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The virtual paralegal  blog is where we discuss upcoming training, resources, events, products, services and news relevant to the virtual paralegal business.  Please feel free to submit your guest posts, comments and suggestions.


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  • 10 Jul 2017 2:51 PM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)

    This article was written by: Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick from The Etiquette School of New York

    Making a good impression at a conference or networking event is the first step to successfully achieving your goals. The best way to appear confident and poised is to dress appropriately for the event, know what your agenda is for it, and come prepared with a compelling 15-second self-introduction specifically tailored for the event.

    The following tips will help you avoid the most common mistakes people make when attending and approaching clients and partners at conferences and networking events:

    Top 10 Don’ts

    Don’t network too obviously or aggressively.

    Don’t walk around with a beverage in one hand and food in the other hand. The right hand should always be free to shake hands with a firm, dry handshake.

    Don’t wear your name badge on the left side; it goes on the right side under your shoulder blade.

    Don’t jump into a business discussion with a potential client or ask for their business before making small talk and establishing rapport. You’re not selling potential clients on your services; you’re selling them on the idea that you’re the correct person to administer those services and someone with whom they would enjoy doing business.

    Don’t barge into conversations. If you would like to join a group, wait until there is a break in the conversation, and gracefully join the group by asking “May I join you?” Introduce yourself, and shake hands with everyone in the group.

    Don’ talk just to be talking or make the mistake of talking about inappropriate subjects, such as confidential matters, controversial issues, criticisms of co-workers, your company, management, or anything too personal. Come prepared to talk about what would be of interest to the people that will be attending the event.

    Don’t walk away from a conversation without graciously excusing yourself. You can say something like, “I’ve enjoyed talking with you. I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening.”

    Don’t fail to introduce new people to those around you; and be sure you know how to make proper business introductions.

    Don’t give your business card to another person unless they have asked for it.  That is standard business card protocol.

    Don’t complain about the number, kind, planning, or running of conferences or networking events—at least not before or after an actual one. Complain later, if you like, when you are far away from the group attending the event. It’s too easy to be overheard and get labeled as a malcontent.

  • 05 Jul 2017 11:44 AM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)
    • Google My Business -https://www.google.com/business/ - Your listing appears right when people are searching for your business or businesses like yours on Google Search and Maps.
    • Bing Places for Business - https://www.bingplaces.com/ - Bing Places for Business is a Bing portal that enables local business owners to add a listing for their business on Bing. 
    • Yelp – https://biz.yelp.com/ - Yelp is not just for reviewing restaurants; it also includes a section for attorneys and law firms.
    • Merchant Circle - www.merchantcircle.com - MerchantCircle is the largest social network for local business owners. Services include online business listings, marketing tools and internet advertising.
    • The Business Journals - www.bizjournals.com/ - The Business Journals' sites feature local business and industry news from 43 different markets around the nation along with a full menu of tools and resources. 
  • 23 Jun 2017 6:18 PM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)

    The Virtual Paralegal Training Center™ (VPTC) is an online networking community that provides training and resources for paralegals and legal assistants on how to use their skills and experiences to become entrepreneurs.

    It is the mission of VPTC to educate paralegals and legal assistants on how to expand their legal skills and experiences beyond the role of an employee and provide the alternative which is entrepreneurship.

    VPTC’s vision is to continue to be the leader in their industry offering top notch training and resources for their members, to help them to provide their target clients with the highest level of paralegal services without violating any rules or regulations required by law.

    The Virtual Paralegal Training Center™ currently offers a directory where members and subscribers can advertise their services and a job board where legal employers and recruiters can post their open positions and be connected with interested candidates.

    In addition to social media, VPTC provides an online newsletter, a blog and a forum to encourage networking among its members and subscribers.

    The Virtual Paralegal Training Center™ is the first resource for paralegals interested in transitioning from employee to entrepreneurship. 

  • 22 Jun 2017 1:13 PM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)

    For most paralegals, the deciding factor for going virtual is flexibility and work-life balance. Anyone who has been successful in this business knows that operating a business does not have set hours even after the virtual doors have been closed.

    Depending on how busy you are, you may be able to complete your paralegal assignments at the end of the day but your nights and weekends may be filled with the demands of running a business such as: billing, invoicing and marketing. If this sounds like you and you are asking yourself, where is the flexibility that I signed up for or if you are a new virtual paralegal trying to avoid this situation, fear not, I have a few ideas for you.

    Firstly, there must be a distinction between home and work. You must create a dedicated space for your business. If you have a spare room, take the time to create a real but comfortable office space. If you do not have a spare room, go to your local library or coffee shop. Separating yourself from “home” can help you to switch into work mode and become more productive.

    The next thing to do to create work-life balance is to determine your operating hours and stick with them. Depending on where your clients are; you must take the different time zones into consideration, except for emergencies for which you would charge an extra fee. You should not accept new projects or respond to emails after hours. However, you must have a system in place for your clients to submit their requests when your virtual office is closed.

    In addition to setting strict operating hours, you must also have a dedicated phone just for your business. Turn it off at the end of the working day. Set up a voice message instructing clients on how to submit their questions and projects after hours. You must confirm receipt and respond to your clients’ requests within 24 hours.

    Finally, use a time tracking software such as Hubbstaff or Toggl to help you achieve a better work/life balance. Time tracking software will highlight if you are working too much or too little. If you are taking 2 hours to complete an assignment that you could usually complete in an office within a half hour; it’s time to re-evaluate your time management.


  • 29 Mar 2017 10:29 AM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)

    I have read an article where it stated that a niche practice is best because you cannot try to be all things to all people. My initial reaction was nodding my head in the motion of yes; then I quickly realized how funny that statement would be to most paralegals whether or not they were working in general practice or a specialized area. That is exactly who we are; all things to all people. How many times were you the mail person, secretary, supervisor, customer service and the list goes on and on; sometimes, all in one day?

    However, I have to agree with this statement as it relates to starting a virtual paralegal business. If an attorney is looking to hire a paralegal to help with his bankruptcy practice; what is the likely chance he is going to hire a corporate paralegal with bankruptcy skills as oppose to a paralegal that specializes in bankruptcy. It is very likely; given the chance both paralegals would do a great job. There are paralegals that have started in one practice and have moved on to different practice areas throughout their careers. However, the attorney is going to be the most comfortable hiring the paralegal that is currently practicing bankruptcy or has practice for several years.

    The way to handle your multiple skills and practice areas when starting a niche virtual paralegal business is to evaluate the following:

    • Your years of experience and your comfort level offering those services on a continuous basis. Some paralegals switch practice areas because they did not enjoy the work.
    • What services can you offer remotely that has the potential to be profitable?
    • Focus on demographics, such as age, gender, occupation, income level, ethnic background, or marital status for your practice area. For example, a family law paralegal focusing on French speaking clients.
    • Is there a demand in the market for your services? There may not be a lot of positions advertised for some practice areas; but that does not mean there is no demand. Contact attorneys and law firms who specialize in those areas and offer your services.

    As your practice grows; you can expand in other practice areas that compliment your current services. Niche practice can help raise your profit per client by demonstrating expertise. Many clients will pay a premium for specialized skill set.


  • 27 Feb 2017 1:07 PM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)

     Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of services to create and maintain relationships that will satisfy your clients. Before you start your marketing, it is important that you determine your target clients. Decide whether you are going to target your competitors’ clients or existing clients that have not used your services in a while.

    Marketing should be done on a consistent basis even if you have a full clientele. If your workload increases you should consider hiring help or a partnership. Experts believe that you must market to the same prospect at least seven times before you should anticipate a response. Track your marketing results so that you know which methods have worked best for your business and which methods did not work at all.

    Your marketing should be repetitive so as to create rapport and establish relationships. Businesses tend to take their existing clients for granted. Be aware that other virtual paralegals are marketing to them. You should offer your existing clients promotions from time to time. It is very important that you commit a certain amount of time to marketing. Create a marketing calendar and include marketing as part of your regular schedule.

    Always be professional. Your marketing represents you. Be credible, truthful and ethical. Include all your contact information on your marketing materials. Keep in mind that the impact of marketing is gradual, great results don’t happen overnight but with consistent publicity results can be achieved.


  • 13 Feb 2017 12:41 PM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)

    The industry is saturated with virtual businesses whereas virtual assistants out shines virtual paralegals; so, why would you want to add the word “virtual” to your business name? Isn’t it the goal to stand out among your competitors and not blend in?

    When the term “virtual” first came about, most virtual paralegals and assistants had to explain what it means to their clients. Today it is a well-known term and most attorneys and law firms know what to expect from a virtual business. So, if you are one of the first launched virtual businesses, do you change your name? No, not if you already have an established and successful business. However, if your business is one of the many that never really took off, maybe a more creative name that still explains your services would be better.

    Differentiating your business is what gives you the edge over your competitors. Take for example an attorney browsing the virtual paralegal directory for a bankruptcy paralegal. She comes up with 20 hits with identical services and experiences. One of the hit is yours, why should she choose you? She has to go through a long list of potential candidates, interview them and compare their prices and experiences; at this point you are just another bankruptcy paralegal on her list.  This gives the attorney no incentive to choose you for the assignment.

    What should you do to avoid elimination from her final list? Firstly, choose a unique name, secondly, add a professional photo and thirdly, start with an interesting summary of your business and yourself. Something that will let the client want to learn more about you even if they initially thought you are not the most experience for the job. This strategy is sometimes best demonstrated in the form of a video. Another way is to build a niche business where you specialized in no more than two practice areas.

    A niche practice is an easier sell than a general practice. It differentiates you from your competitors and gives your ideal client a reason to choose your services. Generalization often comes across as confusing, unfocused and a jack of all trade and a master of none.

    What is the differentiator for your virtual paralegal business?


  • 01 Feb 2017 3:34 PM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)

     

    The type of structure available to you will depend on the law of your state, and as used, must of course conform to any applicable rules of professional responsibility. It is therefore important to research your state law and governing ethical rules before making your final decision. You may also want to consult with an attorney and an accountant to fully understand all of the implications for your firm.

    Types of Legal Structures

    Sole Proprietorship

    The sole proprietorship is perhaps the most straight-forward option. It is a business structure where the business is owned and controlled by one person and that person is liable for any of the business' obligations.

    Some aspects of a sole proprietorship include:

    • You don't have to file any forms with the state, though you still need to obtain any required licenses and permits.
    • Owners are personally liable for any debts incurred by the business.
    • Income from the business is reported on your personal income tax return.

    According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), some of the advantages of using a sole proprietorship structure are that it is low cost, owners have control, and taxes are simplified, while the disadvantages include unlimited liability and that you have to pay self-employment taxes.

    As the owner of a virtual paralegal business, this may be an easier route to take to get your business off the ground and running.

    Partnership

    A partnership consists of two or more people who own and run the business. The partnership may be general or limited, and is generally governed by an agreement that sets forth the partners' responsibilities and obligations. Limited liability partnerships (LLP) may be an option depending on your state. LLPs may be limited to certain professions, as in California, and provide some protection to the partner from personal liability for certain acts of the other partners.

    In a partnership:

    • Partners are personally liable for the partnership's obligations in a general partnership.
    • Partners owe fiduciary duties to each other.
    • Taxes are paid through the partner's individual tax returns.

    The benefits of a partnership, says the SBA, include low formation costs, profits that flow through to the partners, and incentives for employees to become partners, while the downside includes joint and several liability, profit sharing, and disputes between partners over business decisions.

    Limited Liability Company

    A limited liability company (LLC) is a business whose members are protected from personal liability for the acts and debts of the company in the same way as a corporation, but can opt to be taxed as a partnership.

    For limited liability companies:

    • Members do need to file organization papers with the state.
    • An operating agreement governs the rights and responsibilities of the members and how the business will be run.
    • The LLC can choose to be taxed as either a partnership or a corporation.

    The SBA notes that LLCs provide the benefits of limited liability and less recordkeeping than corporations, but members may have to deal with dissolution if a member leaves or dies, although the operating agreement can be drafted to address this situation.

    Corporation

    corporation is treated as a unique entity with limited liability and perpetual existence that is owned by shareholders.

    Of note with regard to corporations:

    • You must file paperwork with the state.
    • You must prepare bylaws that govern the operation of the corporation.
    • The corporation must observe certain corporate formalities.

    A corporation is taxed when the corporation earns profits, and the dividends distributed to shareholders are also taxed. If the corporation meets certain requirements, it can elect to be treated as an "S Corporation" such that income and losses pass through to the shareholders.

    What is your virtual paralegal business structure?

  • 18 Jan 2017 10:29 AM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)

      Before launching any type of business; you must conduct market research to find out if there is a demand for your practice areas and a need for your services.  Some practice areas are primarily offered by large law firms and are rarely provided by sole practitioners, small law firms and in-house legal departments. Doing your due diligence can mean the difference between success and failure, and it doesn't have to cost you a penny.

    • To begin your research, start by browsing attorney’s directories. This will give you an idea of the number of attorneys listed in your state, city or county that could use your services.
    • In addition to attorney’s directories; job and salary websites are also great resources for researching your practice areas demand.
    • The greater the job postings in your practice areas; the more likely your services are in demand.
    • However, do not be discourage if your practice areas are not popular on job websites; this just means that you should work a little harder to find the attorneys and law firms who provide services in your niche areas. Also, in some cases, niched areas pay more than generalist because of the specialization and demand.
    • The second part of your research should focus on your competitors. Do a competitive analysis.
    • Do an online search of other virtual paralegals in your practice areas and evaluate their services then figure out how you can be different.
    • The third part of your research is your target clients. Are you going to focus on solo practitioners, small law firms or in-house legal departments? What are the needs for your services that would benefit each group?
    • Don’t kid yourself to think it will be a one-size fit all. Deal sizes can vary among your target clients in addition to language, geography and volume of work request.
  • 09 Jan 2017 10:00 AM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)

    Virtual Paralegals are contract, independent or freelance paralegals qualified by education, training or work experience who are employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible on an as needed basis with such services being supplied through the use of technology and remote access systems.



    What are the legal restrictions for starting a virtual paralegal business?

    Virtual paralegals are not required to hold a license in order to perform their duties as paralegals. 

    However, the legal restriction for operating a virtual paralegal business is for the virtual paralegal to work exclusively under the supervision of licensed attorneys to prevent unauthorized practice of law. 

    Virtual paralegals must always represent themselves as the paralegal and never an attorney and maintain a log of all their clients and projects to prevent any conflicts of interest.

    What education and skills are needed to start a virtual paralegal business?

    Virtual paralegals have to be able to work accurately and effectively in a highly confidential, detail and result-oriented environment. They have to have effective interpersonal, customer service and communication skills to interact effectively with all levels of management and regulators. Virtual paralegals are self-motivated and are capable of working both independently as well as in a team.

    The education necessary to become a virtual paralegal is the same as a paralegal who works in a law office. Paralegals may have a variety of formal education. Some obtain a one-year certificate, while others have two or four-year degrees in paralegal studies. Some paralegals have a combination of some form of paralegal education and a four-year degree in some other area of study.

    What is the required work experience for virtual paralegals?

    Most virtual paralegals have several years of experience working in a law office and/or in-house legal departments. It is recommended that before starting a virtual paralegal business you should have worked as a paralegal for 3 or more years. Though it is not required, most virtual paralegals specialize in one or more practice areas.

    How do virtual paralegals communicate with their clients?

    Virtual paralegals communicate with their clients in several ways that may or may not include face to face meetings:

    Some methods of communication for virtual paralegals may include the following:

    • Online video conferencing such as: Skype
    • Online workspace such as: Dropbox.com
    • Practice management software
    • Social media
    • Email
    • Telephone
    • Direct Mail

    Where do virtual paralegals work?

    The term “virtual” means that the paralegal performs his/her duties outside of the traditional law office.

    Home Office

    Most virtual paralegals work from their home office using notebook computers.  With secure internet connection they can complete their assignments anywhere.

    Internet

    They also have an online presence. Most virtual paralegals have a website, blog and social media pages. However, with a smart phone, tablet or laptop virtual paralegals can get their work done just about anywhere.

    What are the practice areas suitable for a virtual paralegal business?

    A paralegal may launch a virtual paralegal business in any practice area that allows them to offer their services remotely. It is highly recommended that you start your business in the areas where you have substantial experience.

    Virtual paralegals are usually experts in their practice areas.  There is little or no on the job training.

    What are virtual paralegals target markets?

    The target markets for the services of virtual paralegals are solo practitioners, small law firms and in-house legal departments. Some virtual paralegals work with government agencies as well as other virtual paralegals.

    What is the minimal cost for launching a virtual paralegal business?

    The general start-up cost for a virtual paralegal business can range from $500 to $5,000. If you already have a computer/tablet or smart phone you already cut your start-up cost in half.

    How much can you make working as a virtual paralegal?

    Generally, virtual paralegals fees range from $25 - $100 per hour. Your fees will depend on your practice areas and the demand for your services. You should also factor in the geographical location of your clients.

    What type of tasks do virtual paralegals perform?

    The types of tasks that are delegated to virtual paralegals depend on their practice areas. 

    An attorney may ask a corporate paralegal to draft an article of incorporation, by-laws and organize company records whereas; a bankruptcy attorney may ask a virtual paralegal to draft petitions.

    For more information on the virtual paralegal business; please visit the Virtual Paralegal Training Center™


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