Updated: Jul 20, 2019
As you build your solo practice, you will need to hire support staff. For a solo practitioner, hiring legal staff can present many challenges. However, there are two things you must keep in mind when making decisions about support staff. First, you have to determine whether the benefits of hiring legal staff outweigh the cost. Second, you have to determine whether the legal staff member is properly trained.
Cost Benefit Analysis
Before you hire support staff, you must determine whether your firm has a need for legal staff and whether the firm has the financial resources to support legal staff. By engaging in this type of analysis, you can determine whether you are making a sound decision and whether the benefits of hiring staff outweigh the costs.
It makes sense to hire support staff when there is enough of a workload to justify the expense. A solo practitioner who is starting a practice straight out of law school or without clients can start his practice without hiring support staff initially. However, if you are transitioning into your solo practice with an established client base, you will need to consider whether support staff is necessary when you open for business.
Typically, the number of clients and your practice area will dictate whether there is a need for support staff. Some practice areas are consistently busy while other practice areas are busier during the last quarter of the year. Therefore, the time of year can dictate whether support staff is necessary.
The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Paralegals helps attorneys understand the best way to utilize paralegal services in their law practices by providing a clear explanation of the role of a paralegal in the legal professional along with information on how paralegals can improve a law practice.
ABA Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services
If the expense of hiring support staff is a major concern, remember that you can always hire someone on a part-time basis. There can be tax benefits when you hire a part-time paralegal or legal assistant. Also, hiring a part-time assistant can help you manage concerns about the cost of hiring legal staff for your new law firm.
The best support staff for a new law firm is a properly trained paralegal or legal assistant. He is familiar with the Rules of Professional Conduct, has learned basic document preparation, and knows basic court procedures.
When you are starting a new practice, it helps to have people around you who understand how a law office operates and can help you manage your schedule and court deadlines. There are several ABA approved paralegal education programs throughout Georgia. They can be found through the Standing Committee on Paralegals website.
ABA Approved Programs
Further, the Standing Committee on Paralegals has additional resources that will walk you through the process of hiring your first paralegal and explain the difference between a paralegal certificate and paralegal certification. These are great resources if you need to learn more about paralegals and paralegal education.
Information for Lawyers: How Paralegals Can Improve Your Practice
Resist the temptation to use cheap or free labor in the form of a college student or relative who has no legal training or experience. Unless you plan to devote a significant amount of time to the training and mentoring of this person, he will become a serious liability to your law firm. Ultimately, you are responsible for the actions of your support staff. See Georgia Rule of Professional Conduct 5.3. In Georgia, the maximum penalty for violation of Rule 5.3 is disbarment. Therefore, you are better off working independently than working with untrained or improperly trained support staff.
If you determine the economic benefit of utilizing paralegals in your firm and hire properly trained support staff, you will experience significant benefits when you hire legal staff.