In our last post, we discussed how your firm should go about finding quality Virtual Paralegals. Since that post, I’ve seen several virtual paralegals set up shop and begin posting on Facebook and Linked-In. I’m excited to see new entrants into this field! Now that there are a few options out there, how do you go about selecting the right one for YOUR firm?
I believe that any virtual paralegal needs to have real life paralegal experience, be a self-starter and motivated, and possess other certain traits that can make them an indispensable part of your team.
1. Real Life Experience: This is a must. How on Earth can a virtual paralegal support an attorney if they’ve never successfully worked in a law firm? Review their resume. Are they a job hopper? That can signal a candidate who is either difficult to work with or someone who has no ability to stick through the tough times. A change in employers within the legal field every 24 months is not overly excessive in today’s work climate. However, anything less than 24 months should be a red flag that requires further investigation. Ultimately, you will want your virtual paralegal to be experienced, stable, and loyal!
2. Motivated and self-starter: You will want a virtual paralegal that can not only identify issues or problems, but also provides reasonable and well thought out solutions. A Chicken Little “the sky is falling” type individual has no place in the virtual world. Attorneys have plenty on their plate and the last thing they want is support staff dumping a problem in their lap with no suggestions for remedy. A good virtual paralegal’s resume will reflect their motivation and dedication to the profession by instances of taking on leadership roles within a law firm or within their local paralegal association.
3. Professionalism, attention to detail, and loyalty: This is the trifecta of traits that your virtual paralegal must possess in order for you to fully reap the rewards, benefits, and profits of using virtual support.
Professionalism is easily confirmed by their paper resume, their online posts, their email communications, as well as their “digital resume”. Check out their social media accounts. Are their posts fraught with silly tirades, misspellings, or worse, vulgarity? Does their email communication look more like a text with over-utlization of abbreviations or slang? Or is it well organized and presented as in a letter?
Perhaps where some virtual paralegals fall short is in the “attention to detail” department. I find this strange because as support staff, we should always be on the lookout for the details. We all know the “devil is in the details” and without a watchful eye, how are we to make our attorneys look like Rock Stars??Correspondence with poor grammar and misspellings is embarassing for the attorney and should be embarrassing for you. Proof-read everything before you send it to your attorney. If proofing on a computer screen is a pain (it is for me), then print it out. When I find just one error, I will usually correct it, re-read the entire item, THEN send it to the attorney for review.
Loyalty is the last piece that is often overlooked. Attorneys are turning to Virtual Paralegals as a way to provide efficient legal services for their clients. To embark on such a relationship with an attorney is usually a “dance” for both parties. The attorney may be trying out this concept for the very first time. It is important that the execution and implementation of providing quality work product is seamless, convenient, and painless for the attorney. Building that relationship of trust and “going above and beyond” are best ways to build loyalty wth your client, the attorney.
Remember, just because we aren’t sitting in their office, it is still our job and number one focus to make their lives easier by providing them high quality support, at a fraction of the cost of a full-time, benefits-loving employee.
In our next post, we’ll discuss several practice areas that seem to “get” the concept of virtual paralegals, and how those firms are positioning themselves for continued profitablity well into the future.
Jay Quigley, RP, CP, FRP is the founder of Parasimple, a company that provides virtual paralegal support services to attorneys and law firms of all sizes throughout the state of Florida.