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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.  


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  • 01 Sep 2020 8:49 PM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)

    For most small business owners, trying to stay afloat during a pandemic has come with both ups and downs. The down side, of course, is the slump businesses have seen. On the up side, entrepreneurs were spared the impact of layoffs that many employees suffered. And even if your business hit a low point during the peak of the pandemic, the potential to get back up and running lies in your hands.

    When you’re ready to ramp back up, what you need most is a solid but affordable marketing plan. The goal is to focus on what your customers want right now, while finding cost-effective ways to reach your base and get in front of new faces.

    Expand Your Services

    Some of the most savvy small business owners have responded to the pandemic by getting creative about how they deliver their products or services. One reason this works is because everyone the world over is doing business differently. While in-person shopping and services haven’t gone away, people are continuing to do more business online, even as the pandemic slows. This is one reason why becoming a virtual paralegal is such a smart move for anyone who wants to grow their paralegal or legal assistant business.

    For any business that’s developing a marketing strategy right now, the more value you can offer through virtual services, the more competitive you’ll be. If you run a service-based business, this may mean doing virtual consultations or adding an e-course to your offerings. If you sell a product, you could reach more customers by providing curbside pickup for online orders, expanding physical stores into e-commerce, or starting a subscription service.

    Expanding what you offer is often the most impactful marketing strategy, but it can also be the most expensive. One thing to consider is how you can maximize what you’ve already invested in your business. For example, if you have products that have been purchased, starting a subscription box is a natural expansion that won’t require a large investment. If you still need additional financing, consider applying for small business grants or loans, which you can find from both private and government sources. For example, you may be eligible for an SBA Express Bridge Loan as a quick way to handle the impacts COVID-19 has had on your business.

  • 01 Sep 2020 8:48 PM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)

    Reach Customers Where They Are (Online)

    We’ve discussed the need for virtual services since that’s where your customers already are. Meeting a need in the virtual marketplace is only step one, though. You also need a marketing strategy to actually reach those customers. Start by updating your website to include the new services or products you plan on offering. Along with the ideas above, 360 Integral Marketing recommends adding features to your website for improved functionality, such as an easy checkout process.

    Next, focus some of your energy on SEO. Many small business owners spend a fortune on SEO experts because they’re overwhelmed by the prospect of doing it themselves. However, as Search Engine Journal explains, businesses on a budget can boost SEO with a few simple and inexpensive strategies, such as creating valuable blog content, working on Google Analytics, and optimizing your website.

    Communicate With Customers

    Communication is critical for any good relationship, and that includes customer relationships! You’ve started by boosting your own website - now take that a step further by building relationships through social media. Along with engaging on your social channels, Forbes recommends asking customers for reviews, which is a free alternative to advertising that gets you noticed.

    With all of these communications strategies, remember that the message you send now makes a difference in how your brand is perceived. Business 2 Community suggests being empathetic in your messaging, and then communicating how you can help through these trying times.

    What people want more than anything right now is reassurance - along with solutions to the unique problems they face. The end goal with any marketing plan is to find your ideal client and meet them where they are. That means finding them online, making connections, and forming relationships that last for the long haul.

    Photo credit: Pixabay

  • 09 Jun 2020 6:52 PM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)

    Law firms have been hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic, with high-stakes trials getting delayed and deal work related to M&A and IPOs drying up. 

    Restructuring lawyers have seen a surge in activity, and firms with strong labor and employment practices are getting a boost. 

    The Coronavirus has forced an unprecedented switch to remote work, and some insiders say the move is already prompting a rethink of office space and talent needs for the long run.


  • 08 Apr 2020 12:22 PM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)

    I’m a freelancer or sole proprietor. Am I eligible for unemployment if I’m no longer working?

    Yes. Self-employed people are newly eligible for benefits.
    Benefits will be calculated based on previous income, using a formula from the disaster unemployment assistance program, according to a congressional aide.

    Self-employed workers will also be eligible for the additional $600 weekly benefit provided by the federal government as part of the CARES Act.

  • 07 Apr 2020 6:03 PM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)

    By: Stacy Cowley

    The provisions include cash grants, and low-interest loans.
     
    Here are the answers to common questions about these programs.
     
    The Basics
     
    Who is eligible for relief?
    Businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers are eligible for aid, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers.
     
    What does this do?
    The program offers loans of up to $10 million to cover eight weeks of payroll plus some additional expenses, like rent and utilities.
     
    The loan can effectively turn into a grant. The S.B.A. has waived many of its usual requirements for these loans and will not require collateral for them.
     
    How much can I borrow?
    Companies can borrow up to two months of their average monthly payroll costs for the past year, plus an additional 25 percent, up to $10 million. “Payroll costs” include salary, wages, tips, commissions, paid leave benefits, employer-paid health insurance premiums and state and local payroll taxes.
     
    I’m self-employed. How do I calculate my payroll cost?
    The CARES Act text says that you can claim your “wage, commission, income, net earnings from self-employment or similar compensation,” up to $100,000 a year. You may need to work with your accountant or lender to confirm what qualifies.
     
    How much hardship do I have to have to apply?
    There are no specific requirements. You do not need to prove a sharp drop in sales or a forced business closure, for example.
     
    Applicants simply have to certify that “current economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary” to support their ongoing operations.
     
    What can I use the money for?
    The loans cannot be used to refinance previous loans; anything else is fair game. If you use money from a disaster loan to pay your employees, you can try to refinance through the paycheck protection program, which allows for the loan to be forgiven.
     
    What documents do I need?
    Each lender will set its own rules, but this sample loan application covers the basics.
    You’ll need to document your average monthly payroll (generally as of Feb. 15, 2020) and provide records on other expenses you’re looking to cover, like rent and utilities.
    Once it’s time to ask for the loan to be forgiven, expect your lender to ask for more documentation.
     
    Will the money for these programs run out?
    Probably yes, and possibly quickly. Both programs have limited funding and are first-come, first served. President Trump and others in his administration have said they will ask Congress for more money if the aid runs out, but Congress will have the final say.
     
    How do I apply?
    You must apply through a bank or other lender, so start by contacting one you already have a relationship with. Many banks are imposing restrictions and choosing to work only with their existing business customers.
     
    The Treasury Department said the program would start taking applications on April 10th, two weeks after the bill was signed into law.
     
    What’s the application deadline?
    June 30.
     
    That’s the date Congress set for disbursement of the $349 billion it allocated for the program, but the money is likely to run out faster. That means some applicants will be turned away unless Congress authorizes more funding. On Tuesday, the Treasury Department said that  it will request at least another $200 billion.

    Stacy Cowley is a finance reporter with a focus on consumer issues and data security. She previously reported on a variety of business topics, including technology and economics, at CNN Money, Fortune Small Business and other magazines and websites. @StacyCowley

  • 30 May 2019 1:59 PM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)

    The New Mexico Supreme Court has appointed a work group to consider whether the state should allow licensed legal technicians to provide civil legal services.

    The court has asked the group to submit a report by January 2020, according to a May 21 press releaseCourthouse News Service and the Las Cruces Sun News have coverage.

    The state supreme court is asking for recommendations regarding legal technicians, as well as other possible changes in court rules and programs to improve the availability of legal services in the state.

    The press release includes some statistics illustrating the dearth of lawyers in some areas. Twenty-one percent of New Mexico’s counties have five or fewer lawyers, and two counties have no attorneys. A third of the state’s counties have 10 or fewer attorneys, according to the press release. Read more

  • 21 May 2019 12:20 PM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)

    Holly SheriffBy: Holly A. Sheriff, MSLS - Best Virtual Paralegal, LLC

    Being a paralegal entrepreneur is rewarding, fun, and arduous work.  Becoming a paralegal entrepreneur was easy. It’s operating a business; my competition finds to be hard. Some days are better than others. Sometimes you have one or two clients, who believe in what you are accomplishing as an entrepreneur.  Other times, a client becomes your biggest fan not because he or she needs to, but because it’s the right thing to do.  At the end of every week, there is always one attorney or paralegal who can’t understand that the entrepreneurial journey is the same for every person who takes risks to start his or her own business — this includes paralegal entrepreneurs.

    The Struggle is Real for the Paralegal Entrepreneur

    The struggles I face as a business owner are the same for the attorneys. There are times, and I am not going to lie, I must explain to prospective clients I have the same goals, needs, and wants for my business as they do for their law practices. Some of the attorneys who call my office don’t understand that I, too, have:

    • Clients come and go;
    • Clients fail to communicate when a task is in progress or finished;
    • Legal costs;
    • Clients don’t pay;
    • Clients who want the services I provide at such a low rate, which will cause me to NOT break even at the end of the week – let alone to see any profits;
    • Clients who are rude to my staff and me;
    • Overhead expenses that keep getting higher;
    • Prospective clients who either see my company as an overpaid typist service and not as a paralegal extension of their law practices; or
    • Attorneys who do not realize the value in forming a team like the collaborative relationship with a vendor.

    The copycat struggle is real

    The struggles I face as a paralegal entrepreneur are slightly different than my solo attorney colleagues.  I must deal with copycat paralegals, freelance or the moonlighting paralegals, who do not understand the first thing about being an independent contractor or a paralegal entrepreneur.  And it is always cutting into my profit margin one way or another.

    “Copycat paralegals are paralegals that have litererally tried to copy my business model from visiting my website.”

    Holly A. Sheriff

    The profit margin struggles are affected by a wide array of problems caused by unqualified competition, who believe they would love to work from home. However, most of this competition want all the same benefits as a traditional employee.  Believe it or not, this ideology cuts into my profit margin. I lose clients to freelancers and copycats because:

    • Inexperienced freelancers or copycats often have “set $20 per hour as their rate, based on nothing more than that’s what they think will get the business in the door.
    • My pricing strategy is reliable market research, data, years of ideal target marketing strategies, and negotiating with various vendors to get the best tools of the trade behind us at the best prices for our region. Yes, you heard me, I said, “region.” Most legal vendors have different price points for each jurisdiction or sale territories.
    • The copycats don’t like paying for things they should pay for to be classed as independent contractors by the taxing authorities and the IRS.
    • I pay for my tools, equipment, office space, and software. Seriously, I do, ask my friend and colleague, William Roach the visionary behind Exhibit View Solutions, LLC. I meet with Bill once or twice a year, to renew products and services that I believe my clients will benefit from our company using.
    • I also don’t hold back telling Bill or vendors like him what works and what does not work for attorneys. I’ve been known to have very candid conversations with Bill or any other vendors about how they can genuinely help me serve my attorney-clients better. This is what a paralegal entrepreneur should do for his or her clients.

    It’s not always about who has the lowest prices or hourly rates.  The decision to hire a virtual, freelance, or entrepreneur paralegal should be a decision built upon which of these individuals or companies can provide:

    • the most value as a virtual team member or extension of your practice;
    • business knowledge and understanding when it comes to your profits, business goals, and your legal work;
    • tech savvy solutions based on practical use, which surprisingly this includes using Microsoft products;

    BE WARNED

    There are thousands of virtual paralegals and freelancers in social media land who do not know how to use Microsoft WORD or other technology, which is essential for working in the virtual office.

     Sometimes it takes looking at what you do as a solo attorney entrepreneur to see the value of hiring a virtual paralegal. Therefore, if you are a solo law firm entrepreneur and you genuinely want to make a difference in your practice, try looking for a paralegal solution, which embraces the entrepreneur spirit, despite the struggles that come with owning and operating a business.

    Despite the struggles, being a paralegal entrepreneur is the best career for me. It’s satisfying for my marketing brain, it’s great for my work ethic (I work all the time), and it’s an opportunity to help like-minded attorneys build law practices as businesses too. Sure, some days, I feel like I am the captain of the Titanic, but that’s how I know that I am a paralegal entrepreneur.

    If you find after reading this blog that you want to know more about how a paralegal entrepreneur can help not only your law practice but your business too, call me. I’m always working.

    Holly A. Sheriff, ASPS, BBA, MSLS

    Holly Sheriff is a professional paralegal, published author, business/career coach, public speaker, and business owner. She possesses over two decades of expertise in legal writing, legal research, business development, writing for graduate students, resume critiquing, and writing. She has been a pioneer for the virtual paralegal and virtual business/career coach industries.

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  • 05 Apr 2019 12:18 PM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)


      Upwork to Charge Freelancers to Bid  on Jobs, Further Squeezing Those Who Rely on the 'Gig Economy'

    Freelancers will soon have to pay as much as $0.90 for each job they apply for on Upwork, which could impact users who are new to the platform or struggling to make ends meet.

    12 Companies That Let You Work Remotely

    The growing trend for work flexibility has taken over the country. From health care to communications to tech, each industry offers roles that can be executed from the comfort of your own home. Whether the trend reflects companies’ desires to cut back on expenses or to provide employees with much-desired options, the benefits are all ours.

    According to employee reviews on Glassdoor, here are 12 companies that will allow you to work remotely.

    Instagram Hashtags: How to Find the Most Popular Hashtags and Connect with New Followers

    Using the right Instagram hashtags can help you extend your reach, engage your audience, and even boost your brand. 

    House of Representatives Passes Paycheck Fairness Act to Strengthen Equal Pay Act

    Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives continue to call for stronger protections to combat wage inequality. By a vote of 242-187, the House recently passed the Paycheck Fairness Act to enhance the federal protections guaranteed under the EPA. Currently, to defend against an EPA claim, an employer can assert any of four defenses to...

    7 plants that will brighten your work-space and boost your productivity

    Boost your health, creativity, and productivity by adding one of these plants to your works-pace.

  • 29 Mar 2019 2:54 PM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)

    When it comes to pricing your services it’s often difficult to find that “sweet spot”. Typically, competitive pricing is associated with the cheapest rates. However, there’s something to be said about becoming the premium offering in your practice areas.
     
    This means you price your services higher than the competition and simply offer more. If your clients can gain value from your services, then your price point can be easily justified.

    On the contrary you need to be absolutely sure you’re on top of it. If you promise premium and deliver a sub-standard experience, you’ll have a hard time recovering since there are so many cheaper virtual paralegals available.
     
    You do not want to be the cheapest virtual paralegal on the market. You may get clients, but the buzz will eventually die down and it will be difficult for you to increase your fees to be profitable. Focus on the value of your services and demonstrate to your clients why your services will make their law practice profitable.
     
    Increase your fees as your practice areas become more competitive; the quality of your services will differentiate you from other virtual paralegals. If virtual paralegals who offer similar services offer retainers, figure out a way to package your services on a flat fee basis.
     
    Add a price comparison chart to your website, blog and marketing kit. Invest in your branding and market your business as the top tier of your practice areas.

  • 08 Mar 2019 10:52 AM | Cordina Charvis (Administrator)
    The virtual paralegal clients are attorneys and legal professionals most of which are inundated with emails, whether an email gets opened depends entirely on its subject line. It is important to send a professional email message that engages the reader and clearly states why you’re writing.
     
    To introduce yourself in an email to prospective clients, use the first paragraph to intro yourself, the second for your request and the third to thank the reader for his or her consideration.
     
    It is best to direct your email to an individual instead of a generic email address. In an introduction, you must always use a formal business greeting such as, Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name, followed by a semi-colon.
     
    If you know someone in common, mention them in your email. A referral is one of the best way to connect with new people. Your message should clearly state who you are and why you are writing to the reader. The way you end your email is your last opportunity to make a good first impression. Your closing needs to leave the reader with positive feelings about you and the email you have written.
     
    Examples of Email Introductory Subject Lines
    • Introduction From [Your Name]
    • Inquiring About Opportunities 
    • I Found You Through [Alumni Network, LinkedIn, Professional Association, etc.)
    • [Name] Recommended I Contact You
    • Referral From [Name]
     
    Sample Email Introduction with a referral
     
    Dear Ms. Smith,
     
    I am a friend of Allie Brown, and she encouraged me to forward my resume to you. Allie and I worked on several projects together, and she thought that you might be interested in my corporate paralegal services.
     
    Include your email signature. Make it easy for the person you’re emailing to get back in touch with you. Your signature must include your full name, email address, and phone number. 
     
    Last but most importantly, proofread your email before sending.


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