8 Reasons to Use a Contract Paralegal or better yet, a Picky Contract Paralegal

 

I didn’t really want to use my blog as a place to self-promote my services.  I really didn’t.  After all, the only people probably reading my blog are either those already using my services or my friends and family – but on the off chance that someone is out there in need, I’m thinking it couldn’t hurt.  So my witty, sarcastic, “picky”  point of view may be missing here, but I’m hoping to provide an answer to the question “What is a contract paralegal and how can they help me?”.

As I see it – I’m the best bang  for your buck.  No doubt.  

I’m not just confident that I can provide a great service, I’m confident that I can provide more services, with a better attitude generating a better product.  Why?  Plain and simply because my business and my name depend on it.  Your average paralegal employed by a law firm does good work, no doubt.  I’ve worked with her – she comes to work at 8:30 or so, she mingles with the receptionist, grabs a cup coffee, catches up on firm gossip, shoots the breeze with an attorney or two and then makes her way back to her desk and leisurely starts about her work – her billable work, that is – you started paying her oh, about an hour and a half ago.   Now this is great and everyone wants to work in an enjoyable environment where they consider themselves likable and an integral part of the ‘team’.  All very important aspects in our work lives.  BUT – for a small firm or solo practitioner, the added expense of an employee, both through her salary and benefits, can be economically crippling if every aspect of her work day isn’t being turned around into a billable time entry.

I am here to say there’s a better and more economical way to do this…..  Employ a Contract Paralegal – one where her work is dependent on quick turnaround and impressing her client (you) to ensure more work comes her way.

With budget constraints and the current economy, many firms – large, small and solos – operate on tight budgets.  The small and solo firms operate with little or no staff.  What some attorneys fail to realize is that there comes a point when doing everthing yourself actually costs you more than getting a little help from a contract, freelance or virtual paralegal (I use the terms interchangeably).  Here are eight great reasons why I think attorneys should consider using this picky contract paralegal.

1. Peace of Mind.  When things get busy there is always that nagging fear that you will miss something; a deadline will fall through the cracks; an important meeting will not make it to your calendar; or there will simply not be enough hours in the day to complete all of your client work with the quality you strive to provide.  You may think you are saving money by operating on a short staff, but if the quality of your work suffers, you put your reputation on the line, not to mention the increased risk of a malpractice claim. As the song goes, “There is no dollar sign on a peace of mind.”

2.  Scalability. You can scale the number of hours you use a virtual paralegal according to your needs.  Everyone’s work volume fluctuates over time, but attorneys working in litigation experience much more drastic swings in their work flow than other professions.  This makes working with a freelance paralegal the perfect option for litigation practices.  You pay for only the time you need, only when you need it.

3.  Profitability.  Freelance paralegals are a Cash Cow for law firms.  As an independent contractor, a freelance paralegal is less expensive than paying for taxes, benefits, vacation time, sick time, and other costs associated with a traditional employee.  Firms typically bill their clients at double or triple (or even more) the hourly rate of what they pay a freelance paralegal, making a instant profit from the arrangement.

4.  Rainmaking.  When attorneys are consumed with just keeping deadlines met and existing clients pleased, they fail to “feed the pipeline.”  All solos and small firms feel the constant tension between time devoted to the legal side of a practice versus time devoted to the business side of the practice.  Neither of these can be neglected if a firm is going to survive long-term. Delegating tasks to a contract paralegal can help provide balance and free attorneys up to prioritize tasks to make sure they are using their time for the best value possible.

5.  Attorneys need a team at times.  Even the best and most efficient attorneys need more support and team work at certain times. Preparing for a hearing, mediation or trial can be a daunting task for a solo or an attorney with limited support.  Many times you need “another pair of eyes and ears” for feedback, proofreading, strategizing and maintaining your sanity during crunch time.

6.  Your clients need attention.  Clients appreciate returned phone calls, answered emails, and updates on their cases (even when nothing is happening – hand holding). This is essential to overall client satisfaction, gaining referrals, and earning a great reputation.  But, do you have time to add this to your juggling act?  A freelance paralegal can manage this essential, yet often neglected part of running a successful practice.

7.  Avoid attorney burnout.  It is not a myth, it is a fact.  Many attorneys experience burn-out, but it can be avoided.  You should work to live, not live to work.  If this seems impossible to you, make some changes now.  Delegating appropriate tasks to a virtual paralegal can alleviate enough responsibilities to give you a life outside of the practice of law. It could actually save your sanity and your career.

8.  Business to Business Relationship.  The contract paralegal is working for herself and for her family.   She isn’t employed by a firm, but is self-employed.  Her business is dependent on providing a great product and being a solution to a problem – and being so good at it that you will come back time and time again.  The contract paralegal is aware that at anytime her client can simply not send work her way – there isn’t a firing process or firm meeting about productivity – no procedural I’s to dot or T’s to cross.  She needs you – not only for the work but for the reference.

And this is what I do… to help you – the attorney.  I love the law – and I especially love the relationship a paralegal can have with her attorney.  It can be dynamic and powerful and together, a well-oiled team producing amazing results.  A win-win situation.  Amazing results without the burden of office politics.  Refreshing!

Contact me if I can be of service – I am here to help and would love the opportunity to show you how I can help you.

Social Media – This Generation’s Voice of Change

I recently saw one of those silly ‘statement’ pictures that said “The best thing about being over 40 is that we did most of our stupid stuff before the internet”… and to this I wholeheartedly commented… AMEN.

The interesting thing about social media to me is that it is purely subjective – it’s a compilation of opinions, grunts, grumbles, one’s own pontifications, accolades, silly teenage gibberish, quotes of unknown origins and what you’re eating at this very moment – every actual moment really, and where you are and who you are with.  While there is substance thrown in on occasion, it is generally a collection of meandering thoughts, both the intelligent and the – well let’s just say – not so intelligent.  And for our day-to-day lives, I guess this is ok…  People seem to care enough to spend countless hours a day scrolling their phones to see what all their ‘friends’ are thinking – so it obviously must hold some value.

But – It isn’t just an obscure past time that has no relation to our business world or the more pressing political, business and economic issues that arguably hold more weight and are on a bigger scale within our society.  This generation is communicating on a global basis every day about everything.  Spreading opinions like wild fire and its next to impossible to contain.  In areas where we are supposed to argue law, numbers, facts and knowledge of events known, not merely assumed or gossiped about, but known…  we are being forced to consider all things ‘tweeted’, ‘posted’ and ‘shared’…  Baffling to me.

Not good or bad – I’m not even sure I have formed an opinion as of yet, but it is changing the way our world processes information, how we voice opinions and how we express unrest and/or contentment.   Take for instance the Rodney King Riots of 1992, when the police department was acquitted of brutality charges – the Los Angeles area exploded in riots, looting and civil disturbance and unrest for 6 long days.  The area’s expression of disappointment in their local officials.  Now, 20 years later, as exemplified in the Trayvon Martin case here in the Central Florida area, public outcry of injustice is made via the internet  –  Postings to sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the comment section of every article posted online are picked up by mainstream media.  This verbal “rioting” and “civil unrest” caused (in my opinion) charges to be brought against Mr. Zimmerman in this matter.  Quite a difference from 20 years ago.  One might say we’ve grown to something that appears more civilized.  After all, the public’s voice was heard.  Job well done..?..

But now this entire case is being fought on a social media battleground.  The contemporary legal system is cutting it’s social media teeth here in Central Florida and the legal system will never be the same.  From past Facebook and Myspace posts being entered into evidence, to funding an entire defense through a website, this case is ground breaking from the standpoint of the social media’s influence.  Can we try a case in the media, not just mainstream, but social..?  Can we cast out enough speculation and media frenzy to tip the scales of justice?  Can we judge people based upon social media?  You know you do, but should the legal system?… should a jury of your peers be able to judge you based on your posts or pictures…better yet, the pictures your friends posted?  Or is the legal system missing a piece of the puzzle if they don’t consider our social media presence?

And it’s not just legal issues…  Should you lose that job opportunity because your potential employer searched your Facebook and saw you doing a handstand on a beer keg on Friday night?  Or because you posted a politically incorrect viewpoint back in November during election season…. Now, of course, you won’t be told why you didn’t get that job….  But this is our generational landscape as it is developing.

This paralegal’s perspective is that yes,…yes, it all is coming into play.  Whether you know it or not.  Whether you like it or not.

As an insurance defense paralegal, the first thing I do when I get a new Complaint across my desk is search the parties’ social media websites.  I will know within 10 minutes if I’m defending a real personal injury case or a trumped up one.  I will also know if the attorney for the injured party was savvy enough to inform his client to delete all history of an internet presence.  My favorite was an alleged back injury of an ‘exotic dancer’….  Right there in full color on a Facebook page, pictures of upside down pole stunts…  Case dismissed.  Now sure…maybe she had a real injury, and she was putting on a brave face through the pain on that pole, but we couldn’t see that by what was cast out to the public.  Her bad.  We are wearing our lives on the sleeve of the internet and it’s all discoverable and out there for the world to see.  In most cases, I don’t even have to hire a private investigator anymore, Thank you for that.

And I know I’m being picky… but enough already – If I could teach young kids today one thing – DISCRETION.  Learn to hold back just a little – We all are leaving a footprint.  What does your footprint say about you?

~Discretion is the better part of valor.  Shakespeare, in Henry IV, Part One, 1596.

What is blogging anyways…?

A Blog?  Yeah, No… I don’t think so.

Something I never expected to do, contribute to a blog, let alone start one.  While I consider myself a lover of words and expressing myself, both through speaking and writing, I am not a lover of technology and “social media”.  As I write this, I feel like I should apologize for not being a lover of “social media”.  I can feel my teenage boys giving me glares and the my-mom’s-so-out-of-touch look from the other room at the mere thought of voicing my opinion of social media.  It IS, after all, the wave of the future and the vehicle by which we have become accustomed to communicating and sharing our lives – But no apologies here,…not from me,… not today.

I AM HERE….  diving into the great abyss of fellow internet trolls, putting fingers to laptop.  Not for enjoyment or the passage of time, but out of fear.  Pure fear –  that if I don’t join them, I can’t beat them.  I best get my butt on the technology train and learn to like it – make a difference within the system, rather than bucking the system, right?  ….UGH…..

So today I have a gripe – that’s really what this is all about? – having a place to gripe?…No, not really, I have lots of stuff to say, But to be honest, today I started this whole thing ’cause I have a gripe – and I’m starting to think that no one actually listens to anything unless it’s “posted” somewhere.  lol.  (Forgive me if I start leaving chore lists for my children here…. it may be the only way for them to see it.)

So Gripe No.1.  (We paralegals are all about numbered paragraphs…lol)   My job is about words.  Complicated words, simple words, useful words, worthless words, all of them.  I live in the land where a typo can make a huge difference, good grammar speaks to something, bad grammar speaks even louder and where spelling is important.  Not just important – people lose their jobs over this stuff.  It’s downright crucial.   I look around at social media, Facebook posts, “Tweets” (I’m still not even sure what that is), Instagram, Google Hangout and all the myriad of connections we’ve built with our “friends” via the wonderful internet and I see a huge loss of our language.  We seem to be adapting a “text” shortcut type of language where spelling, grammar and punctuation are no longer necessary.  Where a  (-: actually communicates something other than a colon, dash and parenthetical mark…. don’t be silly, of course I get that it’s a smiley face… but we seem to have put more value in a text smiley face that we do in actual interaction.  We substitute the arrangement of punctuation marks for actual words strung together to complete a thought.  We lightly make three key stroke to say something that we simply can’t or don’t want to put words to.  Laziness maybe?  I don’t know… but I don’t want to lose an “I love you”  to an ” I ❤ u” – for someone who likes language, they simply don’t have the same meaning.

If every one of you that took the time to read this, next time you are tempted to key stroke a smiley face, try to put your words to use instead….  Say “that made me smile”…  Or pick up a phone or (as the case is in my house) walk to the next room and say what your thinking with words – I think you would be surprised at how much weight real words hold.

I know… I’m being picky – I’m wanting my cake and to eat it to… Using the internet and social media to vent about my disappointment with how technology is changing the way we use the English language…  But It’s my job to be picky about the written word and I’m here to stand up for the art of language,..before we lose it.  C U L8tr.  BRB.  🙂