Being a mother to four children while starting my law firm, launching a blog, and staying politically involved in my community requires time management. However, sometimes time runs out and the just tasks keep piling up. This is where “personal assistants” come into play. Traditionally, the term personal assistant elicits images of young people running around with lattes and notebooks, á-la The Devil Wears Prada. However, the concept of personal assistants has evolved. You may never see your personal assistant (and you may have to get your own coffee!) Several online platforms offer varied “personal assistant” services. Here’s a breakdown:
Secretaries have long performed a myriad of tasks for their employers. However, a most efficient use of their time and efforts would see them performing more sophisticated tasks such as proofreading, drafting and sending correspondence, managing calendars, and organizing incoming mail. They can ensure a second set of eyes on work product and help keep attorneys organized. This type of work can be completed by services like LegalTypist and contracted paralegals. Such paralegals can be found on sites like Upwork; rates range between $25 and $75.
A true personal assistant can be well worth their weight in gold. They can handle all the tedious, time-consuming tasks that take lawyers away from practicing law. For instance, such assistants can set pediatrician appointments, research and book flights and hotels, complete award applications, research summer camps, schedule cleaning services, research mechanics, arrange home repairs, purchase gifts for clients, calendar events, and RSVP to networking events. Personal assistants are unique in that they straddle a working lawyer’s personal and professional life, which is especially important given the ubiquitous “double shift” in many working parents’ lives.
Zirtual is an excellent provider of personal assistants, as is FancyHands. Both services offer college-educated US-based personal assistants. Zirtual, specifically, offers these services for a flat monthly fee (starting at $398 for 12 hours) which can be increased if more hours are needed. FancyHands offers various plans: You can pay $29/month for five requests, $74/month for fifteen requests, and so on.
There’s also Magic, running at $35/hour. Magic has its uses in acute situations: It provides a team of approximately 12 individuals who, together, provide 24/7 coverage. Service requests can take place by phone or email. The requests can be anything (as long as it is not illegal). Sushi delivered for lunch? Hotel booking in the middle of the night? Flowers delivered at 5 AM? A package couriered from home to office and vice versa? Magic only charges for the time spent on each task, minute-by-minute.
Phone calls need to be received, screened, logged, returned, and made. While receptionists at law firms receive phone calls, take messages, and patch callers through, services like Ruby Receptionists can do all this and those services usually assigned to legal secretaries. In fact, Ruby Receptionists can substantively screen calls, collect specific caller information which is then forwarded by email and/or stored online, and call people back. For a flat monthly fee, this task is more efficiently assigned to a single service provider than delegated to a more expensive hourly resource.
In addition to allowing attorneys to delegate non-billable tasks to the best-priced personnel, online platforms make it possible to use these outsourced resources. Notably, RocketMatter and Lexicata are excellent ways to leverage a firm’s resources. For instance, RocketMatter allows team members to capture all billable time, share documents, share calendars, and use standardized documents for particular matters. These all increase team and personal productivity.
Bottom line: Productivity is not just about what lawyers can do; it is also about what lawyers should delegate. Sometimes lawyers, especially solo practitioners, think that delegation requires hiring a full-time or part-time employee. However, even if they did that, that one person would not be able to fill all the various roles required. However, in this economy, given technology and unbundled staffing solutions, a little creativity can go a long way to decrease pressure and increase productivity.
Maria-Vittoria “Giugi” Carminati
Carminati is a trial attorney and litigator, women’s advocate, and founder of Carminati Law PLLC, a distributed law firm. Her practice consists of commercial and business litigation, family law, and mediation. She is licensed in NY, TX, DC and CO. Carminati speaks and writes about gender bias, micro-aggressions and advocacy for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Her firm leverages technology to maximize productivity and decrease costs while delivering high-quality legal counseling and representation.