Need Help? Now what?

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Many a time I’ve talked to attorneys who need help but have a hard time deciding what to delegate to a freelance paralegal or paralegal support service – even after talking with a provider.  It’s not an uncommon predicament, especially for sole practitioners, so here are a few ideas to help you move forward.

If you’ve contacted a paralegal support service or freelance paralegal (remember, they’re really the same thing) because you know you need help, e.g., drafting confidentiality agreements or preparing trademark applications, then you’ve already identified specific tasks you’d like help with.  That’s exactly what you should delegate to the service.  If you’re uncomfortable moving forward with that, especially if it’s your first time using a paralegal support service, then give the paralegal two or three small projects on a trial basis just to get started.  That will help you build a work relationship with the service without feeling like you’re stuck or trapped if it’s not a good fit or the service doesn’t meet your expectations.

On the other hand, if you know your firm needs additional paralegal support but you’re unable to identify specific projects, tasks, or steps that may be outsourced to help move your clients’ legal matters forward, ask your existing support staff what they need help with the most.  If you don’t currently have an in-house paralegal, look at your time sheets for the past two months and highlight everything you spent too much time on, you could have easily delegated to someone else, you didn’t enjoy doing, and/or didn’t best serve the client by your doing personally. If you don’t keep time sheets, keep a notepad next to you for the next couple of weeks and write down every task you do that fits into one of the categories above.  Then you’ll be ready for the steps in the paragraph above so you can move forward to obtain the support you need.

Don’t be afraid to start small (unless you have no reservation about utilizing a new freelance paralegal or paralegal support service).  I always recommend attorneys and firms start small, with easy projects that will help you get to know your paralegal and start building that relationship.  Then, add additional responsibility as you feel comfortable.  If deciding what to delegate is still difficult for you, your paralegal provider may be able to suggest other projects and tasks you can delegate as he or she gets to know you and becomes better acquainted with your firm and its practices.  If you’re using a service for the long-term, consider establishing quarterly reviews/brainstorming sessions for just that reason.

Other ideas/thoughts?  Sound off in the comments below.

Questions to help you start moving forward?  Let me know.

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