As your solo practice grows, there comes a point when you have too much work to handle, but not enough to hire a full-time paralegal. Instead of rejecting clients for lack of time or hiring a full-time paralegal you can’t afford, contract with a virtual paralegal on an as-needed basis. With the help of a virtual paralegal, your solo practice will grow in 3 different ways.
1. Affordable Legal Services
Legal services are expensive. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t use attorneys because they can’t afford one. According to a recent article from the Wall Street Journal, millions of Americans end up representing themselves in courts because they can’t afford to pay $150 to $300 an hour for an attorney. By delegating some of the work to a virtual paralegal who bills less than an attorney you save your client money. Clients are more likely to use your law firm if they know you provide affordable quality legal services.
2. Extra Time for Clients
You don’t have enough hours in the day to do all your client’s work, plus run your business. Not only are you losing focus on your clients, but you are also missing out on potential client opportunities. Outsourcing legal tasks to a virtual paralegal will free up some of your time. You can use this extra time to gain new clients, perform substantive legal work or finish your work day early.
3. Save Money
Contracting with a virtual paralegal saves you money when you don’t have the workload to hire full-time. You don’t have to pay overhead costs that are up to 30% above the employee salary because a virtual paralegal is an independent contractor. Even better, your virtual paralegal only bills for the hours worked on a project. You don’t pay for down time, lunch break and vacation.
Still not convinced how contracting with a virtual paralegal helps your business grow?
Let’s do the math!
What is legislative history?
Legislative history is the material generated in the course of creating legislation such as bills, committee hearings, committee reports and debates on the floor. It also includes all prior versions of a law.
When do you need to look at legislative history?
How to find prior versions of a law
There are several ways to find prior versions of a law. First, you find the statute in the statute book. Then, you look at the bottom where the history is. Let’s say that you are looking for s. 63, ch. 99-385. By using this reference, you know that you have to look for the Laws of Florida of 1999, Chapter 385, Section 63.
Another way to find prior versions of a law is to use a legal research program such as Westlaw. In Westlaw, search for the statute by using its citation. Then, on the left side of the screen, under legislative history, click on text amendments and select the one you need.
If you can’t find a prior version of a law at your local courthouse library or on Westlaw, you can get it through the State Archives of Florida.
How to find legislative intent
If the law or its amendment was enacted recently (1998 to present), find the bill number of the law by visiting the Laws of Florida website. Then, go to the House of Representatives website and do a bill search. This website provides staff analysis, bill text, vote history and committee actions.
If you have access to Westlaw, you can find the statute as mentioned above for finding a prior version of a law. Then, under legislative history, you can find text amendments, editor’s notes, bill drafts, reports and related materials.
Once again, if you can’t find what you are looking for online or if the law is older, you can contact the State Archives of Florida to find the material generated in the course of creating the legislation.
For federal law, the Library of Congress provides a legislative history guide on its website.
Remember that legislative intent should be used as a last resort when doing legal research because it is not primary law.
Starting a law firm is not an easy task. Most law schools still don’t teach future lawyers what it takes to start and manage a solo practice or small law firm. Nonetheless, there are a lot of free online resources for attorneys who want to hang a shingle. Below are some of my favorites.
Florida Bar Law Office Management Assistance Service
Even though it is geared towards Florida attorneys, LOMAS provides useful information for anyone looking to open a law firm. It offers free on-demand CLE courses from the ABC’s of starting and managing your law practice to building a small firm marketing program. LOMAS gives access to over 100 administrative forms including a contract for legal services, a general partnership agreement and a new law practice office checklist. It also has a help line and a FAQs section with topics ranging from trust accounts to planning for vacation when you have a solo practice.
ABA Solo & Small Firm Resource Center
Like LOMAS, the ABA Solo & Small Firm Resource Center offers advices, tools and resources to successfully manage a law practice. Their topics include, but are not limited to, marketing, work and life balance and staffing. They also have a form bank and an active listserv, SoloSez, where you learn about events, networking opportunities and ask for advice.
General Practice Solo and Small Firm Sections
As a solo practitioner or small firm owner, there are several benefits of being a member of your state bar section or ABA division. There are numerous networking and referral opportunities, reduced price CLE and monthly publications.
There are several blogs for attorneys looking to build their own law practice. Lawyerist has resources, articles and product reviews. My favorite features are the technology oriented articles and its forum where anyone looking for help can asks questions about the practice of law. My Shingle is another blog inspiring solo and small firm lawyers. I especially like the Start a Law Firm Guide page where blog posts are listed by subject such as setting up and growing your law firm. Finally, Attorneyatwork offers a daily law practice tip that can be delivered straight to your inbox.
As a solo practitioner or small firm owner, what are your favorite online law practice resources?
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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.