Pamela Starr, a virtual paralegal who says she is located anywhere her laptop is, had a strong response to my post this weekend about Jones Day's decision to lay-off non-attorney staff. The 2500 lawyer firm announced last week that it was letting go an unspecified number of legal staff because the jobs can be done by voice mail, e-mail, iPhones and other electronic devices.
Pamela, who started her virtual paralegal business in 2008, thinks that major law firms are far behind the learning curve when it comes to how business is conducted today. In her response, she says:
Paralegal Paradigm Shift – An Open Letter to Jones Day (and BigLaw) re: Downsizing
"Now that the news has hit that Jones Day has laid off staffers due to, as your spokesperson has said, “(The) universal adoption of smart phones, voice mail and email enables (and requires) lawyers to be more self-sufficient.” Allow me to provide you with the opportunity to take that logic a step further – hire virtual paralegals to fill the gap.
Virtual paralegals saw this change coming several years ago. As a creditors’ rights specialist, I saw exactly what was about to happen to the economy. However, I did not anticipate the negative impact it would have on law firms. I took the leap and left the relatively safe haven of my law firm job and decided to go virtual.
Your spokesperson is absolutely correct: technology has made it possible for attorneys to be more self-sufficient. But face it, attorneys are still more efficient when supported by talented, credentialed, professional paralegals.
Well, here we are. Certified, bona fide paralegals working from our homes and laptops and still producing exemplary work for a fraction of the cost of a full time staff member. Think about it … look us up.
If you want a top notch Creditors’ Rights / Commercial Transactions paralegal, contact me, Pamela Starr of StarrParalegals, LLC (http://www.starrparalegals.com). If you need an expert in another area of law, let me know … I have connections."
You certainly can't fault her for being assertive and going after business. "Chere’s article hit a nerve," she says. " It has been obvious to me for years that the legal industry was moving toward being less office-centric. I am surprised that it took this long for ‘big law’ to realize that its lawyers and staff are no longer bound by brick and mortar, but rather are electronically tethered to their jobs. It is a shame that ‘big law’ has failed to see that it simply needs to modify its business model to accommodate this change in thinking and has chosen to lay off their support staff."
Ouch. Then again, I am curious: Do law firm administrators listen when paralegals speak? Or, do they wait until past predictions are reality and scramble to adjust?
Here is Pamela advice for those interested in becoming a virtual paralegal, a hot new field:
- Find a mentor and utilize the resources that have been developed over the years.
- Never be afraid to ask questions.
- Always be professional and courteous.
- Never stop learning and growing.
- Network, network, network. Go get 'em, tiger.