ABA Techshow

Solos, get the virtual help you need to grow

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While launching and maintaining an independent practice can be a daunting endeavor, solos have never had more inexpensive, innovative and reliable resources at their fingertips.

From virtual secretaries and accountants to outsourced document preparation to cloud-based client management tools, there are user-friendly web-based tech solutions for nearly every aspect of running a law practice, legal software consultants Steven J. Best, founding partner of the Affinity Consulting Group, and Diane Ebersole, a practice management advisor for the State Bar of Michigan, told ABA Techshow attendees Friday.

“In this day and age you don’t need four walls anymore,” Best said in the program on assembling virtual teams. “You can be in Atlanta and your receptionist in Seattle.”

The duo cited improved work flow and customer relations and increased flexibility and productivity as some of the benefits of employing a mobile office. One example is Grasshopper, a virtual phone system that will answer or forward client calls, allow lawyers to use multiple cell phones as extensions, and send messages and voicemails via email, a favorite service of Best.

For those wary of overhead costs, virtual assistants, including law clerks, bookkeepers, paralegals and associate attorneys, are often independent contractors, freeing lawyers from employee-related expenses.

And, best thing about hiring people who are entrepreneurs themselves? “They want to keep your business and keep you happy,” Ebersole said. Virtual assistants can also free up full-time staff for more valuable tasks.

The duo advised those seeking virtual help to first target the areas of greatest need, research providers (including asking other lawyers and their state bar associations for referrals), and to set clear goals and dates for the tasks assigned. Many virtual assistants and software providers will also offer a trial-period before requiring a contract for a more substantial commitment.

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