How to Increase Profits for Your Law Firm

The first question Victoria Ring receives from many attorneys is: “How can you increase profits for my law firm?” She answers this question by introducing them to the concept of utilizing virtual paralegals.  However, when attorneys learn that virtual paralegals charge a flat fee versus a “per hour” rate, the next question is: “Why can’t I hire someone to work in my office at a lower cost than hiring a virtual paralegal.” The answer follows:

What is the difference between a virtual bankruptcy assistant and a virtual paralegal?

A virtual bankruptcy assistant is an individual who has been trained to prepare bankruptcy petitions for attorneys. The majority has never worked inside a law firm and their experience and knowledge varies from person to person.

A virtual paralegal is a paralegal that has:

** Worked five (5) years or longer inside a law firm
** Obtained a Paralegal Certificate
** Is a member of good standing in their local chapter of the National Association of Paralegals chapter

Hiring an Employee Versus Hiring a Virtual Paralegal

An employee working in your law firm preparing bankruptcy petitions may do part of the work but you (or someone else) will always invest time in verifying and correcting their work; or work on the case in one form or another.  A virtual paralegal is a trained specialist.  You simply have the clients fill out the intake forms and 99% of the remaining work is done for you.  You receive a complete Chapter 7 or 13 petition ready to file along with an Attorney Case Summary that details any potential problems before you approve the case to be filed.  Your time per case is reduced to approximately 4 hours and this includes the 341 Meeting.  Unless the employee you hire is a specialist with many years of experience in bankruptcy, you will not receive the same efficiency from an employee working in your law firm compared to a virtual paralegal.

Example: Your attorney fee is $2,500.  Let’s suppose the virtual paralegal charges $500.  The time you invest in the average case is approximately 4 hours or less, including court appearances.  You profit $500 per hour. virtual paralegal charges are not sharing fees. Instead, virtual paralegals are considered to be outsourcers and are the same as paying a TRAINED PROFESSIONAL to work in your office.  No employee can net you this high of an hourly rate.

What do employees do in the law firm if they are not preparing petitions?

As you know, there are many more duties associated with debtor bankruptcy than the pre-petition workload.  If you have an established law firm, the addition of a qualified virtual paralegal will ease the tremendous workload on your present employees, prevent you from hiring additional employees and allow you time to concentrate on growing your law firm and increasing your profits.

Isn’t bankruptcy petition work simply filling out forms?

A common misconception that some attorneys have is that preparing a bankruptcy petition is simply filling out a set of government forms.  This may have been true in 1942 but this line of thinking is now so far from reality that I invite you to prove it to yourself.

Call up any debtor bankruptcy attorney and ask them how many deficiency notices they receive from the bankruptcy court when a petition is filed.  Also ask them how many Amendments they normally file to correct problems with forms and schedules after they are filed.  Finally, ask them how many Chapter 13 Plans are confirmed without several recommendations by the Trustee.

If you perform this exercise, you will hear many stories of frustration and despair.  However, most of these problems could have been avoided if the petition had been well-detailed, prepared and all the research performed before the petition was filed.

Back in 1999, a very intelligent attorney in Columbus, Ohio encountered this same frustration. He looked for a way to improve the consistency and quality of his bankruptcy petitions; so he tried an experiment.  By taking the bankruptcy petition work out of the law firm, the virtual paralegal was able to work without interruptions, conduct client intake interviews with clients when they were more relaxed at home and the preparation remained consistent throughout the process.

The attorney soon discovered that when he implemented this method, his profits increased, the paperwork was reduced in the office, clients were happier and more cooperative and the amount of phone calls diminished; plus the attorney had time to grow his business.

You should now begin to visualize the difference between utilizing the services of a virtual paralegal versus an employee preparing petitions.  On the surface, it may appear that you are paying more in the beginning but the huge benefits a virtual paralegal will make to your law firm bottom line cannot even be compared to an employee who is simply filling out forms in your office.

What are some additional benefits to hiring a virtual paralegal?

** Attorneys do not pay the standard overhead costs associated with hiring a full time or part-time employee. The virtual paralegal charges one flat fee just like the bankruptcy attorney does for petition work.

** Attorneys do not pay for services until they are satisfied with the quality of work produced by the virtual paralegal. There are no financial risks for the law firm.

** Other law firm personnel are freed up to work on more complex cases. It is a known fact that the typical employee preparing petitions in a law firm is interrupted several times. This makes the information on the bankruptcy petition to not be consistent and precise, resulting in errors, lost time and money.

** Attorneys eliminate their need to train new employees. Most virtual paralegals stay with the same attorney for many years. Not only does this increase efficiency with bankruptcy petitions, but the virtual paralegal gets to know the clients on a more personal level, are able to build a better relationship with the local bankruptcy court and the attorney which helps the attorney to build a more solid and reliable reputation.

** There are no standard overhead expenditures for the attorney (i.e., desk, chair, office supplies, software and employee downtime costs). Virtual paralegals already have established their own home office and use their own software programs because they are independent business owners.

** If the virtual paralegal is within driving distance of the attorney’s office, he or she may provide client intake interview services. By going to the office, meeting the client in person and reviewing the client intake forms they filled out, the virtual paralegal gains more knowledge of the case and can normally reduce the amount of time they spend on each petition. That is why no additional charge is made for an onsite client intake interview since it makes the job easier for the law firm, client and virtual paralegal.

** No office politics. Normally, the majority of time the only contact the attorney will have with the virtual paralegal is by email and telephone. This eliminates staff and employee conflicts which wastes time and costs the average law firm a great deal of money every year.

How to Get Started

Click here to download your free set of Client Intake Forms. Complete, step-by-step instructions are provided in the document you download. This document is in PDF format. If you do not have Adobe Acrobat,  click here and get your free reader

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