Need Help? Now what?

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 … Continue reading

Clarify Your Needs to Receive Invaluable Support

A few weeks ago, I provided a consultation to a small litigation firm looking for paralegal support.  I give them kudos for knowing they need support and for already identifying the type of support best suited to their needs.  However, it quickly became clear during the consultation that, while they knew they wanted and needed someone highly qualified in their particular area of law, they hadn’t yet considered what tasks to outsource. Sometimes it’s hard to break things down with specificity, especially if you’ve been working in your field for a while.  As a specialist, the work you do becomes familiar and the intricate details of each step soon blend together into a more generalized overview; they become second-nature to you.  At this point, it can become difficult to break them back down into the individual steps you once spent so much time mastering.  In order to delegate, though, it’s … Continue reading

Supervising Virtual Paralegals

Under rules of professional responsibility and guidelines for the utilization of nonlawyer assistants, paralegals and legal assistants work under the direction and supervision of an attorney.  In other words, an attorney has a professional responsibility to direct and supervise the work of nonlawyer assistants.  Failure to do so can result in serious consequences for an attorney, so it’s no surprise that supervision is one of the first concerns when retaining a contract paralegal or paralegal support service.  (Another significant concern is that of confidentiality, which is not the subject of this particular article.)  If you’re using a contract paralegal or paralegal support service that provides on-site services, supervision isn’t much of an issue.  However, just as you don’t, most service-based businesses don’t work at their clients’ locations.  Rather, they perform their services from their own place of business.   If you know me, you know I don’t often use the … Continue reading

Reducing Overwhelm

All of us experience overwhelm at one point or another; some of us more regularly than others.  Are you running your practice or is it running you? What’s the cause of your overwhelm?  Is your practice growing?  Do you have an exceptionally large case to handle in addition to your regular matters?  Has someone else’s cases been delegated to you as a result of a departure?  Do you consistently have numerous cases or legal matters on your plate? While all these situations can cause overwhelm, they may not be the cause of your overwhelm; at least in whole.  Consider your own unique situation for a moment.  Is it similar to one of the above or is there something else?  How organized are you?  How efficiently and effectively do you work?  Are your office processes streamlined?  What about work-flow processes or your own systems for plowing through emails and the piles … Continue reading

Contract Paralegals Help Agencies Alleviate Unprecedented Caseloads

This fourth and final article in the mini-series discussing the challenges various types of law practices face today considers quite possibly the most challenged of them all – agency legal departments. Previously discussed was the challenges faced by solo practitioners and small firms, law firms, and corporate legal departments. Of all these workplaces, local, state, and federal agencies and institutions grapple with some of the deepest budget cuts in our country and their legal departments, while taking on more and more work, are no exception. What challenges do these legal departments face? Unprecedented case loads An appreciable backlog of files Deep budget cuts Hiring freezes Insufficient staff The need to do more with less How does work get done under such extreme circumstances? Oftentimes it doesn’t; at least not right away. It’s a matter of dealing with each issue as it becomes an urgent matter of priority. Until then, it … Continue reading

Paralegal Support for Law Firms

overwhelmed

In the last post, Benefits of Paralegal Support Services for Solo Practitioners and Small Firms, I mentioned that savings is the bottom-line with paralegal support services – whether in the form of time, business, or clients.  Really, that’s the case for each of the four types of practicing attorneys (solo/small firm attorneys, mid- to large-size firm attorneys, corporate attorneys, and public service attorneys) mentioned, even though each faces distinct challenges. This week, let’s consider briefly the challenges faced by attorneys in mid- to large-sized firms and how paralegals and paralegal support services help with those challenges. Challenges Larger firms already have it all:  Plenty of office space (most of the time) and equipment, partners, associates, paralegals, legal secretaries, support staff, office manager/bookkeeper, and even benefits.  What challenges could they possibly face? Growth (Congratulations!); Insufficient office space for more employees; The occasional spike in the number of active cases; Occasional conflicting … Continue reading