Lawyers’ lives seem to be busier than ever, either because our workloads actually are getting heavier or because our days are filled with constant distractions that lead to ‘busy work’ rather than productive work. Whatever the case may be, hiring a virtual assistant for your law firm can help you escape the low-value time consuming tasks that block up your day and better focus on the high-value skilled work that you’re actually getting paid for.
Are legal virtual assistants worth it?
Most busy professionals love the idea of an assistant, and it’s about so much more than just getting home on time. Having an assistant brings the promise of increased efficiencies, avoidance of mundane and repetitive tasks, more time to focus on the bigger picture of your business, and, of course, less stress. VAs are usually more affordable than one would think, too, with many prepared to do a week’s worth of work for what many lawyers can bill in a couple of hours.
What puts the brakes on these shiny plans, however, is the perceived burden of training a VA. All too many professionals believe that VAs will be perfect off the bat, but this is an unreasonable expectation. Your work practices are about as unique as you are, and as such you need to be prepared to invest the time in training the VA so they can truly support you in your practice.
To get the most out of your VA, start by writing down all your processes and procedures before you hire someone. By seeing explicitly what you do, step-by-step, on a daily basis, you will not only be able to communicate responsibilities and tasks better to the VA, but you will also discover other areas where you can be more efficient. Tools like Processkit are a great place to start if you are looking for software that will help you to identify, communicate, and delegate your processes.
What to outsource to a law firm virtual assistant
When you are thinking through everything you do in a day, it can feel overwhelming. Where is the VA supposed to start? What is the best use of their time? Is it really better to train a VA to do something for you if you are already efficient in doing it yourself?
These are all important questions, but they get in the way of introducing key efficiencies into your firm.
Rather than thinking of tasks, start with responsibilities. For example, rather than trying to come up with a list of tasks involved in your social media marketing and assigning them to the VA, just assign the VA the responsibility of ‘handling social media for the firm’. If you have a competent VA, they can do the research to figure out how to do most things. You just need to trust them and then train them on certain parts of the job if necessary.
Here are some key responsibilities a VA could take over for your firm, depending on their skill sets:
- Client onboarding
- Bookkeeping and accounting
- Marketing and communications
- Legal research
- Legal drafting
- Email inbox management
- Appointment setting and scheduling
- Calendar management
- Setting up new software products
- Answering incoming calls and emails
- Content writing
- Web development
- Website management
- File organization
- Raising and checking invoices
- Graphic design
- Project management
How to find a legal virtual assistant
Finding a virtual assistant is not necessarily the tough part – it’s finding a good one. The search for a good law firm VA needs to be taken seriously and that means taking the time to prepare carefully before you start placing ads or considering VA companies.
In preparing, make sure you have outlined not only the responsibilities that your VA will handle, but also that you’ve thought carefully about what type of person you want to work with. Do you want someone who is highly responsive and available for minor tasks throughout the day as required? Or would you prefer someone who is a self-starter and who can handle ongoing assigned responsibilities without your daily instruction?
Also think carefully about character traits that will make sure your whole team gels well; if you have a structured team that works to a consistent daily schedule and doesn’t handle interruptions well, you need to find someone that is highly process-driven and good with rules and boundaries.
Once you’ve done your preparation, you can either advertise for the role on job boards and hire the ‘traditional’ way, or you can engage a virtual assistant company to recruit and supervise an assistant for you. With the latter, you are in command of the person’s daily workload but you will also have an account manager who will be able to help to train the VA to your working practices, guide you on best practices for managing your VA, and deal with conflicts should they arise. Usually these options are more expensive, but for the time and hassle you save, it could be well worth the extra cost.