The perfect paralegal can be the heartbeat of your legal practice, so why limit your options when it’s time to hire a new one. As with almost every other aspect of the legal industry (and thanks to the cloud) paralegals are going virtual and you are missing out on some considerable cost savings by staying on the ground. Consider this cost breakdown from a 2014 American Bar Association article:
“A full-time, salaried paralegal averages $62,700 annually, which breaks down to about $30 per hour. The employer, however, is on the hook for an additional 35 percent in taxes and benefits (paid lunches, overtime, personal leave, overhead, professional dues, and non-productive time) for a total budget expense of about $84,600 per year. On the other hand, a savvy solo or small firm may need only ten hours of paralegal support over the course of each week. Assuming a flat rate of $55 per hour for 52 weeks (520 hours total) for virtual paralegal assistance—without the extra expenses associated with payroll taxes, insurance, benefits, overhead, and other hidden costs—the annual cost to the firm would be just $28,600. This yields a relative savings of about $56,000—almost the cost of the base salary of the full-time employee.”
That represents a substantial savings and a considerable addition to your firm’s profit margin. Just think about it. What would you do with an extra $50,000 in profit this year?
Finding the Right Paralegal
If you decide to leap into the world of the virtual assistants, do so with the same care and diligence that you would put into hiring an on-office paralegal. Remember, this individual represents you and your firm. He or she needs to convey professionalism and confidence, even if it’s only through written correspondence and Skype calls.
Conduct a thorough job search or contract a reputable legal placement agency to identify a candidate for you. Check references and ask detailed questions about each candidate’s knowledge and experience. Don’t expect this to be an easy process. As any human resources expert will tell you, finding the right candidate takes time, so put in the appropriate effort to avoid costly headaches down the line.
Bringing on a virtual paralegal requires preparation on your part. If you were to hire a traditional paralegal, you would likely spend the first week or two training and explaining the processes of your practice. Well, a virtual paralegal requires the same effort. Don’t bring someone on until you have a clear vision of your expectations and how this new addition can meet them.
Many virtual assistant connoisseurs suggest creating a training manual with detailed explanations of how you like the firm’s work completed. The level of detail will depend on your individual supervising type. If you are a micro-manager, who is very picky about the details, your training manual will likely be substantial. Whereas the hands-off supervisor will likely have a much more condensed version. I know it may sound like a headache, but it’s a task you only have to take on once. Your manual is totally reusable and if you find yourself in need of an additional virtual paralegal, it’s already in place – and here’s a little time saving tip. Your manual doesn’t have to be in writing. Just whip out the trusty cell phone and record videos of yourself explaining or doing each process.
A virtual paralegal can be cost and time effective, especially with comprehensive legal time management and billing software. The mobility and convenience of TimeSolv allows you to track and bill for the work of your paralegal whether she is in the next office or halfway around the world. So, get to hiring and remember to check the practice rules of your state to ensure you stay in compliance.
About Erika Winston:
Erika Winston is a Virginia based writer with a passion for all things legal. As a former domestic relations attorney, she understands the challenge of determining the best fee structure for your practice. Erika is a regular contributor to TimeSolv and a variety of other publications.