Virtual Assistants for Law Firms: Benefits, Drawbacks, and Trends
Customer service, clerical work, social media management, and office maintenance are all tasks that are typically handled by a lawyer’s office staff, but many attorneys often find themselves saddled with these assignments for one reason or another. Solo law practices can rarely afford to hire a full-time receptionist. Budgetary constraints can also impact smaller law firms. Even when lawyers can afford to hire assistants, there can be problems. Additionally, hiring full-time or even part-time staff can feel like an unnecessary expense when you only need them for a few tasks a day.
Nowadays, for various reasons, many lawyers opt to use virtual assistants. Virtual assistants perform administrative office support for your law practice--online. All those tasks you would normally delegate to a receptionist or personal assistant can be efficiently handled offsite. When you employ a virtual assistant or use a virtual assistant service, you’re effectively hiring someone to perform their job online, using their own computer and their own space.
What Are the Benefits of Using Virtual Assistants?
As many lawyers can attest, using virtual assistants instead of or in conjunction with hired, in-office workers can dramatically increase the efficiency of your office. There are quite a few benefits to choosing virtual assistants, and a primary perk is the promise of customization. A lot of us still think in terms of hourly employees: hiring one full-time staff member to take care of a variety of tasks and duties. Unfortunately, the overall cost of even one hourly employee can be prohibitive. Even for large firms, it’s easy to see how the salaries of several assistants could be used in other critical areas such as marketing or intake-tracking. It’s difficult to justify paying someone a full day’s wage to perform one or two crucial functions, and many assistants simply don’t have that much to do.
Utilizing virtual assistants allows you to pay only for your practice’s specific needs. You can choose programs that will fulfill the tasks you require, effectively cutting down costs. If you are a solo lawyer comfortable with doing your bookkeeping, but you need someone to answer the phones, you can find a virtual assistant to take on that particular responsibility. By selectively paying for individual tasks rather than providing hourly wages for in-office employees, you can make your office much more efficient. Some tailored tasks virtual assistants can handle include:
- Answering phones
- Setting up/confirming appointments
- Sending out appointment reminders
- Overseeing your schedule
- Email inbox management
- Website setup and maintenance
- Social media management
- Legal research
Customization aside, virtual assistants are also an affordable time saver. These benefits tend to be particularly appealing to solo lawyers and small firms. You can outsource small, menial, or time-consuming tasks to a virtual assistant so that you can focus on more important aspects of your practice. Law offices are simply replete with minor tasks. Appointments need to be scheduled; phones need to be answered; meeting notes must be transcribed. Solo lawyers often find themselves swamped taking care of these jobs, and that can seriously affect your practice. To put this in perspective: every minute you spend researching pest control options for your office is a moment you aren’t spending with clients or working on a case. Virtual assistants can be incredibly useful for those who need a cost-effective way to delegate a practice’s smaller, but crucial, responsibilities.
Are There Any Drawbacks to Using Virtual Assistants?
While lawyers and firms are beginning to rely more and more on virtual assistants, there are several notable drawbacks to consider before committing to any services. Potential issues include:
- Tech proficiency requirements: if you are not accustomed to using computer software, apps, or programs to manage your practice, you might not be entirely comfortable with some virtual assistant options. Many virtual assistant services lean heavily on existing programs such as Google Calendar to streamline scheduling. If you’re not completely sold on mobile technology, virtual assistants might be more hassle and stress than they’re worth.
- Starting research: since the field is booming, there are a lot of virtual assistant companies out there. Determining which businesses can provide you with quality, affordable service can take a good deal of work at the outset. You’ll need to set aside some time to identify the tasks you want to delegate, research the available options, and set up your virtual assistant.
- Trial and error: it may take several attempts to reorganize your daily practice around the services provided by virtual assistants. Especially if you choose to work with a variety of virtual assistant companies, you may find yourself handling quite a few hitches. Finding the setup that works for your unique needs can take time, and the inescapable “trial and error” approach can leave many lawyers feeling frustrated and anxious.
While the benefits of a virtual assistant outweigh the drawbacks for many lawyers, it’s still valuable to understand the potential risks. Anticipating possible problems or issues can ultimately make employing a virtual assistant that much easier.