How Every Law Firm Can Find, Hire, and Train Rock Star VA’s

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Do you need virtual support for your law firm? In this podcast episode, Daniel Maxwell, an attorney with Amicus Settlement Planners, discusses the benefits of hiring and training virtual assistants (VAs) for law firms. 

Daniel talks about how hiring internationally located individuals as VAs can help businesses grow and prosper. Many people have fears with hiring VAs, especially ones that live halfway across the world. Daniel says business owners need to move from problem centric thinking to solution focused thinking in order to get over these fears. Thinking about how a VA will help your company instead of what potential issues exist will lead to success. What makes outsourcing work to VAs in other countries beneficial is that people can be working at different times of the day. Daniel shares how he will provide a list of tasks to his VAs before he goes to bed and they are complete when he wakes up.

For many business owners, the question can be where to find the best VAs. Daniel shares the three ways to find VAs: hiring direct, using a freelance marketplace or using a VA staffing firm. It is important to not get stuck in this step. Choose a route to find a VA and follow through. If one method does not work to your liking, try a different one later on. Daniel stresses the importance of hiring a VA for one task. Not all VAs will be able to do everything and that is totally fine. For example, if you need help with invoicing, hire a VA solely for invoicing so they can focus and master that skill. If there are other tasks that they can do down the line, allow them to branch out.

Something to add to your recruitment process is having potential VAs complete a test task. This task should be similar to the work that person would be doing if they were to come on board with your firm. This will narrow down potential hires and sift out those who are not the right fit. It is also important to have a good standard operation procedure (SOP) for VAs to follow so everything is done in the way it needs to. Some examples include access to software or templates to complete work or a video demo on how to complete a task. This all helps VAs become familiar with how you run your firm and decreases the chance of a VA not knowing what to do.

Communicating with your VAs regularly is important. Pick a standard channel, whether it be email, Slack or Asana. Communicating new tasks is also crucial to ensure the VA understands how things work. When you are providing a new task, record a video demonstration so the VA can refer back to it.

Listen in to learn more on hiring VAs!

Episode Highlights:

  • 1:20 Daniel addresses the fears and concerns that may be holding law firms back
  • 6:07 The different options for finding and hiring virtual assistants
  • 9:09 Tips on filtering and hiring virtual assistants
  • 10:14 The importance of having standard operating procedures (SOPs)
  • 14:07 The benefits of investing in virtual assistants


🎥 Watch the full video on YouTube here.

Connect with Daniel:

Resources:

Transcripts: How Every Law Firm Can Find, Hire, and Train Rock Star VA’s

Speaker 1 (00:00:00) - In today's episode, we're sharing a presentation from Max Con 2022. Keep listening to hear Daniel Maxwell as we share his talk how every law firm can find, hire and train rockstar virtual assistants. You can also head to the maximum lawyer YouTube channel to watch the full video. Now to the episode.

Speaker 2 (00:00:18) - Run your law firm the right way. The right way. This is the maximum lawyer podcast podcast. Your hosts, Jim Hacking and Tyson Tricks. Let's partner up and maximize your firm. Welcome to the show.

Speaker 3 (00:00:41) - Hello, everyone. That was a great introduction. My name is Daniel Maxwell. I'm an attorney with amicus settlement planners. Today I'm going to share how hiring a virtual assistant 8000 miles away literally transformed my law firm and my life. I believe that every law firm can hire a team of rock star Vas to catapult their firm and their practice forward. My goal is to share exactly how to find, hire, train and manage a team of Vas. If you already have a virtual or virtual assistants, if you already have virtual assistants, I hope that you can learn something today to improve your existing processes.

Speaker 3 (00:01:20) - So throughout the presentation today, I'm going to refer to internationally based workers as Vas. So I'm not talking about US based remote workers. I'm talking about internationally located individuals and so I'll refer to them as Vas. So first I want to talk about how my VA team has helped me in my law firm. So in the last two and a half years, we've three X to our business and we've been able to maintain an 80% net profit margin while doing that. So more is getting done at the firm. While I personally do less and I'm free to focus on what I do best. So before we dive into the nuts and bolts, I think it's important to address common fears and limiting beliefs about Vas. So if you haven't hired a VA, why not? What fears and concerns are holding you back? So last year at Max Lakhan, José Vitale gave a great talk on Vas and he talked about the importance of essentially flipping the script on our fears and concerns. So he invited us to consider this question What if the opposite of your fears and concerns are true? So if you're worried I may not be able to find a good a good VA? What if you what if the opposite is true? What if you're able to find a great VA? Right? Ultimately, you are going to have to take a leap of faith when you hire your first virtual assistant.

Speaker 3 (00:02:43) - So Dr. Jason Silk yesterday talked to us about shifting from problem centric thinking to solution focused thinking. And so my goal is that hopefully one of the ways that you can the one thing you can do to more effectively work with Vas is to follow a proven system and process. And that's what I want to share with you today. So first, why hire an international VA? I think this is pretty obvious. It's an incredibly low cost for excellent helpers, right workers in your firm. So for me, for administrative tasks, I'm typically paying 5 to $8 per hour and for specialized tasks 10 to $15 an hour. By specialized tasks, I mean things like SEO, video editing and graphic design. Most of my Vas are in the administrative tasks category. So the next question that I often get from attorneys as well, what what can Vas do? So here is my litmus test. Could a smart college educated person do this task? If yes, that's a great thing to outsource. So I have a Post-it note on my monitor with this question, and as I'm doing tasks, if I ask myself this question and the answer is yes, I try to never do it again.

Speaker 3 (00:03:57) - I try to outsource it to my Vas. And so some of the things that the Vas do for my law firm include billing, following up with leads, requesting Google reviews, legal drafting, blog writing, CRM, updating data entry, creating automations, and the list goes on and on. But ultimately only you know what you can and should outsource in your firm. So Michael Hyatt, in his 2019 book Free to Focus, gives us a great tool to use to figure out where do we start outsourcing tasks. So he says that all tasks fall into one of four categories. We have the desire zone, the distraction zone, the disinterest zone, and the drudgery zone. As attorneys, we want to spend our time in the desired zone. So, for example, my desire zone is helping personal injury attorneys reduce their taxes and build wealth and helping their clients wisely invest their settlement recoveries. Any task that doesn't fit in that category is something that I should outsource. So my invitation for the next week or several days is draw this grid on a yellow pad.

Speaker 3 (00:05:04) - And as you do a task, place it in one of these quadrants. At the end of the week, you're going to have a great list of tasks to look at for potentially outsourcing. So the best place to start is the drudgery zone where your proficiency is low and your passion is low. That will be with that list. Next. The next question is where do you find a VA to help you with those tasks? So I personally prefer the Philippines, and there's several reasons for this. First, their English proficiency starting from essentially elementary school throughout their education. English is a required topic. So they typically read, write and speak very well. The cost of living differences between the US and the Philippines creates a win win. So, for example, my first VA, I hired her four years ago. She had recently completed a four year nursing degree and her offer to be a nurse was $315 a month. And she would have had to, of course, pay her own transportation costs. Working for me, she's making about triple what she can make as a nurse.

Speaker 3 (00:06:07) - And so it's like I said, it's a win win by nature. Filipinos are loyal, they're friendly and they're hardworking and they just they make great employees. Finally, there's a heavy US cultural influence, so they watch the same TV shows, the same movies, they listen to the same music. I don't feel any sort of cultural divide with my VA team. Finally, as I like to tell my wife with Vas working halfway across the world, the sun never sets on my kingdom. So I have Vas who work during my daytime hours and also while I'm sleeping. And I love nothing more than sending a list of tasks before bed to my Vas and waking up with them complete. It's it's a magic that I don't think I'll ever get tired of experiencing. It's great that someone is working 24 over seven on building my law firm. All right. So now the question is where do you find Vas? So there's three main options. You can hire, direct. You can use a freelancer marketplace or you can use a VA staffing firm.

Speaker 3 (00:07:06) - My preferred method personally is to hire direct using a site like Online Jobs Dot, which is an online job board that you pay for a month of access to. Once you hire someone, you directly interface with them and you handle billing and time tracking and things like that. The next option is a place freelancer marketplace like Upwork. Upwork handles the billing and the time tracking and charges an hourly fee for that. The most hands off solution is to use a VA staffing firm. Get staffed up is here and I know many attorneys have had great success with them. They handle all of the the heavy lifting, so to speak, in both finding a VA as well as managing that relationship. And so it's really a matter of your personal preference on how best to get started. My advice is this Don't let this step hold you up. Pick one, move forward, and then the next time you hire a VA, you can try a different one. If it didn't turn out well for you. But don't get stuck here.

Speaker 3 (00:07:59) - So now that you know where to find them, how do you hire the right VA? So one of my best tips is to hire for one task. So we talked about the drudgery zone. You have a list of tasks. You're not going to find a single VA who can do everything on that list. You're not going to find someone who can write SEO articles and graphic design and bookkeeping and everything you want them to do. Hire for a single task. Of course, once you onboard them, they can expand into other tasks, but hiring for a single skill set, you're going to have much more success. The next thing that really helps is by creating a great job post. What I mean by this is I like to include what I call a magic phrase in the job post, which is just a quote or something that the candidate needs to include in their application. Any application that doesn't include that quote is immediately eliminated. The next thing that I like to do is I have the applicant submit a one minute video recording saying, Why are they a good fit for my job description? This helps get rid of copy and paste applications and it also shows how technologically savvy someone is that they can record a video uploaded to YouTube and send me the link.

Speaker 3 (00:09:09) - So that's a great first initial filter on the Vas. The next thing I like to do is I like to have a multi-step email sequence. So each email contains a series of questions and this helps me figure out several things. First, how responsive are they? That's extremely important with a VA. How quickly are they responding to emails? It helps me see their writing ability, their ability to communicate clearly via email. And finally it shows their stick to itiveness, their willingness to go through multiple hoops to get the job. Once I've filtered all the way down to the end of the hiring sequence, I like to have them do a test task. So ideally, this test task should be as similar to the job that you're hiring for as possible. This gives you a great way to see their work product before you hire them. And so using this, this funnel essentially will greatly reduce the amount of time you spend on hiring Vas. With my first VA, I didn't do this. I had over 80 initial applicants and it was a nightmare.

Speaker 3 (00:10:14) - So this is these are tips that I've learned the hard way, essentially. So now that you've hopefully found 1 or 2 VA's that you're ready to hire, the question is how do you train them? So this is the biggest single pitfall I see with attorneys. So oftentimes I'll be speaking to attorney and they say, Hey, I hired a VA. It just didn't work out. So the biggest pitfall is this that the attorney does not have standard operating procedures or SOPs for the VA to. Follow. They are great at following processes and systems. They're not going to build your business for you. You have to build the systems and they can help run it. So the key to my success with Vas is my detailed SOPs. So here's a screenshot of my SOP template. As a side note, you can download this. I'll have a link at the end of the presentation where you can download this and everything else I referenced today. But I first I want to talk about what does a good SOP contain? So I like to make sure that it includes the purpose for the business.

Speaker 3 (00:11:13) - Where does this fit in the overall picture? It helps increase their buy in with the task. Next, I like to include a video demo of me doing the task so that the VA can follow click by click when they do the task. I also include everything that they'll need to complete this particular task, whether it's access to software or data or files or whatever it may be. Next, I like to include how are they supposed to report when they've completed this task? Do they send a slack message? Do they mark a task complete in a case management software? ET cetera. And finally, I like to have a written step by step instructions list at the bottom of the document. So if a VA likes to follow a video, they have that option. If they want to follow step by step instructions, they have that option. Once you have created a solid sop, the question is how do you use the SOP to train the VA? So what I do is that when I hire for a task, I provide the SOP to the VA.

Speaker 3 (00:12:09) - I let them review it and study it and let me know if they have any questions. And then we go through the task together. In other words, we get on a Zoom call and I watch them do the task. As we're doing that, I give any feedback on things that they need to change and any feedback is incorporated into the SOP. Once we've gone through the test together and I feel confident in their ability to do the task, I can outsource it and I don't have to touch it again. So as far as managing your Vas, a couple tips here, I recommend pick a primary communication channel. I prefer Slack, but keep everything in one place makes it much cleaner. So initially I did email and slack and messenger and it got messy. So pick one communication channel and make sure everything happens there. When you have new tasks for a VA record a video for those tasks, I find the video communicates much more information and it's much faster for you as the attorney. And in addition, if it's a task that I will that we will as a team ever be doing again, I ask them to create the first draft of the SOP.

Speaker 3 (00:13:15) - So I know that the SOP template was a little bit daunting. Frankly, I haven't created one of those in years, so I just record a video doing the task. They create the SOP, I review it, and then again we go through that same process of doing the task together. But because you have the video, they're able to build the SOP on your behalf. The next thing I recommend is having them do a daily report, whether video based or text based report. And I have them answer three questions What did I do today? What questions do I have and what problems did I run into? It's a great way to keep a pulse on what's going on, get in front of any issues and help them in the performance of their tasks. Finally, once I had more than one VA, I started having a weekly team meeting similar to in office employees. It's a great way to build rapport to make sure everyone knows what we're working on this week to answer any questions they have and whatnot.

Speaker 3 (00:14:07) - So similar to an in House employee, my my next piece of advice is to invest in your team. So these are my Vas. So the in the upper left hand corner is Angel. She's the first one that I hired. I hired her originally to write blog articles for my law firm. After a while, she expressed interest in learning new skills, so I purchased courses for her on digital marketing and the next thing and the next thing. So four years later, she her skill set has has exploded. She helps me manage a nonprofit organization and manages Facebook ads and handles social media channels and on and on and on. And so one of the reasons she has said she loves working for me is that I'm investing in her and she's learning and she's growing. And obviously, for me, it's a huge win because I have a VA who's increasingly skilled and can do more tasks. As another aside, when I first hired her, she had this dream of. Buying a home in the Philippines, which is actually quite difficult to do.

Speaker 3 (00:15:09) - So she has recently moved to her dream city, which is in the mountains of the Philippines. So it's much cooler. She likes that and then she's in the process of buying a home. So it's been really rewarding for me to to be a part of helping her make her dreams come true. So the bottom line is that by following a proven system, I believe every law firm can successfully build a team of Vas. Your VA team will help you save time, get more done, and increase your bottom line. So I've compiled all of my resources on a website. You can go to law firm vas.com, so there's much more in depth videos on all of these topics. I have my SOP template sample job posts, my email hiring sequence, my recommended software tools. ET cetera. So my day job is helping plenty of attorneys and their clients. This is just a passion project for me. I love all things Vas, so I've spent hundreds of hours trying to figure this out. My goal with this website is to just shortcut your success with Vas so that you can get started much quicker and avoid lots of the the pitfalls that I ran into.

Speaker 3 (00:16:17) - So if you have any questions or want to chat, I love talking about this. Please feel free to reach out. This is my email, my phone. You can call or text me. My invitation is this. Get started. Take the leap of faith. And I'm confident that your law firm will transform, just like mine has with a team of rock star Vas. Thank you so much.

Speaker 2 (00:16:41) - Thanks for listening to the Maximum Lawyer podcast. Stay in contact with your host and to access more content, go to maximum lawyer.com. Have a great week and catch you next time.

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