Virtual Assistants 101

Ever increasing numbers of attorneys hanging out their own shingle are in dire need of administrative assistance, but do not have the space, equipment or even workload to warrant hiring an employee.

This means many are forced to spend hours each day on the administrative duties required to keep their practice in business, taking away from more productive activities of networking and client development and even personal time.

While some may enjoy having total control, there is only so much time in any day and working 16-18 hour days every day takes it’s toll.

Fortunately, a better solution is available in a little known industry which is taking the business world by storm: virtual assistants.

What is a VA?

Virtual Assistants or VAs are business owners who provide administrative and other services virtually — through the use of electronic communications (the internet, telephone, e-mail, fax and instant messaging), couriers and even US mail.

Professional VAs accomplish assigned tasks from their own well equipped office, have years of experience in their chosen field, and are considered contract vendors and not employees thereby eliminating the expense, hidden costs and headaches inherent in the employer/employee relationship. And, since they are virtual, you don’t even need to supply space, let alone equipment, software licenses or training to work with a VA.

While you can locate a VA for almost any service imaginable, common administrative duties performed by VAs include word processing, desktop publishing, contact and calendar management, accounting/billing, reception and travel arrangements and web based account work.

Where Can I Find a VA?

I get asked this question all the time and there is no one size fits all answer (outside of my own business, of course!).  Since every VA is an independent business owner, the services offered, methods for transfer of work and costs vary. Rates range from as little as $25 to $100+ per hour or more based on the services provided and experience of the VA.

A good place to start is to google “virtual assistant” and your location/zip code to see if any local candidates are available for interview.  If you are not going to go with an established nationwide service, then I strongly urge you to find a local assistant. This is because someone who is local to you, hopefully with “legal” experience, will be able to provide a much more tailored service than a foreign national.  A review of a VA’s website should give you a good indication of services available and should provide a little information about the VA too.

Whether working with a single VA or an established network, always look for certifications, experience within your industry, type of work and/or software/technology used.You should also get referrals/testimonials of existing clients, where possible.

In many instances a VA becomes a strategic partner of their client’s business, offering suggestions for improvement of processes, methodologies for workflow, options for increasing revenue, as well as by providing access to their own network of contacts within the growing VA industry itself!

The Devil is in the Details:

Before deciding on a VA, you need to determine what you want them to do. Start with a list of duties you do not like doing, you are not properly trained to do, or projects you never seem to be able to get to. This will give you a framework to decide what you wish to keep on your to do list and what you wish to outsource to your VA.

Once you have found a VA to work with, it is imperative that you sign a contract or Terms of Service, specifying the nature of the relationship, types of services to be provided, deadlines/project parameters, costs, billing procedures and any other details. This is to avoid potential misunderstandings, as well as confirm that the relationship is of an independent contractor nature.

Just Do It

In short, if you are tired of taking care of the administrative tasks of running a practice, want to explore taking your company’s business processes to the next level, or simply could use a hand with a specialty or large project, consider locating and hiring a Virtual Assistant.

5 Reasons A Fax Machine Beats Fax to Email Service For Law Firms

To begin, fax works.

All you need a dial tone and, in today’s day and age, almost any multifunction printer; but many firms maintain separate fax machines.

If your firm uses a physical fax machine, that does NOT make your practice old fashioned, you out of date with technology or any of the other negatives legal tech pundits like to say about attorneys who “still” use a physical fax machine.

Here are just 5 reasons why I say a fax machine beats fax to email:

1. SECURITY – email is more of a postcard than a sealed envelope. When you use a fax to email provider and you ask clients to send you credit card and social security numbers – unless your service gives you the option to encrypt (I don’t know of any that do) or holds your faxes for review while securely logged in to your account – like Onebox – then you are openly emailing data and information that you should not be openly emailing. Period. Ask your credit card processing company – they gave you terms for the collection of information … which I’m sure you read … yes?

Let’s face it – identity theft is not rampant due to dumpster diving!! Don’t let your business processes open up your client’s personally identifiable information to the world wide web.

2. SPEED – it is MUCH faster to put a document on a fax machine, dial the number and hit send vs. putting document on scanner, scanning document, finding scanned file to save to client file; open browser; log into fax tech; start new fax (that’s usually 2 or 3 clicks); enter fields of information for cover sheet (which you have to go find in another application to block/copy); locate and attach actual file you scanned; and ~ FINALLY ~ hit send.  <-NOTE: any interruption in this process can add a few minutes to hours to the time it takes to actually send the fax.

3. CONFIRMATION – you get a confirmation when a fax is complete; if it didn’t go through or if the wrong number of pages were sent. Fax to email – you get nothing or perhaps an email from your provider that you sent something – but not a confirmation that it was received.  That is because email is NEVER a sure way to communicate.

4. SERVICE OF PROCESS – fax is a way to serve documents which is accepted by many courts. I believe it’s (and I’m going back over 13 years now…) if a law firm publishes their fax number – in their signature block or on their business stationary – then service can be effectuated upon them at that fax number. Email – not so much.  Perhaps if a firm agrees to accept service by email before you send … but then you’re not openly emailing documents which contain confidential client information are you?!? see #1 above.

5.  NO INTERNET NEEDED – need I say more?

A fax machine is a piece of equipment I recommend to all law firms as it provides an efficient and secure method to electronically transfer documents which does not require the internet.

Even to those who still prefer fax to email, having a fax capable machine is a perfect back up for the faxing process whenever the internet goes down.

 

 

 

Happy Admin Professionals Day!

You cannot diminish the contributions of those in the trenches – supporting the attorneys and law firms, courts and corporations – making sure your families and businesses are protected.

The tech companies can keep selling the notion how their latest this or that can remove the live, thinking brain in the process of getting legal work product done.

I stand here today to tell you it simply cannot.

Sure attorneys can type. Most use technology every day. Does not mean it is the best use of their time, focus or energies.

So this post is for those who help them, who get the paperwork done, the information collected, the calls returned, the bills paid…

My best wishes and heart felt thanks to my fellow administrative professionals…

… with a little diddy from one of my favorite artists and a HT to those of us not doing it the way our mothers always have …

The Legal Connection Community Acknowledges First Platinum Sponsor

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I am very excited to welcome our newest sponsor for The Legal Connection Community Site.  Many thanks to:

Firm CentralFIRM CENTRAL, the mobile-enabled, securely hosted practice-management solution for solo and small firms, by Thomson Reuters.

We acknowledge and appreciate the support  of Thomson Reuters’ Firm Central and the on-going support it brings to our members, practicing attorneys and their staff.

About our Sponsor:

Firm Central securely connects attorneys and their staff to the documents, data, files and research necessary to get the work done – all from one easy log on. Firm Central keeps firm information and client data safe and secure, while readily accessible to authorized users 24/7.  It simplifies law practice processes, relieving firms of the expense and busy attorneys of the stresses involved with establishing, configuring and securely maintaining on site equipment and software.

About The Legal Connection:

The Legal Connection is where attorneys and those who work in legal gain fresh ideas and practical insights to streamline processes and sharpen the practical skills necessary to conduct the business of law on and through the web.

Thank you Firm Central for your support of The Legal Connection!

Are you interested in reaching attorneys, their staff and those in the legal IT community? The Legal Connection Community Site has many options and levels of sponsorship and welcomes all who wish to contribute! For more information, contact me at andrea @legaltypist .com

The Legal Connection Newsletter – December 2013

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The public version of the December 2013 Issue of The Legal Connection Newsletter is now available! December’s theme is ‘wish’.

*  Wishes Really Do Come True! – Andrea Cannavina

*  Service Announcement – LegalTypist Works with iThings

*  I Wish for Manners – Justin Meyer

*  Legal Business Development Infographics – Julie Fleming

*  Happy Holidays from The Rural Lawyer

*  Wish -Trippe Fried

* Legal Event Calendar <-NYC Lunch Meet Up is February 5

Subscribe to The Legal Connection list to receive the private version, which may include specials and contests not offered to the public, by clicking here.

Andrea Cannavina, Editor+
T: 866-848-2195 x101 | E: andrea@legaltypist.com
www.legaltypist.com | www.andreacannavina.com

10 Good Tweets : 12.31.13

10 Good Tweets

  1. 4 Reasons Not to Self Host Your WordPress Site @conetix http://ow.ly/rXo1G
  2. Upgrading to a Digital Workflow podcast & transcript http://ow.ly/rKyKy
  3. 4 New Ways to Smuggle Messages Across the Internet http://ow.ly/rNIT6
  4. Good basic info on the code  behind your site via @carolynelefant http://ow.ly/rMokW
  5. Lawyer made  infographics AND a practical use for #Pinterest http://ow.ly/rSZ6F
  6. Five Links of Interest re Cloud Computing: http://ow.ly/rJZVu #legal #legalIT
  7. Made me giggle -> Comedian Lewis Black: 8 Reasons Why Amazon’s Drones Won’t Work http://ow.ly/rNHMa
  8. What everyone needs to know about marketing automation @JimConnolly http://ow.ly/rNN4l
  9. 3 Quick Ways to Build Evernote Use Among Your Team http://ow.ly/rvVyx
  10. You Don’t Need Video on Your Site … Yet @LeeRosen http://ow.ly/rF2Nf

10 Good Tweets – 12.15.13

8

  1. Upgrading to a Digital Workflow podcast & transcript @LegalTypist http://ow.ly/rKyKy
  2. You Don’t Need Video on Your Site . . . Yet @LeeRosen http://ow.ly/rF2N5 <-exactly how I feel about  it. Thanks Lee!
  3. The Top-Five Questions to Ask when Evaluating Cloud-Based Technology for your Practice @acrowire http://ow.ly/rD8me
  4. 3 Quick Ways to Build Evernote Use Among Your Team http://ow.ly/rvVyx
  5. Tested out a nifty dictation app called Dictamus (now Dictate + Connect): http://ow.ly/rMpC9
  6. Interesting ->Gmail blows up e-mail marketing by caching all images on Google servers @arstechnica ow.ly/rJAHc
  7. How to: Enable Multiple User Accounts on Android 4.2 and Above wp.me/p1yYrY-1Oe
  8. Power User Guide: Best-Loved Keyboard Shortcuts @VivianManning for @attnyatwork ow.ly/rF9Vx
  9. The Evolution of Social Media (2008-2013) ~ An Infographic by @hootsuite ow.ly/rCMKj
  10. Divorce Discourse Oldies: Should You Send a Holiday Card? http://ow.ly/rMpXH