Meeting Your Staffing Needs on a Budget
Your law office staff is the glue that holds your practice together. From client intake to document preparation to accounting and billing, a good staff keeps things running smoothly and frees lawyers to concentrate on practicing law.
Before hiring anyone, assess your caseload, your needs and your budget. Investigate practice management software that can automate many of the functions that used to be performed by in-house staff. Then consider these options for hiring staff without breaking the bank.
A virtual assistant, also sometimes called a virtual executive assistant, can do just about anything that a live staff member can do without being physically present in your office. You can hire a virtual assistant to handle such things as checking email, maintaining a firm calendar, managing bookkeeping and payroll, arranging travel, answering phones, scheduling appointments, keeping up your social media postings, drafting correspondence and proofreading documents.
Depending on your needs, you might hire one virtual legal assistant to take care of a variety of tasks, or you might hire different assistants to fill different needs. You might, for example, engage a receptionist service to answer your phone calls, a bookkeeping service to take care of payments and invoices, and a legal assistant or paralegal to fill out forms and draft correspondence. Virtual assistants may charge by the hour, by the project, or by blocks of time, and their fees will vary depending on their level of expertise and their location.
To find virtual assistants, get recommendations from other local lawyers or business owners or your local chamber of commerce or bar association. You can also search online for companies that provide virtual assistant services, or you can post jobs through Craigslist or online freelancer bidding sites such as Upwork.
Contract Attorneys and Paralegals
Another way to meet your needs is by hiring independent contractors when you need them. For example, you might hire contract attorneys and paralegals to assist with a large document review project, a temporary spike in your workload, or a case that demands expertise that you don’t have. Independent contractors can help you meet temporary client demands without having to take on more full-time staff.
Hiring someone as an independent contractor also gives you an opportunity to test the waters and see if the contractor would make a good full or part-time employee. However, before you hire someone as an independent contractor, make sure the person meets Internal Revenue Service standards for independent contractor status.
To find independent contractor lawyers and paralegals, consider placing an ad with your local bar association, or ask other lawyers in your area if they have used contract lawyers. Legal temp agencies can also set you up with qualified contract lawyers and will handle the employment paperwork for you.
Shared Offices and Staff
Sharing office space with another law office is another way to increase your staff without spending a fortune. You might share space with another new firm and split the cost of some of the office staff, including a receptionist and accounting person. Or you might rent space within an established firm and use that firm’s receptionist and some other back office staff.
Technology has made it easier than ever to handle staffing needs without the cost and commitment of full time employees. Contract lawyers and paralegals, virtual assistants and practice management software can all give you the support you need to run your firm both competently and profitably.