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A good paralegal can be invaluable to your practice, managing your schedule, fixing your typos, and making sure your documents actually get to court. Paralegals are the unsung heroes of many small practices and are often the first support staff small firms bring on.
With a bit of training and investment, a good paralegal can become a great paralegal. Professional development can expand the range of your paralegal's skills, allowing them to stay up to date on legal developments and develop new skills that aid the practice.
Investing in Your Paralegal Is Investing in Your Practice
Take a moment to think of all the non-billable tasks you complete in a day. Each non-billable minute, from dealing with phone calls to monitoring your expenses, is less valuable than a billable one. If you can train your support staff to handle those tasks, you maximize your ability to do actual lawyering.
In many small firms, the paralegal is the only non-lawyer staff. That means your paralegal will often be the first point of contact for those interacting with the practice. But don't think that the extra tasks your paralegal is capable of are solely secretarial.
1. Using Your Paralegal as an Organizational Guru
A good paralegal will be a master of keeping things organized. That means primarily means staying on top of deadlines, schedules, and docketing. But those organizational skills can be put to use elsewhere as well: monitoring firm bills, tracking client communications, and streamlining your file management. Your para may need some extra training in say, records management, but you will see benefits in greater efficiency.
2. As Cost-Cutter
There are a million small ways that your firm can leak money and each small drop can lead to a huge deluge. Spending five dollars a day on coffee runs? That quickly adds up to $1,300 a year. Buying expensive toner instead of searching for deals? There goes a few hundred dollars more.
Of course, it's often not worth your time to count every penny and clip every coupon. But by putting your paralegal in charge of cost-cutting measures, including reviewing small expenditures and searching out savings, you can help cut down your overhead without cutting in to your billable hours.
3. As Marketing Researcher
You've put a bit of work and cash investing in a marketing plan, but how do you know that it's paying off? Train your paralegal to monitor marketing return on investment -- by tracking, for example, how many calls you receive after a new radio ad and how many of those callers become clients.
Of course, you don't want to bury your paralegal under new tasks and responsibilities. Consider instituting a bonus policy based on your paralegal's performance. A bit of financial reward can raise moral and lower turnover.