Rania Combs is a wills, trusts and estates lawyer, licensed in Texas since 1994. When her spouse got transferred to North Carolina, she examined her options for practicing law there. Opening a virtual law office seemed like the solution to a challenging circumstance. She launched her virtual practice in January 2010.
Many lawyers may wonder whether a virtual law office would solve their problems, too. Here are some examples of why they might be considering it:
• Newly licensed attorneys may want to avoid the overhead and long-term commitment of a traditional brick and mortar office.
• Experienced lawyers may want to expand the geographic reach of their existing practice to garner more clients.
• Many lawyers have a thriving practice in a smaller town, but have difficulty finding locally the high caliber legal talent they need to help handle the work flow.
• Family obligations or other circumstances make it difficult for some attorneys to keep traditional office hours.
• For some attorneys, the international scope of their work demands technological innovation to serve client needs.
• Some attorneys just long to escape the snow in the winter or the heat in the summer without interrupting their law practice.
To help answer some of your questions about what it’s really like to open a virtual law practice, I interviewed Rania Combs. You can view Combs’ website at http://www.texaswillsandtrustslaw.com/. The interview follows: Read more
Post Date: October 2, 2012
In this issue of “Raising the Bar“, Debra L. Bruce presents the first of a three-part series addressing the creation of law office systems for increased efficiency, improved quality control and cost reductions. As a bonus, systems help lawyers to focus on and enjoy their law practice more.
Why Law Office Systems Matter
Increased competition, downward pressures on fees, and elevated client expectations require lawyers today to respond faster while maintaining high quality. Law firms and individual attorneys need structural aids to improve productivity and assist in quality control. Systems let lawyers spend more of their time on the high level, challenging work they enjoy most.
1. Delegation improves cost effectiveness. If you bill for your legal services on a flat fee basis, your profits go up as your time invested goes down, so identify what can be handled by someone at a lower rate than yours. Even if you bill on an hourly basis, you lose money if you spend time dealing with administrative matters like setting appointments, opening new client matters, filing, invoicing, paying bills, managing payroll, talking to technical support and archiving closed matters. You also lose money if you have to write off some of your time to keep the aggregate bill within client expectations, when you could have been more efficient or a lower paid person could have done some of the work. Delegating what you dislike also lets you focus on more interesting work, enhancing your ability to remain productive.
2. Delegate more by developing systems. Often attorneys don’t delegate something because it takes too long to tell someone else how to do it. Once you develop a documented system, the system can guide your staff and less experienced lawyers on the proper processes to implement. That reduces or even eliminates the time you invest in instruction, supervision and review.
3. Systems improve quality. They reduce errors by providing step by step procedures and checklists. Less experienced people don’t have to guess what is needed, based on inadequate knowledge or understanding, when the system tells them what to do. Even you and the experienced staff members are less likely to forget a step when it is documented and systematized. You’ll sleep better when you don’t wake up in the middle of the night worrying about whether something fell through the cracks.
4. Become more system dependent than people dependent. When you have a clearly defined system with documented procedures, your office doesn’t come to a grinding halt when a valuable staff member takes a vacation, gets sick, changes jobs or gets hit by the proverbial bus. Other staff members or even temporary personnel can fill in to keep the office functioning. Equally important, everyone else can function without your input while you travel for business, focus your attention on more complex matters, or take a well-deserved vacation.
5. Reduce costs by becoming more system oriented. With systems in place, you can keep your expenses down because you can engage less experienced people. Your processes and procedures guide neophytes in how to do the job. You also avoid increased expenses for expediting fees and overnight deliveries when your system accounts for typical time frames required.
Click to read Part 2 of Systematize to Optimize Your Legal Practice
Post adapted with permission from an article by Debra L. Bruce in the August 15, 2012 issue of The Legal Intelligencer. (c) 2012 ALM Media Properties LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.
Post Date: September 5, 2012
By Tamara Portnoy
What an attorney really needs is a simple way to produce regular forms and frequently used documents which, of course, means; templates, templates, templates. Yes, there can be a learning curve to create truly useful templates but you only have to create them once. Then you just use them over and over. If something changes you only have to change it in one place. Using automatic dates, line and page numbering, internal referencing and table of contents make templates even more useful and accurate. Too often attorneys cannibalize documents and end up with something that says Read more
Post Date: April 27, 2012
by Cathy Ribble
This month I want to discuss the most frequent questions I receive as a virtual paralegal. Questions come from many different directions: attorneys considering a virtual paralegal relationship, paralegals interested in working virtually, and curious lay people. Ironically, for the most part, the same questions come from each group. Read more
Post Date: February 16, 2012