Security of confidential information is a real concern for attorneys because it is at the foundation of the attorney-client relationship. If an attorney fails to take appropriate steps to keep electronic documents secure, it can result in a release of sensitive information, a malpractice suit and disciplinary sanctions. Therefore, it is important for attorneys to verify the virtual paralegal they contract with takes the following steps to keep the attorney’s information secure and confidential:
If you still have concerns regarding the security of confidential information, your virtual paralegal should involve you in the decision making process as to how file sharing takes place and how electronic documents are retained. Don't hesitate to contact Your Paralegal Help Desk if you have any questions on this matter.
I have been working with local governments for many years now. As part of my work, I have followed Florida’s legislative sessions and tracked bills. To do so, I had to know the legislative process. This is one of the first things we learn when going to paralegal or law school. However, it is often quickly forgotten. So here is a recap on how an idea becomes a law in Florida.
Florida’s legislative session starts on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March and last 60 days. The first step in creating a law is to have your idea sponsored by a Senate or House representative. The representative then contacts Bill Drafting Services to request a bill to be drafted. The representative may give specific and detailed instructions on how to draft the bill or may just provide a general idea. The assigned bill drafter works with him until final draft of the bill is approved by the representative. When approved, the idea receives a bill number (odd number for House and even number for Senate) and is filed. For this example, we will use a House bill.
Before being voted on by the House, the bill is read 3 times. The 1st reading is by publication of the bill number, its sponsor and a short description of the bill in the House Journal. The Speaker will also refer the bill to one or more committees or subcommittees in the House. The committees and subcommittees will study the effect of the bill if enacted. They can amend, accept or reject the bill.
Once amended or accepted, the bill is sent to the House. The 2nd reading takes place when a bill is introduced and read on the Special Order Calendar where it is explained, questions are answered and amendments are considered. The bill is then taken up on 3rd reading on a subsequent legislative day. This is the final reading of the bill before being voted on by the House. If the bill does not receive a favorable vote, it “dies” on the floor.
After the bill is passed by the House, it is sent to the Senate for voting. The Senate takes the bill through a similar process and returns it to the House. If the bill passes both houses, it is enrolled and sent to the Governor for his approval. If the Legislature is still in session, the Governor has 7 days to sign the bill. If the session ended, the Governor has 15 days to sign it. The Governor may take one of the following 3 steps: sign the bill, allow it to become law without his signature or veto it. If the Governor vetoes the bill, the Legislature may override his veto by a 2/3 vote during the next session. This summarizes the legislative process in Florida.
If you would like to have more details on this topic, you can visit the Florida House of Representatives’ website or the Senate’s website.
In a future blog post, we will review some of the recently enacted bills that may impact Florida attorneys.
Attorneys know about freelance paralegals who come to their office to assist them with legal work. However, they may not be aware that these same tasks can be done remotely by a virtual paralegal. The technological advances of the last decade has allowed paralegals and attorneys to communicate, handle projects and file documents electronically. Virtual paralegals are part of an emerging trend that is here to last. Below are some frequently asked questions attorneys may have about virtual paralegals.
What is a virtual paralegal? A virtual paralegal provides on-demand paralegal services to licensed attorneys and law firms from a remote location. A virtual paralegal is not an employee, but an independent contractor.
What are the benefits of contracting with a virtual paralegal? Attorneys save money by avoiding overhead costs associated with a full-time employee. They also cut cost by only paying for the hours a paralegal work to complete a project. Law firms can make a profit when contracting with virtual paralegals because paralegals rate is lower than what law firms bill their clients. Best of all, virtual paralegals are highly skilled and educated professionals who keep up with legal trends and technology. You get an experienced paralegal you do not have to train.
Who contracts with virtual paralegals? Solo practitioners, law firms of all sizes, corporations and governmental agencies contract with virtual paralegals as long as paralegals work under the supervision of licensed attorneys. Solo practitioners and small law firms use virtual paralegals when they have fluctuating workloads and cannot afford to hire a full-time paralegal. Some law firms or corporations may need a virtual paralegal because their paralegal employee is on maternity leave. Law firms and governmental agencies also contract with virtual paralegals when their in-house paralegals are overwhelmed with projects that must be done now.
How much do virtual paralegals charge? It depends on the virtual paralegal's experience, the legal field and the tasks requested. Some virtual paralegals charge by the hour. Others use a reduced-rate retainer or have a set fee per project. Virtual paralegal rates are higher than full-time paralegal employee rates because we are operating a business and providing our own benefits.
How do I contract with a virtual paralegal? You must first discuss and explain the legal services your firm needs with Your Paralegal Help Desk. We will then give you a rate for the requested services and an independent contractor agreement will be presented for your approval. Once, we receive your approval and deposit, we will start work immediately.
How do you communicate with attorneys? Virtual paralegals typically communicate with their clients by emails, phone or online conferences.
How do you access our documents? There are many ways we can access your documents. We can use software programs to remotely log in on your computer. We can also use a cloud-based program or we can simply exchange documents by emails.
How do you protect our confidential information? Keeping your information confidential and secure is very important to us. We always do a conflict check before accepting a project. We also use a security software program to protect all information retained on our computers from unauthorized access. We use secure file sharing programs that are widely used by the legal community. Your confidential information will not be shared with third parties.
Why should we hire a virtual paralegal when we can contract with a temp agency? When you contract with a temp agency, you may get a different person each time you request a temp. However, if you contract with Your Paralegal Help Desk, our paralegal can be your "permanent temp" whenever you need her. You will get consistency, always receiving work from the same skilled virtual paralegal. Our goal is to build a long term relationship with you.
If you have any other questions about virtual paralegals and how they can assist your practice of law, don't hesitate to email or call Your Paralegal Help Desk. We are here to help you.
Next week we will talk about how an idea becomes a law in Florida.
After many months of hard work, I can finally say that Your Paralegal Help Desk is officially open for business! It wasn't an easy road, but I learned a lot along the way and would like to share it with you in this blog.
Welcome to my blog. My name is Emilie and I am the owner and paralegal at Your Paralegal Help Desk. I decided to start my virtual paralegal company several months ago after working remotely on an as-needed basis for a law firm. Little did I know I could have called myself a virtual paralegal. With a little help from Google and online forums, I found several virtual paralegal companies that assist attorneys. I learned there were benefits for both paralegals and attorneys when contracting with a virtual paralegal. Paralegals are able to work from home, accept attorney clients and have a flexible schedule. Attorneys save money by avoiding overhead costs and only paying for the hours a paralegal work. These convinced me to start my own virtual paralegal company.
I am creating this blog to share useful information for the legal community. I will talk about the paralegal profession, give tips on improving your legal practice, share some practical tools I use to increase my productivity and so much more.
In the coming weeks I will be talking about what is a virtual paralegal. If you have any questions on this topic, send me an email or add it as a comment to this blog. I will be glad to answer you in my next blog post.
In the meantime, I invite you to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. This month's newsletter is about starting a legal services business.
Disclaimer: The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. Your Paralegal Help Desk's blogger is not an attorney and cannot give legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you should immediately seek the advice of a licensed attorney in your state.