Amidst the rising competition in the legal field, it is important for law firms to remain efficient and productive. Emerging as an important sub-segment of business process outsourcing (BPO), many corporate legal departments and firms in the United States are increasingly adopting or experimenting with legal process outsourcing to reduce costs, and increase efficiency while maintaining acceptable quality of service. Legal process outsourcing in simple terms refers to the practice of a law firm obtaining legal support services from an outside law firm or legal support services company. In fact, legal firms are one those cluttered offices that need to handle a wide range of tasks like – data entry, handling emails and phone calls, social media engagement and customer service tasks (like evaluation on each case, collecting relevant information and interacting with clients for in-depth analysis). Many attorneys often find themselves saddled with these huge assignments for one reason or another. This is not ideal as an attorney should be studying case documents/information, or arguing their case in court. The use of Virtual Assistants (VAs) becomes relevant in these situations.
Role of a Virtual Assistant (VA) in the Legal Industry
With evolving technology, the practice of using VAs has become very common in the legal realm. Staying connected from a distance and accomplishing the assigned task has become possible with virtual assistants. In simple terms, a virtual legal assistant is a professional who works remotely for a law firm from anywhere in the country without the need for infrastructure or other tools. Utilizing the services of virtual assistants allows law firms to pay only for their specific needs as they can choose programs that will fulfill the tasks they require, effectively cutting down the costs. For instance, a solo lawyer who may be comfortable doing bookkeeping, but requires the assistance of someone to answer their phone calls can use virtual assistant services to take on that particular responsibility or task. By selectively paying for individual tasks rather than providing hourly payments for in-office employees, law firms or attorneys can make their office tasks more efficient. Here listed are some tailored responsibilities that virtual legal assistants can handle –
- Legal transcription
- Legal research and writing
- Legal data entry
- Legal bookkeeping/accounting
- Email inbox management
- Answering phones
- Social media management
- Setting up/confirming legal appointments
- Sending out appointment reminders
Hiring Virtual Legal Assistant Services – Top Benefits
Here discussed are some top benefits of hiring virtual assistant services –
- Saves Time and Cost – In most cases, attorneys may not have enough time and hence may be held up with countless tasks along with team management. In such situations, hiring a virtual legal assistant can free up their valuable time. Lawyers no longer have to manage non-core activities, pay employee benefits or incur infrastructure cost. This in turn will allow them to focus more on core legal aspects and save money on unnecessary expenses.
- Top-notch Customer Experience– Hiring virtual legal assistants provide top-notch customer experience to clients. The services of assistants help attorneys or legal firms to deliver all the promises to the clients. Virtual legal assistants stay one step ahead in every aspect of their professionalism, right from picking up calls of the clients to administrative tasks.
- Provide Better Services – Virtual legal assistants always remain updated with the latest technology. Therefore, clients can avail efficient services within no time within the required budget.
- Enhanced Overall Business Efficiency – Virtual legal assistants tend to handle all core tasks in one go. They oversee all core legal activities like management of legal documents or contracts, client management, and legal research in an efficient manner thereby enhancing the overall efficiency of the law firm.
Key Legal Tasks That Are Outsourced to a Virtual Legal Assistant
Virtual assistants are very useful for those legal firms that require a cost-effective way to delegate the practice’s smaller, but crucial, responsibilities. The core tasks that need to be outsourced to a virtual legal assistant may depend on the legal firm’s requirement. Therefore, it is extremely important to evaluate the specific needs of the firm and then opt for the services of a virtual legal assistant. Here are some tangible examples of the many ways in which virtual assistants can make an attorney’s life easier –
- Legal Research and Writing – Regarded as the core functions in every legal process, legal research and writing can be time-consuming and labor intensive. Opting for virtual legal research and writing services is a perfect choice as these experts have professional experience and are equipped with relevant tools to make the whole process flawless. Some providers, even allow members to request assistants with experience in specific industries.
- Legal Data Entry – Data entry is an important process in every business domain and the legal industry is not an exception. In fact, legal office staff tend to spend a great deal time on data entry tasks. Accurate entry of data in Administrative Assistance and Word Processing requires definite skill. Outsourcing legal data entry services to a reliable virtual assistant will ensure that all the data is entered accurately in the required format to make further processes seamless. Many types of reports and documents have become fairly standardized over the last few decades. Therefore, law firms have employed the use of specific software that generates standardized reports based on the entered information. Vasa accurately enter data, such as survey results and demographics, and later employ them in developing marketing, sales plan and advertising. They also extend their services as a file clerk, data entry keeper, typist, or administrative assistant.
- Contract Review and Management – Lawyers have to deal with legal contracts. Therefore, every business hires lawyers to review their contracts and this can in turn increase the burden of law firms. By hiring the services of a virtual legal assistant for contract review and management, lawyers don’t have to worry about their contract management as every aspect of legal documents would be handled efficiently.
- Legal Accounting – Managing accounting books requires adequate skills and knowledge. Outsourcing legal accounting to virtual legal assistants can be of great help, as managing finances is complex, time-consuming and require expertise. Virtual legal assistants keep the books up-to-date and give access to lawyers so that they can review their statements whenever they want.
- Legal Data Processing and Management – VAs are skilled in formatting business documents, processing data and reproducing pre-made documents to check for accuracy and organization. They are well aware of the Information Processing Software and other related applications and hence process information containing crucial data. A virtual assistant will effectively manage information, maintain a database of clients/stakeholders, and perform data entry tasks (both online and offline), and store data in a format that the client wants. VAs possess basic principles of operating and managing the general office legal tasks and demonstrate competencies and necessary management skills to maintain the process of a client effectively.
- Appointment Scheduling and Confirmation – Scheduling and confirming appointments is another task that can consume a lot of time. A virtual assistant can take it over to keep the calendar manageable and avoid double booking.
- Paralegal – Paralegal includes the tasks of managing and collecting evidence for lawsuits, administration, responding to emails, calls, and a lot more. Virtual paralegal services can manage all these chores within their budget and in no time.
- Inbox Management – VAs can sort and organize emails based on priority, type of email, and any other parameter that a legal firm needs. This way, lawyers don’t have to search through their inbox to find the most urgent correspondence. A virtual assistant can also respond to emails on the attorney’s behalf, like messages from clients requesting directions to the office.
- Social Media Management – Lawyers who want to utilize social media to market their law firm can consider hiring a virtual assistant that has experience with major platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. By regularly posting engaging content on social media, law firms can improve their brand recognition in the long run.
By outsourcing legal processes including data entry tasks to a reputable legal process outsourcing company, law firms can benefit from access to external talent, reduced turnaround time, cost savings and flexibility. Availing the services of a legal virtual assistant provides several benefits like – completing the tasks efficiently, working at varying time zones, meeting the deadlines and complying with the rules and regulations of each client by adopting a specific method of conduct. However, choosing what tasks to be effectively outsourced to a legal VA depends largely upon the exact conditions and needs of the law firm. VAs can be particularly useful for firms that are not large enough to have too many staff members employed full time.