The virtual side of your law firm is everything you do digitally! It is also a means to transform your firm. It’s called digital transformation. All the streamlining I’ve done for my firm has been digital and virtual. You need it, and you don’t need to be afraid of it. All my recommended tools, systems and platforms to help you save time and money are all digital!
My virtual assistant, Amy Rios, has been with me from the beginning, back when everything was extremely disorganized and lacked efficiency. Having a virtual assistant saves you time, increases your productivity, and requires little to no training.
Training your virtual assistant (VA)
I’ll talk about this first because it’s the biggest concern people have expressed to me when it comes to virtual assistants.
They think hiring a virtual assistant will just take them away from their work. Doesn’t it take more time to tell someone how to do something than it takes for you to just do it yourself?
Think of it as an investment of your time, with HUGE returns. Sure, you train them a bit, but after that, everything settles into smooth, streamlined efficiency.
Here’s what you can expect:
- There will be a lot of back and forth in the beginning.
- You establish SOPs, folders, platforms; you add your VA to your CMS.
- Then your assistant should get familiar with your style and systems. If he/she doesn’t learn it, you may have made a bad hire
- And that’s it. Sooner rather than later, your assistant is saving you tremendous amounts of time and money!
Why it’s absolutely worth it:
You save time
- Scheduling appointments are suddenly off your plate, freeing up so much time.
- My fantastic VA Amy takes care of casework for the firm, doing all the forms, cover letters, legal arguments… She’s part of our system of efficiency.
You save money
- Hourly rates vary for various skill levels, so you save money with someone you train up, who grows and learns with you.
- Getting a personal assistant who comes in every day can cost you $25/hour and up! A VA can start at $7.50!
How to hire your virtual assistant
I found Amy by posting in an expat mom’s group, saying that I was looking for a virtual assistant and I wanted someone bilingual. I had worked with a few different virtual assistant agencies and things, but I decided to give this a try.
Amy wasn’t bilingual. But she was tenacious. She said yes to my conditions: at first, I said I need someone for five to ten hours a week, then twenty, then I said it would be full time! Amy always followed up with me and said she can do it, she loves the job, so I thought, well this is a dedicated woman and we might just be the right fit!
Years later and Amy is even writing my declarations, something I’ve previously been hiring lawyers and spending so much money for!
I’m glad I hired Amy even though she isn’t bilingual. I’m glad I had an open mind about it instead of sticking to a not-so-essential criterion. So that’s your first step to hiring your virtual assistant.
1. Keep an open mind
The star assistant might already be there, even if he/she might not answer all your criteria!
You also need to be open because the best assistants come with ideas! Amy’s ideas have had a huge impact on my firm.
2. What do you need?
Your needs should shape the job posting, so you can fill your needs, instead of hiring a role you might not need.
It’s hard to identify your needs sometimes, but you have a lot of them, more than you might think. Here are a few examples of needs you may have:
- Do you need someone close by?
- If you need someone to assemble packets for you that might be harder to do virtually, although I do think it’s possible.
- Do you need someone in person for some reason or can you find a way to make it work virtually?
- Again, you have to think creatively. At first, Amy and I didn’t really know how to make it work virtually, but we both tried really hard and here we are, almost four years later.
- Who/where do you need help? For yourself, your firm, or both? I have my firm, I have Ally Lozano, I have AMIGA, and Amy also helps me for myself and my husband’s psych evaluation clinic!
Define what you need so you can look for what you need in your applicants.
3. How will you pay?
In Amy’s case, she lives in Cabo but she has a US bank account, so we just deposit there. Most platforms like Upwork has their own billing system, so you’re covered.
4. Communication and accountability
Communication is simply about relaying all your likes and dislikes. Expectations can be hard to set out because sometimes you’re not aware of what you like. So tell your VA what you like and dislike, give her feedback.
In return, you should get updates about tasks. For example, I might say, “Hey Amy, can you order some business cards?” She’ll respond, “Okay.” Then, when she finishes it, she’ll say, “Ordered.”
We’re constantly letting each other know that things are getting done. It feels micromanage-y, but at the beginning and in some situations, you do need to micromanage a bit, because you can’t see them working. They should understand this and have no problem with it.
For accountability, set it up so your assistant can track hours. Amy tracks her own hours.
This is because I don’t know how long things take. Sometimes I think they take less time than they actually do. And Amy has come to me over the years saying she’s overwhelmed and working all the time. So now she tracks her hours so I know where her time went and how much, as well as when I can give her more work, and when I can’t.
Work ebbs and flows, so we’re flexible, but you need communication and accountability. It’s a two-way street of updates between you and your assistant so that the work is always done the way you want it, without someone being buried in work.
For example, I have a full-time marketing manager now whom I go to for all my night time ideas! And I’ve stopped emailing Amy at 10 pm. I’ve gotten better, right Amy?
This is how you establish trust. Transparency and accountability.
Once you’ve established trust, your virtual assistant will be a part of your life. He/she knows all of your information, your likes and dislikes, and she might even book your kid’s dentist appointments! In my case, Amy even knows all my family member’s social security numbers.
We did confidentiality agreements and all sorts of things like that for security and protection. That’s routine and that’s it, really.
Having a virtual assistant is a lifesaver and could be just the thing you and your firm need. Now start delegating time-consuming tasks and saving money today!