I came across a great discussion question today on a Virtual Paralegal LinkedIn Group sponsored by Chere Estrin, Editor-in-Chief at SUE Magazine for Women Litigators.

I suspect this question will inspire a flurry of responses by virtual paralegals and virtual assistants across the country.  “We” are as passionate about our profession as the attorneys with whom we work.

How do you check a virtual paralegal’s work?  How do you trust that the work is being done on a regular basis?  Do I have to go back and spot check everything?

  • Trust is not automatic.  Attorneys should spot-check and perform quality control reviews as procedures are established.  As the relationship grows, the frequency and methods of these checks can be adjusted according to the level of trust which has been established.  There is no room for “blind” trust in the detailed nature of the legal profession, especially in a virtual relationship.
  • Trust begins when the attorney selects a virtual paralegal with education, training and experience.  Years of legal training and experience are critical in a virtual relationship.
  • Trust is enhanced by selecting a virtual paralegal who has achieved paralegal certification through testing.  I’m talking about extensive testing of the individual’s knowledge and understanding of legal terminology, principles and substantive law.  Paralegals are not licensed as attorneys.  Voluntary certification demonstrates a virtual paralegal’s commitment to the paralegal profession.
  • Trust develops in an attorney-virtual paralegal relationship in a progressive manner.  Trust will be limited when you work with a virtual paralegal for a single project.  For maximum productivity and synergy, attorneys must develop an ongoing relationship with the virtual paralegal(s).  Even though most virtual paralegals work on an “as needed” basis, a continuous relationship allows you to fully understand each other’s preferences.
  • Trust grows with regular and consistent communication with your virtual paralegal via email concerning projects, deadlines and case status.
  • Trust is encouraged when the virtual paralegal is also available by telephone.  I provide toll-free telephone and fax numbers.  I routinely provide my cell phone number to my clients.  I discourage any virtual relationship without this availability.  Communication is key.
  • Trust is a two-way street.  Not only is the virtual paralegal earning the attorney’s trust, but the attorney is also earning the paralegal’s trust.  Many virtual paralegals I’ve spoken with over the last year started their businesses so they can select the attorneys with whom they want to work.
  • Trust is established when a virtual paralegal’s work product is completed in a professional and timely manner.
  • Trust is enhanced when the virtual paralegal provides a detailed regular billing identifying the projects and a brief description of actual work performed.
  • Trust is developed when the attorney promptly pays all billings by the virtual paralegal and advances expenses as requested.

I look forward to following this discussion!

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