Is Outsourcing Right for Solo and Small Firm Lawyers?
If you own a solo or small law firm, chances are you’ve tossed around the idea of outsourcing. You might even know someone who has used outsourcing to delegate some work… with varying degrees of success.
But how can you tell if outsourcing is right for you?
The General Idea of Outsourcing
The essential idea of outsourcing is to reduce costs or keep staff overhead at a minimum.
Your firm has two options when it comes to employees:
- The longer-term, in-house option
- The outsourced, virtual option
At Great Legal Marketing we are huge fans of the in-house option since it allows us to develop long-run internal talent. After all, employees who embrace and embody the company culture are an invaluable asset. However, we know that there are certain tasks that work much more effectively when outsourced.
This raises the question of what your firm should actually outsource (if anything). Is it a comprehensive set of duties? Or an arduous clerical task? Is it even a good idea to outsource it? These are only some examples of questions your practice should ask before outsourcing.
Let’s begin by talking about things you may actually outsource. We’ll first start with the virtual assistant method.
Outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant
Virtual assistants are extremely helpful with tasks requiring a personal or creative touch.
The following are types of work you can outsource to virtual assistants:
- legal work
- marketing work
- personal scheduling and research
Although it may sound unconventional, many virtual paralegals exist who are adept at handling supplemental legal work. Like an in-house paralegal, virtual paralegals can prepare documents, organize files, and reach out to key contacts. This type of legal work may be “busy work” for your in-house staff, making it an ideal fit for outsourcing.
Depending on your operating preferences, an in-house marketing position may be unnecessary. If you use mostly digital platforms, a virtual assistant is more than capable of carrying out your marketing remotely. Because of this, marketing virtual assistants have become very popular in the attorney world. At GLM we of course encourage clients to use in-house talent for their marketing departments, but hiring a virtual assistant is a great way to get a preliminary idea of what your marketing needs actually are. From there you can determine what type of marketing role would be your best option.
Lastly, virtual assistants are particularly helpful when it comes to personal scheduling and research at your firm. They can schedule appointments, plan travel details, and handle case research, all while delivering the same quality of service as an in-person assistant. Depending on your level of trust, virtual assistants are huge assets for tasks of a highly personal nature such as these.
Regardless of the type of work you’d like your virtual assistants to help out with, managing the employees themselves is quite simple. Given their remote nature of employment, virtual assistants can be reached and monitored using measures as small and infrequent as an email or occasional phone call.
Outsourcing to a Business or Service Provider
On the other hand, virtual assistants aren’t the only way to go in terms of outsourcing.
Businesses and/or service providers can provide comparable if not better results for similar work, especially when this work is highly clerical or specialized. For example, service providers are a great choice for litigation support but not the best choice for creative-based marketing. External businesses often profit from enhanced or unique methodology, and this is where they benefit from an economy of scale. Since they fulfill the same tasks for multiple clients, businesses are able to maximize the efficiency of their services and offer competitive pricing. A virtual assistant has an advantage in terms of personalization and 1-on-1 communication, but a business or service provider can deliver lower-cost specialized work that may better fit your needs.
Ask yourself this: if a virtual assistant is willing to be paid the same amount of money as a specialized service provider, does this assistant even have the required skills for the task in the first place?
At the same time also ask yourself: would you trust a business to plan out your personal schedule and access private contacts?
The type of entity you outsource tasks to depends heavily on the sensitivity and nature of the tasks themselves.
Should You Outsource?
We’ve discussed who to outsource to, but we still haven’t addressed if your law firm should even be outsourcing at all.
My honest advice is to test things out. If a task is not a valuable use of time for your in-house staff members, then you should outsource. Your employees should be delivering the highest-value results possible given their level of pay. Attorneys in particular should not spend their time on high-effort activities that deliver low payoffs. Otherwise, your firm is wasting time and money on activities that can be done more effectively when outsourced.
We do believe that your firm should have an in-house marketing staffer if not a separate marketing department. In this example, you can train an employee to represent the firm’s culture and mission much more effectively than you could through outsourcing.
If you do decide to outsource, make sure to check out testimonials for virtual assistants and service providers you are interested in. Also review your state’s specific legal requirements in terms of sending information to these parties. You don’t want to break any laws! Doing so keeps things above board and ensures the highest degree of security with clients’ and your own potentially sensitive information.
Most attorneys start their firms assuming that being a really, really good attorney should, in and of itself, be a marketing advantage. Those attorneys believe that joining a whole bunch of committees and putting their name in lawyer directories is “marketing,” and they never bother to ask if there is a better way.
Attorneys are catching on, however, and those who succeed learn to leverage their current resources to create effective (and ethical) marketing. What they discover isn’t a magic pill or silver bullet but a different approach to marketing that your competitors haven’t considered.
by Charley Mann
Charley is the Chief Marketing Officer at Great Legal Marketing and believes in results, Results, RESULTS!