With the Latest Technology
By: Holly A. Sheriff, MSLS, Editor: Lawrence A. Constance, BME, AS
In the last decade, the legal community and technology have finally caught up with my vision for Best Virtual Paralegal. On February 2, 1991, I set the original mission in motion when I drafted a small business plan on a napkin with the following phrase at the heart of my crazy idea:
“REINVENTING THE WAY ATTORNEYS AND PARALEGALS WORK TOGETHER”
Since 1998, technology has played a huge role in our small Mom and Pop enterprise. In fact, in the last 21 years, because there have been so many advances in technology, our company spares no expense when it comes to intergrading tools into our day-to-day operations. When you are searching for a virtual paralegal company to assist your firm you want to look for a company that has embraced technology without sacrificing safety, communications, mobilization features, and cost efficiency.
In the last few years, I have heard horror stories from colleagues and clients about what other freelance paralegals expect attorneys and law firms to provide to the “so-called virtual/freelance paralegal”; at the expense of the law firm. We don’t want to see any law firm fall victim to the “so-called freelance paralegals who do not cover his or her own business expenses”.
Seriously, don’t fall victim to the freelancers that make you provide the same things you would provide an employee. There are better options out there.
A reputable paralegal company will have business plans built on safety, communications, mobilization features, and cost efficiency.
When it comes to shopping for a virtual paralegal, you need to ask the prospective company if they use paid versions of the following internet safety tools:
- Virus Protection
- Malware Protection
- Email Accounts
- Collaboration and Document Sharing
- Business Associate Agreements for storing legal, financial, and healthcare data
- Data Back-Up
- Passwords on devices
A top-notch virtual paralegal company should be well-trained in using and deploying all of the above internet safety tools. The company should not charge your law firm for its subscriptions and the cost of the deployment of these features.
When working with a virtual paralegal, communication is super important! You should anticipate that there are new challenges on the horizon that you never thought of before. When your firm is speaking with a virtual paralegal, you’ll want to ask if the paralegal:
- Provide a toll-free number for your clients to call?
- Does the paralegal have a business dedicated phone line?
Buyers beware; in recent years we have come to find there are many freelance paralegals out in social media land that think it is okay to use his or her employer’s software and phone lines to render services to other law firms. Virtual or freelance paralegals should not use any tools or equipment owned by another law firm or person.
Other questions you may want to ask
- Is the paralegal office mobile?
- Can you fax the paralegal office, even when they are traveling?
- Can you call the paralegal, even when they are away from their physical office?
- Can you have a safe and secure video conference with them no matter where they happen to be?
Nationwide paralegal companies should have all the same communication tools as your law firm. You should not have to pay or provide access to your phone systems. Virtual paralegals should pay for all the customary office communication tools they need to render services to you and your clients.
At Best Virtual Paralegal, LLC we believe cost efficiency should be at the core of our services. Therefore, we believe that when you are looking to retain or hire a self-employed paralegal, one of the rewards your law firm should enjoy is NOT paying for tools on behalf of a paralegal.
These tools include:
- Internet safety tool listed in our item no.1 above
- Microsoft Business 365, Word Perfect, or Other Word Processing Software
- Adobe or other PDF Software
- Communication Services
- Cloud-Based Practice Management Tools
- Legal Research Providers
Exceptions to every rule……
It should be noted that there are a few exceptions to every rule. Depending on your type of law practice and the software you use to prepare documents, the Family Law Software, and BestCase Software does not typically sell their products to paralegal companies.
Therefore, these software companies typically provide a free virtual seat for you to share with your virtual paralegal, subject to the terms and conditions of your licensing agreements with each respective company. Free virtual seats may not be available in all markets. For more information, you should visit each company’s respective websites.
Additional Perks Your Law Practice Should Enjoy
In addition, during your search for a virtual or freelance paralegal, you should seek a company that supplies and pays for its own:
- Healthcare and insurance
- Office Space
- Practice Management Program or Client Portal
- CLEs & Other Legal Training
- Vacation, Sick Pay, Retirement, and Fringe Benefits
- Computers, Fax Machines, Phones, Vehicles, etc.
- Business Licenses and Permits
- Business Insurance
- Additional staff members
The only things you should expect to pay when working with a reputable virtual paralegal are:
- Reasonable Paralegal Fees
- Reasonable Out of Pocket Incidentals for projects, onsite, and in a trial, or consulting services, which can include:
- Court Costs
- Pacer Fees
- Travel Expenses /Meals / Lodging
- Shipping and Handling of Trial Displays
- Bulk Materials for Trial Preparation outside the normal course the paralegal’s day-to-day business operations.
All other business-related costs such as finance charges, interest fees, and credit card machine charges should be paid by the paralegal company as a cost of doing business. You and your clients should not have to pay or reimburse a paralegal his or her company’s customary business-related expenses.
Before you start looking for a paralegal service provider, sit down and calculate what you would expect to pay to have an office for an employee, then take a look at our list. By the time you finish your comparison, you should see substantial savings in operating costs.
Find out what Best Virtual Paralegal, LLC can do for your firm contact us today!
~ Best Virtual Paralegal, LLC ~
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