No matter what size your legal practice is, increasing efficiency while keeping costs down is likely a top priority — and an ongoing juggling act — in today's highly competitive legal marketplace. Despite the pressure to control costs and respond to changing client dynamics, you may need to hire paralegal help or bring in a legal assistant to improve your bottom line.
Why hire paralegal help for your firm
It might sound counterintuitive, but hiring a paralegal or legal assistant — and adding another salary to your law firm's list of expenses — can be cost effective. How do you know when to consider such a move?
Discover these three revenue-draining signs that the time might be right to seek some paralegal help:
1. Time management issues
If you're regularly spending too much time on work that doesn't grow business for the firm and prevents you from focusing on the work your clients pay top dollar for, you should consider hiring a paralegal or legal assistant to take it on for you. It's especially common for attorneys who run their own practice or work in a small firm to think, "It's probably easier and faster if I just do these things myself."
Remember that every hour (or even fraction of an hour) you spend on activities like updating files, preparing for trials, gathering information — instead of actual casework, consultations or generating new clients — erodes your earnings potential. Learn to delegate these tasks to skilled legal support professionals.
2. Overloaded lawyers
Burdening busy and experienced attorneys in your organization with duties that would be more effectively handled by a paralegal hurts your firm's productivity. This pattern also undermines your company's ability to build revenue in two ways:
- Lawyers can't focus on work that your firm can bill more for (see sign No. 1).
- Lawyers have even less time to help the firm build new business and expand growing practice areas.
Another potential side effect of not hiring a legal assistant: retention issues. Doing meaningful work is a top legal career concern for more than a quarter of attorneys, according to research by Robert Half Legal. If you ask skilled lawyers on your team to assume responsibilities they do not find fulfilling and that don't make the best use of their abilities, you risk losing valued staff.
3. Unhappy clients
Your clients complaining about the quality of your service is the biggest red flag of all. If you and your existing team members can't balance your primary duties with tasks that can be just as well handled by a paralegal, client-service quality will inevitably suffer. And it won't take long for your clients to notice — and possibly decide to take their business elsewhere.
A cost-effective solution for law firms
If you're still uncertain whether hiring paralegal help makes good business sense, just look to the practices of leading law firms. According to research by Robert Half Legal for our Future Law Office program, one way top firms deliver more cost-effective services to their clients is by assembling teams of highly skilled legal assistants to support lawyers.
Many law offices, in an effort to ensure the professionals they hire are a good fit for the firm, take a tried-and-true approach when hiring a paralegal or legal assistant: They initially engage them on a temporary basis to determine whether their support is needed for the long term.
A reputable legal staffing firm can help you in hiring a legal assistant or paralegal who meets your firm's specific needs and blends well with your corporate culture. One key advantage of working with a staffing agency is that it often has access to candidates who are not actively seeking employment but would consider making a move for the right opportunity. These are often the most experienced and knowledgeable (thus most highly sought-after) paralegals and legal assistants. Those are just the type of professionals who can help your firm maintain its competitive edge.