Friday, April 15, 2005

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

An Alternative Staffing Solution for Attorneys

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Are you tired of spending so much time at your keyboard or have you thought about hiring someone but don’t want the hassles involved with being an employer? If you have an assistant, is she frequently inundated or does your office come to a standstill when she leaves at the end of the day, calls in sick, or takes vacation time?
If so, it may be time for you consider establishing a relationship with a Virtual Assistant (VA) or outsourced service provider for your word processing, billing and document management needs. By its definition, outsourcing means to purchase goods or subcontract services from an outside company.
Advances in technology have made outsourcing reliable, efficient and cost-effective for most types of businesses, including law firms. All that is needed to successfully outsource many routine tasks is an internet connection, some basic computer knowledge, and a willingness to delegate. Giving up control is sometimes the biggest stumbling block for many attorneys! If you're one of them, take a look at just a few of the benefits of outsourcing:
  • You partner with a fully operating business so there is no need to supply space, equipment, expensive training or software licenses.
  • No taxes, FICA, Worker's Compensation, insurance, 401(k), or other incentive expenses
  • By outsourcing, you gain time to work on the more important aspects of a successful practice: client development, better case management; or to pursue personal goals such as getting to the gym or spending more time with your family.
  • If your secretary never seems to get to the bottom of the pile, is it because she's there's too much for her to do? Outsourcing initial drafts or billing may be what you both need to take some pressure off!

Once you’ve made the decision to outsource, where do you start? If you are looking to establish a relationship with an individual virtual assistant, through such organizations as the International Virtual Assistants Association (, you can search for an individual who has legal experience listed in their biography or post a Request for Proposal requesting legal background.

If you prefer to work with an established company rather than an individual, you can take a look at LegalTypist ( LegalTypist provides virtual secretarial support and off site transcription exclusively to the legal industry

Whether working with a large company or individual VA, it is important to get the telephone number and/or e-mail of one or two of their clients so for a reference. If the Company or VA is unwilling or unable to give references, you might want to look elsewhere. Remember, you should be looking for the best possible fit for your particular practice style and habits, not just the fastest and/or cheapest. As with anything in life, you usually get what you pay for.

Finally, you might want to establish a relationship with a reputable service even if you are not at the stage where you require regular assistance. By taking care of the preliminaries before you have an immediate need, you will be in a position to outsource as your schedule requires, rather than getting into a bind or spreading yourself too thin because you do not know where to turn when you have an approaching deadline.

Virtual assistance is the "staffing" solution of the future. Take advantage of it today!

About the Author: Andrea Cannavina is a legal assistant with over 17 years’ experience and an EthicsChecked Master Virtual Assistant. She is also the President of LegalTypist, Inc. a virtual word processing/secretarial outsourcing service for attorneys. If you would like to contact her, send an e-mail to or call (866) 848-2195.

Saturday, April 02, 2005


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While many businesses use analog (tape) based dictation, the benefits of digital are so overwhelming, it is only a matter of time before tapes go the way of the typewriter (still hanging around the office, but not really used). According to Dictaphone®, in 1952 recorded dictation itself was established as "a time saver over handwriting and stenography among attorneys, physicians and other professionals". In fact, it was in 1973 that the first mini-cassette recorder was marketed, making analog dictation the technological equivalent of listening to music on an 8 track tape!
There are several options to capture dictation files, once you have decided to upgrade. They include:
A toll free number is dialed, a pass code punched in and work is dictated into the receiver or speaker of a standard telephone, using the key pad to control the recording functions (play, rewind, insert, etc.). Upon completion of the call, the digital file created is routed through the internet to a secretary, virtual assistant or transcription company. Dial in dictation has many benefits, including:
· no capital expenditure for equipment or software;
· no learning curve for portable recorder or dictation software;
· 24 hour service availability;
· ability to dictate from anywhere there is a phone, including while traveling;
· works as well for single professionals as it does for large corporations.
Portable digital recorders can be located in any electronics or office supply store, catalog or website. They range in price from as little as $50.00 to $500.00 and up. Along with the recorder, software is provided for the transfer of the digital file created by the unit to a computer, generally through a USB cable or a cradle. A user guide and software included with the recorder usually contain instructions and a tutorial.
Dictating is fairly straight forward and quite similar to an analog (tape) recorder. When purchasing a unit, note button size, shape and location. Be certain that the unit is not so small, or button placement so awkward that it is uncomfortable to use. Also be certain that the recorder has all the functions needed. Some less expensive models, for instance, do not have the ability to insert – that quick rewind to go over what you just said to say it better. Research all the model’s functions before you purchase!
Once a digital file is created and uploaded to a PC, it is ready to be sent through a company’s network, direct upload to a transcription service provider or over the internet to a virtual assistant. Many portable software units require the purchase of separate transcription software and equipment (footpedal).
As with many types of software, development of digital dictation applications range from basic to the extremely comprehensive and industry specific. Most dictation software has a free trial period (usually thirty days) and can be downloaded directly from a developer’s website. In a nutshell, digital dictation software turns a computer’s microphone, speakers, mouse and monitor into a dictation machine. Just as with a portable unit, when the file is complete, it is ready for transfer through your company’s network or over the internet to your transcription provider. Should you invest in a portable recorder, PC-based software, or use a transcription service and toll free number? Each situation is unique and requires consideration of many factors, including your company’s needs, size, volume of work and technology comfort level.
Look for Part II of this series: ABC: DIGITAL TRANSCRIPTION
********************************************************** Andrea Cannavina is an EthicsChecked MVA. Her company, LegalTypist, Inc. has been providing virtual legal secretarial and digital transcription services since April of 2001. To learn more visit: While there, subscribe to The Legal Connection, an e-zine full of how tos, review of products and insights to put the virtual industry to work for you. You may also subscribe by clicking here. **********************************************************
Additional Resources: Digital dictation software: Quickscribe, NCH, Portable Recorders: Olympus,, Sony, Virtual Assistance: International Virtual Assistant’s Association (

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