Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I Hate Waste!

Time, money, technology, food ….

I can’t help it. Don’t know if it is genetic or what – but I simply cannot tolerate waste. My children serve themselves, knowing full well what they put on their plate must be consumed or they will be getting dirty looks from Mom -- my husband knows that if he throws something out, it better not have another use – or he’ll get the same!

It’s not just with the home life that I can’t stand waste – in the office each piece of equipment and software application is used to its fullest; my time is scheduled in 15 minute increments and I have a process or system for almost everything. Even though I am aware of certain time wasters, there are also many time wasters you have no control over. Things such as that call you got from a colleague you haven’t spoken to in years; or the “someday I’ll do pile” like that stack of magazines and article clippings calling to you from the corner of the room. Time wasters abound in every office. Click here to see my comments in Wasting Time At Work, You’re Not Alone ( recently published in New York Newsday.

In my world, there’s even more distractions to eat up productivity – working from home means that cleaning, laundry, gardening, errands … all the responsibilities of being a “mother” – scheduling, family and children birthdays, doctor’s appointments - call to me every day. There is very little delineation between work and home when your office is three steps away!

The point is – identify the time wasters and figure out a way to remove them. That stack of articles isn’t going to get read in one sitting, so why not make from 8:30 am to 9:00 am on Wednesdays “Reading” time? Tell your co-workers not to disturb you, grab a hot or cold cup of something, close your door and start week one of reducing the time you waste collecting the dang things in the first place!

The Legal Connection - Fall Issue

The latest issue of The Legal Connection ezine is now available!

In this Issue: * My Favorite Season! * The Ins and Outs of tiny URL by MVA Amber Drake * Technology2Go! - E-Mail - Take It or Leave It! * The BYOB Lecture Series Resume * Winner LegalTypist's Fastest Fingers Contest! Click on the link below to view our informative e-zine and learn more about today's legal technology: Don't have time to read it now? Simply click on the link above and hit "Print" (or use Ctrl+P) to print. It may not look as nice, but can be printed in black and white! ;) If the link does not hold (remain active), simply copy and paste the entire link (from "http: through .pdf") into a new internet browser window. You will also need Adobe Reader. If you do not already have Adobe Reader, you can download it for free from: Additionally, you can also always view the latest edition of The Legal Connection whenever you are surfing the web. Simply navigate to Please feel free to forward this message or the link above to all your friends and contacts. Feedback is always graciously appreciated and remember, I'm always ! Regards, Andrea Cannavina LegalTypist, Inc. (866) 848-2195 x101 Celebrating 6 years of helping professionals get their work done!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Virtual Assistants on ABC News

Last week several of my colleagues over at the International Virtual Assistants Association ( were quoted in an article entitled: Virtually There: Small Businesses Look Far Away for Help.
However, it is not just Sue and Nina and Candy that got quoted, so did Bobby Newman from my favorite unified messaging service, Bobby and I go wayyyyy back (as in over five years now). I've used and recommended Onebox to keep any virtual professional's incoming communications organized practically since opening my virtual doors in April 2001. Back then, Onebox was a free service - now, its part of the j2 global family (think efax).
I recently reviewed several unified messaging services to recommend to the IVAA. It had been several years since I had researched the competition - but I found out that doesn't matter. Of the three services reviewed, Onebox won out on price, features and ease of use - what more could one ask for? As for getting quoted, I also was recently quoted in New York's Newsday in a story entitled: Wasting Time At Work, You’re Not Alone
As I have been saying for years, it is only a matter of time before the Virtual Assistant profession goes "mainstream". It is my hope that the recent flurish of publicity and articles will get that ball a rollin'!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

What Is LegalTypist?

LegalTypist, a fast-growing leader in the legal transcription industry attributes its success to a strong commitment to educating all about the benefits of upgrading to a digital workflow from antiquated tape based dictation/transcription processes. A comprehensive approach including assessment of current technology and equipment combined with integration project management, LegalTypist works directly with Managing Partners, HR and IT Administrators to customize a solution that fits specific firm criteria.
LegalTypist’s comprehensive approach takes on the implementation of any digital upgrade and user/workflow set up, thereby negating the need for firm investment in equipment or IT personnel/resources. Not just for large firms, LegalTypist also provides a cost effective off site secretarial solution for sole practitioners looking for administrative assistance without the headaches or expenses associated with being an employer.
Using only state-of-the-art secure technology, coupled over a decade of experience in the legal industry, LegalTypist remains the only service offering a cost conscientious digital upgrade coupled with custom legal transcription provided by 100% US based qualified Digital Assistants. LegalTypist’s innovative approach to outsourcing allows for the reallocation of in house support personnel based on aptitude, experience and/or ability. Our technology also allows attorneys to work from any telephone 365/24/7, significantly increasing the acceptance of the upgrade and instantly providing the ability to work remotely in a secure and professional environment.
LegalTypist serves a wide variety of clients, including sole practitioners, multiple attorney firms and companies which service the legal industry. We offer toll free dial in dictation, accept files created by most digital recorders combined with experienced legal assistance for a comprehensive support solution tailored to fit any firm. Our experience, our cutting-edge technology and our commitment to complete customer satisfaction simply are not available anywhere else.
Our innovative services have been mentioned in magazines such as the August/September issue of “Law Office Computing” and September issue of “Legal Assistant Today”. LegalTypist began offering off site secretarial services in 2001.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ready - Set - Organize!

You’ve taken the plunge and decided to work from home. Good for you! Whether your business is centered on sales, service or product manufacturing, you need a place to work. What, a work environment!? Do I really need one? Why not just use the kitchen table? I have a laptop so I can work anywhere – right? While this may be true, the future success of your business isn’t motivated solely by your drive, determination or dedication; it’s also increased or decreased by how you organize and approach your business endeavors. Many challenges face entrepreneurs and small business owners, but having the right tools at your disposal shouldn’t be one of them and at the top of the list is appropriate workspace. You’ll need a place where you go when in the ‘work mode’. This might be a separate room or area within your home, or perhaps a converted garage or loft. Wherever it is, this is your professional office and you must run it as such. Let's face it, no one is going to respect your business if you don't! While working from home affords a great deal of flexibility to your schedule, that sometimes is taken to mean you really are not "at work". Along with getting the right equipment, having a home office means setting ground rules for when you are “at work” and, if you do not live alone, making sure everyone is aware of them. A computer is a vital component of any home office, as are a high output printer and fax machine/scanner, if possible. Older versions of software will do, however, if you’re connected to the internet, be prepared. Have up to date virus software and a back up system that includes your My Documents folder and, if you use Outlook, your .pst file. Don’t think it can’t happen to you -- at some point your computer will fail! Here’s a tip I learned the hard way: keep your serial numbers and registration codes for your software with the actual disks. If you download an application – burn it to disk and print out the registration code! ;) Next, you’ll need a reliable business phone. While a new landline run into your home office is best, when first starting out one has to consider cost. For start ups, a cell phone will do however, I do not recommend VoIP (Skype/Vonage) technology as it is simply too unreliable and may even raise security issues for your PC. Services such as Onebox ( compliment any existing cell phone/plan by giving a businesses a professional “front” and toll free voicemail/fax system that can grow with their business. Unified messaging (as it is called) also gives you much more flexibility and control of how/when your calls are connected and allows you to keep the same number and printed materials, even if you change cell phones or plans. Last is a reliable internet connection. Yes, you can start with dial-up, but certainly make upgrading to DSL, Cable or other high speed connection a priority. Soon you will come to understand that your most precious commodity is time, so waiting for downloads or slow web pages to load will really add up. Now that you are armed to do business, you need to organize your workspace. This may take some creativity, but it truly is your space, so design and create an environment that is pleasing and comfortable for you. Remember, an office need not be sterile! A desk, a good, comfortable chair, adequate lighting and storage space for your supplies are essential. Plastic filing cabinets or wall mounted bins are inexpensive and will help keep your papers organized. Stackable bins help relieve clutter and make working with files easy. Make folders or notebooks for separate areas of your business; Orders, Sales, Receipts for Business Expenses, Research, Vendors, Client Billing, Promotional Materials … you get the idea. A wall or desk blotter/calendar will keep your ideas and thoughts, orders and/or appointments visible and up to date. And did I mention color?! Use color wherever you can to keep you organized – file folders, post its, paper clips and ink -- even software -- Outlook 2003 allows you to color code e-mail! Best is to keep the colors consistent – if you use green file folders for clients, then use green flags for client e-mails and a green pen on your calendar for client project work or deadlines. Let’s face it, if you start off organized, you’re a step ahead! Time is money. Don’t waste it looking for things you should have handy. Spend the time now putting in place the systems you need in your physical office to be organized and as your virtual business takes off, you’ll be thankful you did!

Friday, June 09, 2006

TidBit: A Big Service Thank You

For those of you who are on the front lines, the ones ordering the coffee and making sure the equipment is running, please pass along this tip to those in the cubicles:
Don't be "snarky" with the technicians or delivery people. Nothing is harder than trying to provide top notch customer service but doing so in a hostile or sarcastic environment definately makes it harder.
Additionally, everyone who comes into your firm gets an "impression" - technicians and outside vendors too. If prompted (as in if they hear your firm's name in a conversation two months from now) these individuals can and do pass that impression along - Fed Ex guy, copier tech, paper delivery personnel - and they could be speaking with your potential clients!
Also, if you think "Why don't we get you a desk" for the copier technician is an original statement - think again! ;)

For When Your PC Crashes (and it will)

Having to reinstall my software several times is what prompts these gems: ;)

  • Write any key, registration, serial numbers or passwords directly on the inside cover of the software's CD.
  • If you download a program off the internet, burn the downloaded file to CD and write the code(s) on the CD.
  • Make a .pdf copy of any confirmation e-mail containing your codes and passwords and save it to a file on your hard drive named the application, i.e., Adobe. Program files are stored separately - so no worries - make the folder directly in your My Documents folder or wherever you regularly store your business/client documents.

If you can't afford Adobe (and who can lol) - download PrimoPDF ( Once you install you can hit Ctrl+P from the e-mail screen and when the PrimoPDF box pops up, hit the button with the three dots "..." to browse to the folder on your computer you wish to save the pdf. Name it, hit ok and you're done. ;)

  • If you really want to cover all the bases, print out the actual pdfs and put them in the old fireproof safe.
  • Store all your CDs in the same place and don't think a fireproof safe will save them (it still gets hot inside so they melt!)

It is never a convenient time to have to reinstall and rebuild your PC - but having the proper installation codes, CDs and passwords in one place, makes it as efficient for you as possible.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Virtual Assistants 101

Ever increasing numbers of attorneys hanging out their own shingle are in dire need of administrative assistance, but do not have the space, equipment or even workload to warrant hiring an employee. This means many are forced to spend hours each day on the administrative duties required to keep their practice in business, taking away from more productive activities of networking and client development and even personal time. While some may enjoy having total control, there is only so much time in any day and working 16-18 hour days every day takes it’s toll. Fortunately, a better solution is available in a little known industry which is taking the real estate business world by storm: virtual assistants.

What is a VA?

Virtual Assistants or VAs are business owners who provide administrative and other services virtually -- through the use of electronic communications (the internet, telephone, e-mail, fax and instant messaging, couriers and even US mail). Professional VAs accomplish assigned tasks from their own well equipped office, have years of experience in their chosen field, and are considered contract vendors and not employees thereby eliminating the expense, hidden costs and headaches inherent in the employer/employee relationship. And, since they are virtual, you don’t even need to supply space, let alone equipment, software licenses or training to work with a VA.

While you can locate a VA for almost any service imaginable, common administrative duties performed by VAs include word processing, desktop publishing, contact and calendar management, accounting/billing, reception and travel arrangements. Internet based services include real estate listing management and digital transcription.

Where Can I Find a VA?

There are several VA industry organizations which maintain directories of VAs based on certifications, skill sets and specialties. One such organization is the International Virtual Assistants Association ( The IVAA maintains a free RFP (Request For Proposal) service for business owners to post their needs and receive responses from eligible members via e-mail.

Since every VA is an independent business owner, the methods for transfer of work, availability of services, and costs vary. Rates range from as little as $25 to $100 per hour or more based on the services provided and experience of your VA. A review of the VA’s website should give you a good indication of services available and should provide a little information about the VA too.

The Devil is in the Details:

Before deciding on a VA, you need to determine what you want them to do. Start with a list of duties you do not like doing, you are not properly trained to do or projects you never seem to be able to get to. This will give you a framework to decide what you wish to keep on your to do list and what you wish to outsource to your VA.

VAs are more than just sole practitioners themselves and many have developed networks to help a certain industry, such as real estate, or provide a particular service, such as digital transcription. Whether working with a single VA or an established network, always look for industry certifications, experience within your industry, type of work and/or software/technology used.

You should also get referrals/testimonials of existing clients, where possible. In many instances a VA becomes a strategic partner of their client’s business, offering suggestions for improvement of processes, methodologies for workflow, options for increasing revenue, as well as by providing access to their own network of contacts within the growing VA industry itself!

Once you have found a VA to work with, it is imperative that you sign a contract or Terms of Service, specifying the nature of the relationship, types of services to be provided, deadlines/project parameters, costs, billing procedures and any other details. This is to avoid potential misunderstandings, as well as confirm that the relationship is of an independent contractor nature.

Just Do It

In short, if you are tired of taking care of the administrative aspect of your practice, want to explore taking your company’s business processes to the next level or simply could use a hand with a specialty or large project, consider partnering with a VA.


Andrea Cannavina, Master Virtual Assistant and President/CEO of LegalTypist, Inc., helps sole practitioners, law firms and companies which service the legal industry upgrade their dictation processes to digital in order to get more done with less (employees, equipment and expense). To learn more visit: While there, subscribe to The Legal Connection, a quarterly newsletter, full of how to’s, reviews and insights to working virtually.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Top Three Reasons Law Firms Aren’t Using Digital Dictation Technology

In my profession, it is common to ask a lot of questions. Truly, it’s necessary. A Virtual Assistant is someone who has to know as much as possible about a particular client’s systems or way of doing things in order to best configure and make use of available technology to help them do it better, faster, for less cost – whatever the client is looking to gain.

I started my VA career almost five years ago and limit my practice to virtual assistance to the legal industry. I do so as I have over 15 year’s brick and mortar experience in the legal “business”. Over the past five years, I have asked many attorneys, law firm administrators, paralegals, HR managers, private investigators, IT administrators, managing partners, office managers, secretaries and others about the processes used at their firms. Some use document management software, some don’t. Some have websites, some don’t. Almost without fail, when asked what the attorneys use for dictation, the most common response: a tape recorder.

That’s good! Dictating is a very efficient process, even with a tape. According to Dictaphone, in 1952 recorded dictation was established as "a time saver over handwriting and stenography among attorneys, physicians and other professionals". The first mini-cassette recorder was marketed in 1973. Do you believe it? That same little recorder still in use at most firms in the US today is the technological equivalent of listening to music on an 8 track!

In any event, if your firm uses tape based dictation, then upgrading to digital should be a serious consideration. If your firm does not use dictation, perhaps you should start with digital so keep reading….

Why Upgrade To Digital Dictation?

Although not as old as dictation itself, digital dictation has been around for quite some time. The medical profession has been using digital dictation technology (call in and portable recorders) for over a decade. Why? Upgrading to a digital dictation process provided hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices and insurance companies with:

  • the ability for doctors to work remotely with nothing more than a phone or portable recorder and internet connection
  • centralization of document workflow for multiple user, multiple site operations
  • the ability to monitor work in progress and overall productivity
  • the ability to track and report various metrics and criteria
  • the ability to utilize remote transcriptionists and save on personnel costs

The way I see it, any size firm has as much to gain as a comparably sized medical practice by upgrading to a digital dictation process - so the question remains, with so much to gain, Why haven't they!? (Read that list above again – with your firm in mind.)

Why Aren’t Firms Using Digital Dictation?

The main reason, I believe, is no one has put 2+2 together yet. Since digital dictation technology isn’t “new”, not much attention has been paid to it outside the medical industry. Just recently, however, British and other European law firms have been in the news discussing how upgrading to digital dictation has provided benefits and improvements. Some recent headlines include: DWF switch to BigHand System for Firm Wide Digital Dictation ... and Intelligent Workflow Advantages Prompt Roll Out of WinScribe ...

What About Here in the US? Listed below (in reverse order) are the top three responses I have received over the years to the question:

"Why hasn’t your firm upgraded to digital dictation?"

Number 3: "Digital dictation, isn't that speech recognition?"

No, speech recognition is not digital dictation. Speech recognition is software. It takes the human voice and converts it to text. Speech recognition software requires training to each specific user - hours of training for most applications, making the implementation of this technology not practical in most firm settings.

Digital dictation is the recording of your voice with software or equipment that provides dictation functions - stop, rewind, insert and so forth. With digital, however, the recording does not go onto a tape, it gets saved as an audio file (i.e., .wav, .dss). Unlike speech recognition, digital dictation requires a transcriptionist and software to type the recorded thoughts.

By the way, one reason why I firmly believe speech recognition software can never replace a good legal secretary/transcriptionist - no matter how much you train it, it can never catch when you say "defendant' and you should be saying "plaintiff"! ;)

So, while you may have heard or read about the pitfalls of speech recognition technology, digital dictation is a different animal altogether.

Number 2: "If it ain't broke..."

Yes, it is true that tape dictation works and has worked for decades, but so does a typewriter, an abacus, even a compass for that matter! Upgrading to digital dictation is not a fix, it is an improvement to a known process. It is the natural evolution of dictation - from human being (secy), to recorded (tape), to digital (sound file).

When upgrading to digital, what should be highlighted is that those making the recording no longer need to be in the same physical location as the person doing the transcribing - or in today's lingo: can work remotely! Since the dictation file created with digital is electronic in nature, it can be manipulated much the same as any other computer file -- stored, routed through networks, attached to e-mails and so on. This makes the dictation file itself much more convenient and user friendly in today's electronic environment (networks, multiple offices, document management software, retention requirements). Therefore, depending on how the capture process is set up, so long as firm’s dictators have access to a telephone or the internet, they can produce billable time from wherever they are. :)

Along with remote work opportunities for firm dictators, upgrading to digital dictation provides reporting and tracking on each file as it travels through the process or all of the metrics that a tape based dictation system simply cannot provide. Hold up a tape and ask an attorney what’s on it and see what s/he says! If it were a digital file, however, you always know the date and time a file was created, by whom, how, how long it is, what client it is for, what matter it pertains, and more.

So, from an administrator’s as well as dictator’s perspective, upgrading to digital dictation provides quite an improvement in how they do their jobs.

and….my all time favorite response to…..

"Why hasn’t your firm upgraded to digital dictation?"

Number 1: "We don't like change."

I have heard this exact phrase more times than I care to admit!

Other than, of course, this response helping me to realize that firms can take forever to reach a decision, it presents quite a conundrum. Why? When upgrading to digital, not much actually changes in the process for the dictator. In fact, just recently Olympus added a portable digital recorder to its professional line that has a slide switch, for the first time producing a digital recorder which truly mimics an analog recorder. Therefore, when properly configured, other than the fact that an attorney does not have to get up from his chair to hand a tape to his secretary (or leave on her chair), when upgrading to digital, dictators do not “do” anything different! That is why implementation of digital dictation is a relatively trouble free and "easy" technologically-speaking, even for large firms.

Wrapping It All Up

At some point, every firm has to weigh the pros and cons of any technology upgrade. With more and more equipment and software necessary to stay competitive, IT budgets are already strained; and with so many firms quick to jump on the recent legal technology wave only to be disappointed, it is no wonder no one is looking for another upgrade.

Unlike so much of the technology available to firms today, however, digital dictation technology is not “new”. It is very stable and has been robustly tested, successfully implemented and utilized in various sized environments for over a decade, providing improvements to workers, administrators and managers. There simply is no reason why law firms should not beneift from this technology. This is why, IMHO, every firm should make an upgrade to digital dictation a must for their 2006 technology plan.

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