Outsourcing is the best way for lawyers to delegate work because it provides maximum freedom.
When you can have work done by people that you don’t even have to manage that’s freedom. And when you don’t have to worry about payroll taxes or benefits that’s even better.
But while outsourcing has amazing benefits, there are some common traps that lawyers fall into.
Broadly speaking, there are four categories of outsourced work.
- Specialized work that has to be done on an ongoing basis (e.g. receptionists or bookkeepers)
- Specialized work that only needs to be done from time to time, or on a one-off basis (e.g. website design or transcribing dictation)
- General work that you want done on a part-time ongoing basis (e.g. executive assistant who handles your scheduling and email)
- General work that is so plentiful that you need a full-time assistant to handle it on an ongoing basis.
Many lawyers don’t need a full-time assistant, and they figure that they can choose category #3 and get a virtual assistant to handle a bunch of different kinds of tasks.
But they don’t realize (until after they engage a VA service to provide someone in category #3) that this is the hardest kind of outsourcing to succeed with.
Let’s zero in on why that’s true. But let’s also talk about why the other categories are so much easier to succeed with.
So, let’s work through them again in detail.
Category #1 – Specialized Ongoing Work
This is where you pay a monthly subscription to a company ensure that some specialized task like answering phones or doing bookkeeping gets done at a high level. If someone working for the service doesn’t do their job well enough the service figures it out and replaces them.
If a VA they hire gets sick or takes a vacation, the service can plug in a high level replacement from the pool of talent they already have on hand.
If a VA quits or dies, they replace them quickly and you barely notice, if you notice at all.
Plugging in to use these kinds of specialized services will always work, and the onboarding process will be dictated by the company.
You don’t have to find the right person, nor do you have to train them. You just pay the subscription fee and the work gets done no matter what.
This is Nirvana, right?
Yes, it is. So you should be looking to use subscription based outsourcing for any specialized tasks you can (i.e. ones that makes sense in your situation).
For most lawyers receptionists and bookkeepers are two obvious areas to outsource using a subscription-based service.
Category #2 – Specialized One-Off Work
Sometimes you need speciality work done, but just once. Or maybe just a few times, sporadically.
An example of this would be putting up a website (although if you’re serious about using your website to market online you will need ongoing specialized work).
Transcription work can be the kind of work you only need once in awhile. And SpeakWrite is a good option if you need this kind of outsourcing.
If you need legal work done, check out this blog postabout those kinds of options.
Category #3 – General Work Done on a Part-time Ongoing Basis
This one seems to trip up a lot of people.
Theoretically you can hire an executive assistant VA to do about 5 hours per week of general tasks (from services like Belay or PriorityVA). But, in practice many people find that they aren’t satisfied after a few months.
Why is it so challenging?
Well, for starters you need to keep the part-time VA’s inbox filled with a steady stream of work. And most lawyers are too busy to even come up with tasks for outsourced VAs.
Or, if they can come up with a list of tasks, it’s not something that most lawyers can do steadily. Invariably, you’ll get busy and not be able to find non-urgent tasks to assign.
When you don’t assign them work, they don’t find things to do. They’re part-time, remote workers who don’t even work for you directly.
So, the motivation level isn’t likely to stay high in many cases.
Category #4 Full-time general work
The best course of action then is to hire a general task VA only when you can hire them full-time.
If you want to avoid having them as a W-2 employee that you have to pay taxes and benefits for, then you can hire one through a service like Belay or PriorityVA. And you should hire through those services because they’re very good at finding top-notch virtual assistants.
Here again, the benefit of using those VA services to hire is that if the person they hire needs to be replaced it’s their job to replace them.
Category #4 is the pinnacle of difficulty for most lawyers, so you never start here.
Instead, start by finding as many subscription-based speciality services that make sense, and then use category #2 to fill gaps.
That’s the best way to ensure you’re successful with outsourcing. And the best way to create freedom in your practice so you can spend less time practicing law and more time enjoying your life.