
This goes hand-in-hand with having an organized law firm. Since your virtual assistant is not an in-house employee, they will not have full visibility into what goes on at your law firm every day. That’s why sticking to consistent schedules, timelines, and deadlines will help your virtual legal assistant work successfully. For example, if you normally only do legal client consultations in the morning, let your virtual assistant know. If you’ve given your virtual assistant a deadline for a legal research task, try to stick to it as much as possible.
Use software to collaborate and communicate
Legal software like Clio can help your law firm manage tasks and collaborate more effectively. Your virtual assistant will benefit from being able to create standardized task lists and automatically set task deadlines based on case start dates or previous tasks. However, be mindful of permissions within each software. This is especially important if you are used to previously handling all tasks on your own. There are certain permissions you want to limit for your virtual assistant due to security reasons, and you may need to keep information confidential for cases your assistant isn’t working on.
Virtual Legal Assistant Services
Now that you understand how to choose a virtual legal assistant and how to work with one, what kind of virtual legal assistant companies or individuals should you choose? While hiring independent virtual legal assistants is an option, working with a company may give you more peace of mind. This is because you can usually rely on the companies to vet their virtual assistants for experience and professionalism. Also, if you need any additional support, a good virtual legal assistant company should be there to help.
From virtual administrative, marketing, paralegal, and bookkeeping professionals, Equivity can support your law practice with either a single dedicated specialist or an entire outsourced team. They can also provide an entire legal support team for your firm. Equivity features flexible plans and offers on-demand support.
Hire an Esquire
With on-demand freelance legal staff, Hire an Esquire hires qualified candidates who go through their rigorous screening and vetting process. This ensures you will only match with highly qualified staff. You can also tailor talent to your needs with guided tools and built-in matching algorithms to find over 12,000 qualified legal staff.
Back Office Betties
Back Office Betties provides specialized virtual legal receptionist services for solo and small law firms. When you hire Back Office Betties, you get a team that is an extension of your law firm. The team can complete client intakes, scheduling appointments, and seeing every call through to completion.
You’re now ready to improve productivity and efficiency at your firm
If you run a law firm, you probably rarely feel like there is enough time to complete all the tasks on your to-do list. From responding to prospective and existing clients promptly to client intake, document management, billing, and accounting, virtual legal assistants can help you run your firm more effectively and efficiently. When hiring a virtual legal assistant for your firm, be sure to vet potential candidates and companies thoroughly. Also, think about how they fit with your law firm. Make sure you communicate clearly to set expectations from the start. With clear instructions, consistency, and the right software, virtual legal assistants can help you focus on doing more billable work. Ultimately, this helps you become a more profitable law firm. Consider using virtual legal assistant services like Hire an Esquire and Back Office Betties, where you can rely on hiring qualified, vetted, and experienced candidates for your firm.
We published this blog post in February 2021. Last updated: .
Categorized in: Business