How to Become a Virtual Legal Assistant

Career changeIs there a brand new career just waiting for you?

What exactly is a Virtual Assistant or VA? Simply put, a VA is someone who works remotely, online whether from their home or office. They are independent contractors or employees who work and use technology to deliver services. They provide administrative, technical, social media and creative services to clients.

Virtual assistants specialize in various industries such as marketing, real estate, accounting, law or financial services. Firms often hire virtual assistants to save money. They don't pay for the assistant's equipment (including computers), training, overhead, dues, materials, furniture, office space, taxes (if hired as an independent contractor), parking, or insurance.

What Do Virtual Assistants Do?

As a Virtual Assistant, you can do a variety of tasks. You can become a generalist or specialize in a legal specialty such as bankruptcy, litigation, real estate, estate planning or corporate. The Internet has made it possible to do a wide variety of things remotely, or, “virtually.”

A lot of people hear “virtual assistance” and think only of administrative tasks like typing and answering emails. But the range of tasks VAs do is much broader: There are countless services you can provide virtually. Here is a partial list:
• Email management
• Correspondence
• Answer phones
• Calendar management
• Travel arrangement
• Writing
• Ghostwriting
• Graphic design / creation
• Web design / development
• Researching
• Editing
• Audio / video / photo editing
• Consulting / counseling / coaching
• Bookkeeping
• Copywriting
• Marketing / Promotion
• Social media management
• Project management
• Customer service
• Transcription
• Programming
• App development
• Data entry
• Legal: Prepare litigation, estate planning, bankruptcy, corporate, real estate, family law, immigration and other practice specialty documents, schedule events and calendar management for law firms and attorneys; audit letters; handle correspondence; intake; anything and everything a legal secretary can do.

Before you close the door to your cubicle, pack up those Bekins boxes and head out for a bold new life, there are plenty of issues you’ll need to consider. A Virtual Assistant can choose two options: you can be an employee for a company or you can start your own business.

Dawn Draper graduated from Davenport University in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science and major in Paralegal Studies. “I worked as a paralegal “in-house” for 11-years, she says, “and although I found it very rewarding, I chose a different career path as a paralegal in the wireless telecommunications industry for about one-year. I soon realized I missed working in the legal field, but at the same time wanted to own my own business. In January 2008, I began researching the world of virtual assistants. I was amazed to find paralegals working virtually from their homes for document preparation services and law firms performing the same work, with the physical exception of putting files into a filing cabinet, as I did when working in-house. I made my decision to venture out into the virtual world of law as it seemed cost-effective and time-effective both for the attorneys and me.”

Finding Virtual Assistant Jobs with Employers

Let’s start with the fascinating discovery of Virtual Assistant jobs that are available through employers. This up and coming brand new avenue to positions is rapidly becoming a new career path for legal assistants. According to Virtual Vocations, (www.virtualvocations.com) a website offering a legal category, just a few opportunities you can land working for a law firm or company include:

• Telecommuting Trademark Clearance Paralegal
• Virtual Law Enforcement Transcriber
• Virtual Typist Legal Transcriptionist
• Paid Legal Intern
• Attorney Auditor: Review legal and non-legal invoices for services provided to insurance carriers for corporate legal departments.
• Compliance Paralegal
• Virtual Legal Writer: Work for a publishing firms. Core responsibilities include contributing well-written, informative articles to company's websites.
• Junior Legal Operations Analyst in Phoenix
• Legal Web Content Writer: A staffing agency needs an individual to deliver custom Web pages for customer's website products. Provide quick turnaround and be flexible.
• Freelance Legal Translator/Editor
• Sr. Legal Editor in New York City. Candidates will be responsible for reviewing Practical Law resources related to representing public companies in securities offerings and M&A transactions.
• Paralegal: Conduct legal research and initial case assessments. Requirements include: 5+ years of experience as a paralegal. Experience with transactional, family law, bankruptcy and/or probate experience required.
• Legal Secretary: A boutique civil litigation firm in Downtown San Francisco is looking for a part- time, remote litigation secretary. The ideal candidate will commute to the office once a week.
• Legal Application Analyst in New York City: A staffing agency is filling a position for a Bilingual English and Spanish Analyst. Create, modify, test, and maintain queries against data for topical view databases.
• Trusts & Estates Secretary: A well-known, international law firm in San Francisco is in search of an experienced secretary for 60% corporate and 40% probate.
• Remote Intake Paralegal in West Palm Beach: Must be able to assist on personal injury matter type cases. Work with medical providers to get medical records.
• Virtual Technical Assistance Manager - Nationwide position working remotely.

Starting Your Own Business
You can start your own business as a Virtual Paralegal or Legal Assistant. There are many different services you can offer, but even something more to consider is who would you like to work for? While some legal VAs are generalists and work on a wide variety of tasks, it's easier and more lucrative to choose a practice specialty. Figuring out what specialty you want to focus on can be a challenge, but if you mind-map your passions, interests, experience, and knowledge you can narrow it down relatively easy. Stick with your expertise.

When you set up your own business, you have more flexibility with scheduling, choosing clients, and setting your rates, but you'll also have to find your own clients, set up your business, and pay self-employment taxes. Setting up a virtual assistance business is easy and has relatively low start-up costs.

Some items you'll need to get started with are a phone line or cell phone, a computer, high-speed internet access, a printer, fax, and scanner, and a website to market your business. You can set up a website easily. There are several websites you can use such as WIX or WordPress that are very inexpensive and easy to use. Be sure to make your website as professional and “big-time” as possible. Your clients will judge your expertise on how professional you look. A rinky-dink website is not going to bring you a plethora of clients.

You will also need access to the mainstream software used by most law firms or know these programs inside and out. Just a few are:
• Word
• WordPerfect (Yes, some firms are still on WordPerfect)
• PowerPoint
• SharePoint
• Excel
• Relativity
• iManage
• Compulaw
• Chrome River
• Accounting software
• Summation
• Concordance
• Outlook
• Time Matters
• Essential Forms
• World Dox
• Lexis/Nexis Westlaw
• Juris
• Corporate Focus
• Legal Master
• Workshare, Worksite, ProLaw, Abacus, Adobe Acrobat, Conversion PDF to Word/Word to PDF, iBlaze

You will need to be proficient in styles in Word and up-to-date in the latest versions of almost all software. Don’t know the latest in some of the litigation support software and headed in that direction? Check out the websites. Relativity, (www.relativity.com) for example, has a website where you can take free tutorials.

You will also need to be very familiar with social media: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat. Your clients may need you to know these. You should have Skype or FaceTime to talk with your clients face-to-face. You need to be able to text them. They should feel they can reach you easily and without stress.

It is important that you understand how to run a business. While you don’t have to have an MBA or draft a five-year plan, you do need to understand cash flow, accounts receivable, billing, accounts payable, how to balance a checkbook and other accounting and marketing functions. Your success doesn’t “just happen” because you set up a website and away you go!
“In order to effectively succeed as a virtual paralegal,” says Draper. “You have at least 5 years of experience in a law firm as a paralegal or secretary with at least a legal assistant or a paralegal certificate. Most attorneys I have spoken or worked with have raised the education and experience issue which is an absolute must to all of them. You must be able to provide services both locally and nationally to succeed. So, you would have to have the ability to follow state and local rules and procedures for any state you provide services to an attorney in.”

Do You Have What It Takes?

BrownNancy Brown of Virtual Gal Friday started her business in 1998.

“I started working as a secretary in 1986,” she says. “All of my experience is hands-on. Most of my background was in oil and gas before starting Virtual Gal Friday. I worked as a solo VA for 10 years and outsourced to the company’s first subcontractor in 2008. The company has grown to having full time in office employees that work with our clients as well as remote employees.

The Upside and the Downside
As always, there’s an upside and downside to every new adventure. In future articles, we’ll explore these. Bottom-line is, done right, you can find yourself in a very lucrative career, whether working for someone else or building your own business. But there is a downside.

Five Warning Flags Before Starting Your VA Business
Don’t be naïve! Here are just five of the “You don’t” zones you need to change to “You do” to create a successful business:
• You don’t have enough money to sustain you while you are building your business. This can be critical. It could take 4 months or more just to bring in your first client.
• You don’t understand how to market for a new client.
• You don’t understand how to bill clients and under or over bill.
• You don’t pay attention to your receivables and your collections are past due.
• You don’t have the expertise or enough experience to carry out the assignments. You are learning at your client’s expense.

Do You Have the Right Personality?

“I think you need confidence and the ability to sell your services,” says Brown. “If this is really something you want to do, you can do it. Make sure those around you support your efforts. Look at what you really enjoy doing and do that. If you don’t have a passion for your business, it turns into a job.”

Have the fortitude to be a great virtual assistant and make your clients love you. I did a little research and here are the 10 top personality characteristics I came up with you’ll need for success:

Ten Ways VAs Can Make Their Clients LOVE Them
1. Care about your client’s company as if it were your own. This isn’t always easy. Caring for your client’s company in subtle but important ways builds trust essential to the long-term VA/Client relationship.
2. Take initiative. Reminding your client that you are there to help, prompting them for tasks coming due, and reminding them when you don’t hear back from them are all ways that you show your client that you “have their back.”
3. Bring fresh ideas to the table. Clients often have set ways of doing things, but you, as a VA can bring them alternative ideas to do business. Stay on top of technological advances, try free trials of innovative new systems, and suggest ways to improve the bottom-line or staying ahead of the competition.
4. Be flexible and juggle priorities well. Clients really appreciate flexibility and a finite ability to juggle priorities. The old “multi-tasking” idiom applies here. You may have several clients coming at you at the same time. It is the same as if you were in the office working for five attorneys on one secretary. Yes, you are working remotely but you still need to juggle priorities.
5. Own mistakes. Mistakes do happen, and we hate it when they do, but they are inevitable. Client’s don’t like it when mistakes happen but they are more forgiving if you own up if the mistake is yours.
6. Don’t take criticism personally. This may sound trite but it is important. It’s business and you are there to get it right. Get over it! Grow up and stop taking feedback personally. Look at it this way… if a client is taking the time to tell you what they don’t like and what they prefer, then they are taking the time to groom you into a better VA. That’s a good thing. When they go radio dead silent and stop issuing ways to improve, they may be shopping for a new VA.
7. Endure isolation: Do you possess the ability to work on your own? Remember: you are working at home. That means that you are not surrounded by colleagues. Sure, your kids may be there, your dog may be running in and out of the house but you may also be isolated. On the other hand, you could be on the phone and that may be enough human contact for you. Can you handle that?
8. Don’t lose your temper: If you’ve worked in a law firm, you know that attorneys and peers can sometimes drive you nuts. Nothing has changed when you work remotely. Are you even- keeled and do you have patience? You will lose the client or lose your job if you lose your temper. It’s that simple.
9. Be a Problem Solver. Ultimately, you are there for your client to solve problems. When an obstacle emerges, don’t just contact your client and ask what you should do. Instead, inform your client of the situation and offer at least two possible workarounds. Select a recommendation and say why, and then ask your client which she prefers. Make life for your client as easy as possible.
10. Bring humor. Be careful not to go overboard and stay professional! However, my mother used to say you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. She sure was right with that one.


Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing. She is a former Administrator at two major law firms and a Los Angeles Paralegal Association Lifetime Achievement Recipient. She previously held the position of Sr. Executive VP in a $5 billion staffing company. She is the CEO of the Paralegal Knowledge Institute and Co-Founding Member of the International Practice Management Association and The Organization of Legal Professionals. Chere has written 10 books on legal careers. She has been written up in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Daily Journal, and other prestigious publications. She is a recipient of the Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award. Her blog, The Estrin Report has been around since 2005. Reach out to her at chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.

 


Paralegal Jobs Are Vanishing According to New AP Analysis

Bad, Bad News for Paralegals

Women abstractParalegal jobs are vanishing according to a recent analysis.  In fact, out of the top disappearing jobs, paralegal is in the top 7 positions.   

For years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that the paralegal position was one of the fastest growing fields.  In fact, as recently as 2011, the BLS predicted that from 2010 - 2020, paralegals would  have an 18% growth rate (average). No longer. 

The position is being obliterated by technology according to a recent analysis by the Associated Press.   "Year after year," the analysis states, "software that runs computers and an array of other machines and devices becomes more sophisticated and powerful and capable of doing more efficiently tasks that humans have always done. For decades, science fiction warned of a future when we would be architects of our own obsolescence, replaced by our machines."  Here's a great example:  travel agents -  similiar to paralegals in that it is a "helping" position.  Now, gone due to technology.

Unfortunately, paralegals are included in the millions of middle-class paid jobs vanishing, the most vulnerable being those jobs that are "routine and repetitious."  That particular phrase was actually in the ABA definition of a paralegal some years back.  How little we knew.

"There's no sector of the economy that's going to get a pass," says Martin Ford, who runs a software company and wrote "The Lights in the Tunnel," a book predicting widespread job losses. "It's everywhere."

Most of the jobs will never return, and millions more are likely to vanish as well, say experts who study the labor market. What's more, these jobs aren't just being lost to outsourcing and they aren't just factory work. Increasingly, jobs are disappearing in the service sector, home to two-thirds of all workers.

They're being obliterated by technology.

What is effecting the paralegal field in addition to technology?  Law firms today are seeking highly sophisticated and experienced paralegals. Those without technology knowledge and ability are at the highest risk.  Those who are not updated on the latest laws, procedures and who are not innovative or motivated are also at a very high risk.

Additionally, the five-year recession has seen associates dropping their level of assignment to cover paralegal duties in order to put forth enough billable hours. Rocky law firms, rather than see paralegals as cost-efficient and saving attorneys time, view the higher associate rates as more beneficial to the firm despite the fact that paralegals cost less and are frequently more profitable. It can make the top line more impressive resulting in the potential for higher bank loans, revolving credit lines and more. 

What can paralegals do to reverse the trend?  Maybe not much given the trend affects just about every service and manufacturing position.  However, you can leverage your paralegal background and propel yourself into new or  hybrid positions.   Here are just a few: 

  • Become a technology wiz in your specialty.  Software programs come and go and are updated frequently.  Being a wiz also means you are on the prowl every day for the latest trends and new programs.
  • Hot jobs are hot as long as the economy holds up, the specialty doesn’t cool down or schools do not answer the call to churn out trained candidates.  How familiar are you with the future of your specialty? If you were previously an ERISA paralegal, chances are you no longer hold that position.  Mergers & Acquisitions specialists were big losers in the recession.  If you were in M&A, did you prepare for an upcoming recession with a second specialty? Cross training is one way to make yourself more valuable in a firm. You may be the best paralegal the real estate department has but if that entire department is being shutdown, it won’t matter. But if you are also good at litigation, you may find yourself being moved into that department.  If not, you know why you may have been out of work for a long time.
  • What transferable skills do you have?  Take a good, hard look at your background.  Medical background? Construction? Insurance? Teaching? Police? Accounting? How can you combine your skills and leverage that background - even in a different field.    
  • Use social media to get your reputation well-known. We've said for years: network, network, network.  Use LinkedIn.  Make sure you have tons of connections. You just never know who knows what and where.
  • Expand your skill sets.  Are you a litigation paralegal without comprehensive eDiscovery knowledge?  You're on the target list, believe me.  I have listened to many, many paralegals declare that their firm does not "do" eDiscovery, so therefore there is no urgency to learning about it.  These buggy-whip, short-sighted paralegals are in for a big surprise if their firm starts losing business as a result and they are the first to go.  (BTW, the Organization of Legal Professionals, OLP, offers many online courses in eDiscovery and Litigation Support:  www.theolp.org).
  • Be prepared to move into a different position all together.  For example, the Litigation Support field has a shortage of professionals schooled both in law and in technology.  Who better than a paralegal to move into a Litigation Support position?  The pay is excellent, the opportunities for the future very good.  The field will eventually evolve into something that we probably have not even envisioned, particularly since the legal field was one of the last to get on the band wagon.

Don't be short-sighted. Change is here to stay and in this century, most of us are not prepared for how fast it is happening. My strongest suggestion is to ride the horse in the direction it is going.  You'll be glad you did. 


 


Going On's.....This 'n Thats.....


Fighting computers
Tough week?  Take a few moments to enjoy our guest blogger, Celia Elwell, RP and senior paralegal, who sends us interesting links and articles.  Enjoy!

Judge Throws Out RICO Claims Against Johnson & Johnson, by Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer
http://www.law.com/jsp/pa/PubArticlePA.jsp?id=1202504306265

Federal Judge Dismisses BP Oil Spill Fraud Lawsuit, by Maureen Cosgrove, JURIST
http://bit.ly/odVde4

Jury Awards $900 Thousand In Age Discrimination Case, by Ellen Simon, Employee’s Rights Post Blog
http://bit.ly/r7kUkO

Third Circuit Okays Collection of DNA from Criminal Suspects, by Nathan Koppel, Wall Street Journal Law Blog
http://on.wsj.com/mQC5sq

Preparing Americans for Death Lets Hospices Neglect End of Life, by Peter Waldman, Bloomberg
http://bloom.bg/qL6P6N

LegalZoom Sued by Alabama Bar Group for Unauthorized Practice, by Stephanie Rabiner, Strategist, The Findlaw Law Firm Business Blog
http://bit.ly/nBb9LF

The Grey Area of Unauthorized Legal Practice, Law Librarian Blog
http://bit.ly/oDq22g

Handle Loaded E-Discovery Tools With Care, by Sean Doherty, Law Technology News
http://bit.ly/pVg1KW

Are Student Cell Phone Records Discoverable?, by Joshua A. Engel, Law Technology News
http://bit.ly/pk7clJ

Conn. High Court Dismisses Criminal Case for Discovery Abuse, by Christian Nolan, LTN Law Technology News, Law.com
http://bit.ly/nyp7KZ

Writing to Persuade, Legal Writing Prof Blog
http://bit.ly/n3mhTR

So Your Screwed up That Research Memo to the Partner, Now What?, Legal Skills Professor Blog
http://bit.ly/oansmQ

Typography for Lawyers - the book, by Raymond Ward, the (new) legal writer
http://bit.ly/etBTsq

The Importance of Printing it Out, by Raymond Ward, the (new) legal writer)
http://bit.ly/p33PeT

In a Field of Reason, Lawyers Woo Luck Too, by Benjamin Wieser, The New York Times
http://nyti.ms/qoY5P4

10 Reasons Why Most Lawyer Blogs Are Boring, by Cordell Parvin LLC, JD Supra Blog
http://bit.ly/osOfeE

Why Facebook's Facial Recognition is Creepy, by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal, PCWorld
http://bit.ly/oT2Dhb

Spies Like You?, by Josh Hyatt, CFO Magazine
http://www.cfo.com/article.cfm/14586837

5 Tips for Selecting PPC Keywords, by Jason Tabeling, Search Engine Watch
http://bit.ly/mUz34k

Gmail’s New Features: A First Look, by Eric Mack, PC World
http://bit.ly/oaX2kP

Google Plus for Lawyers, Legal Skills Professor Blog
http://bit.ly/nO4iUl

Online CLE Session: 60 iPhone and iPad Apps in 60 Minutes for Lawyers, iPhone J.D.
http://bit.ly/qmSl8F

MoreLaw Lexapedia (includes Verdicts and Decision, Recent Case Law Updates, and other valuable links)
http://www.morelaw.com/

Plain Language (a federal government website - check out Tips and Tools)
http://www.plainlanguage.gov/

Asset Search Blog published by Fred L. Abrams, Attorney
http://www.assetsearchblog.com/

Municode (free access to most municipal codes)
http://www.municode.com/


"Consultant Compatibility: Take the Quiz"

Always good to have thoughtful checklists for hiring vendors, I say. And this quiz from Legal Technology looks very helpful:

"There's a saying that starts, 'You know you're in trouble if ...' But sometimes, by the time you know you're in trouble, it's too late to start asking 'Why?'

"One example of such a time is with e-discovery and legal technology projects. If you're halfway through the project and run into trouble, backtracking to correct the problem usually isn't an option. A nearly ironclad way around that problem includes proper preparation and having the right team. These are key elements to the success of any legal technology project, from e-discovery to product-implementation schemes to training sessions.

[snip]

"In this article, we offer the nitty-gritty for attorneys and others involved in e-discovery and other legal technology projects. Start the process of answering key questions by taking the consultant compatibility quiz...."

Authors Christin Martin and Kelly Lumpkin are consultants with Simpson Neely Group Inc., which provides technology consulting services to corporate law departments.


"How to Treat the Touchy Colleague"

Ah, I'm sure every reader has run across such situations. Good news -- this Business Week article offers helpful advice:

"Sometimes, even casual exchanges can set co-workers off. When you hit a nerve, learn from the experience instead of snapping back

"It's pleasant to walk into the office on a sunny morning and hear 'Good morning!' from your cheerful co-workers. It's something else entirely to say 'Good morning' to a colleague and be met with 'Keep your good morning to yourself!' But that's what happened to a friend of mine at work not long ago. Talk about a hostile work environment!

[snip]

"As we all know, there are people who are always in a sour mood and never fail to let people know it. Fair enough—if you know that John is evil on Mondays or that Janice gets cranky after lunchtime, you can avoid those people as much as possible at those times. What can take you by surprise is people's hidden sensitivities."

The complete article offers several useful tips.

Author "Liz Ryan is an expert on the new-millennium workplace, a former Fortune 500 HR executive and the author of Happy About Online Networking: the Virtual-ly Simple Way to Build Professional Relationships. "


"How to Command Respect through Body Language"

Really long list -- 101 bullets! -- of sometimes obvious, but mostly helpful, tips for improving how people respond to you:

"Some people are the center of attention wherever they go. They’re not glamorous movie stars, just ordinary people with excellent command over their body language. Here are some pointers to help you emulate these confident people and command respect from those around you.

[snip]

"1. Stand tall, even if you’re the shortest person in the room. Keeping your shoulders pushed back will lend you an air of confidence.

[snip]

"14. If you wear glasses, don’t look over the rim. It makes you look condescending.

[snip]

"32. Be sure to nod your head so the person you're speaking with knows you're listening and interested.

[snip]

"58. Don’t tap your fingers on a table or arms of a chair; you'll seem anxious.

[snip]

"79. Don’t huddle into a corner with your mobile phone while in a crowd of people. Get out and mingle instead. Keep your private conversations for a time when you’re alone."

Some readers who commented on this article thought it was helpful; others not so much. Perhaps half of the points struck me as worthwhile!


"Seven tips for making yourself happier IN THE NEXT HOUR"

Not exactly on topic, but what paralegal doesn't need a boost now & then? These quick "how to be happy" tips look good to me!

"You can make yourself happier – and this doesn’t have to be a long-term ambition. You can start right now. In the next hour, check off as many of the following items as possible. Each of these accomplishments will lift your mood, as will the mere fact that you’ve tackled and achieved some concrete goals.

1. Boost your energy: stand up and pace while you talk on the phone or, even better, take a brisk ten-minute walk outside. Research shows that when people move faster, their metabolism speeds up, and the activity and sunlight are good for your focus, your mood, and the retention of information. Plus, because of “emotional contagion,” if you act energetic, you’ll help the people around you feel energetic, too.

[snip]

3. Rid yourself of a nagging task: answer a difficult email, purchase something you need, or call to make that dentist’s appointment. Crossing an irksome chore off your to-do list will give you a big rush of energy and cheer, and you’ll be surprised that you procrastinated for so long."

Be sure to check the comments to this post -- you'll find more helpful tips from readers! The Happiness Project blog is written by ex-lawyer Gretchen Rubin.


"Get the ball rolling with these tax tips"

Yeah, income tax time is just around the corner. This Washington Post article might help  get you started (if you haven't already filed!):

"'I know the deadline, but I don't know what I'm required to submit,' said Jennifer Ash, 22, who graduated from George Mason University in May and will pay taxes for the first time on a full-time job. 'All the forms are in different places. I'm afraid of leaving something out. I don't want the IRS coming back years later saying I owe them thousands of dollars.'

"Ash at least has collected her paperwork in one place - W-2 forms stating her wages for the year, college-loan payment stubs and totals paid in interest, receipts for charitable giving and for the Treo smartphone she uses mostly for work [emphasis added]. Being organized is more essential than ever: The Internal Revenue Service has cracked down on receipts, requiring one for even tiny claims.

[snip]

"Early returns show that about 30 percent of those who had filed, did not request a one-time refund of a telephone excise tax that ranges from $30 to $60 and that nearly everyone can claim.

"As always, taxpayers need to remember the distinction between tax deductions or exemptions, which reduce the amount of income that is taxable, and tax credits, which reduce the actual amount of tax owed.

[snip]

"Wealthier taxpayers must calculate taxes first under regular rules, then under the alternative minimum tax (AMT), and pay whichever is higher. The AMT was created in 1969 to target 155 wealthy tax-dodgers, but because it's not indexed for inflation, it could affect an estimated 4.2 million families when they calculate their taxes this year. Taxpayers in high-tax jurisdictions are especially vulnerable. (Unless Congress changes the law, 19 million more households, many earning as little as $50,000 a year, could end up paying the tax next year, as would nearly half of all taxpayers by 2017.)"


"24 Time Management Tips"

These helpful, common-sense tips come from Beth Dargis, a certified life coach & simplicity consultant:

"Planning is the best time saver there is. At the beginning of the week jot down your goals that you want to accomplish, fun things you want to do, work that needs to be done, and appointments to keep. Then write out a loose schedule for the week ahead, balancing it out between work, family, home, self and your other roles.

[snip]

"My weekly planning session usually takes less than thirty minutes. My planning session includes gathering my papers and going through the in-box to find action items as David Allen suggests in his book Getting Things Done. I also plan goals, next action items for my projects, plan a two hour time alone, plan family night, and plan a date with my husband. I schedule work, exercise, fun time, time with friends and family, volunteer work, and self-care time. Planning allows the important to take precedent over the urgent for once.

[snip]

"4. Let go of perfectionism. Not everything has to be done perfectly and some things are out of your control.

[snip]

"22. Start with the worst item on your to do list. Everything else will be a piece of cake. You also won't be thinking and dreading it while doing other tasks. Procrastination sucks out your energy."


"Ten Must-Have Web Sites for Solo Practitioners"

Yeah, that "must have" (must bookmark, must login?), description is odd, but the list of 10 sites in this article does look helpful:

"Picking the best of anything is difficult. However, I decided to take a stab this month at the Web sites I use most frequently during a typical day of practicing law. I'm not including the obvious ones: legal research and general search sites. I'm aiming to point to sites that create a new source of information on the Web, and that leverage the interactive Web 2.0 space.

"Here goes:

  1. GoToMyPC is a remote-access Web application that permits me to access my office host machine anytime I like. It allows me to run updates, check my calendar and contact changes created by my secretary, and, in general, prevents running to the office to maintain the server, or to practice law. It's the solo lawyer's best friend, runs flawlessly and costs only about $20 a month per machine."

Author Rick Georges is a Florida solo attorney and author of Law.com's Future Lawyer blog.