Hire Help or Outsource the Job to Software:
Pros and Cons

Help Wanted...

(Photo credit: Thewmatt)

If you need extra assistance around the office, you can hire a professional or you can utilize legal case management software for some of the tasks. There are factors to consider with each approach, but ultimately the direction you choose is dependent on your objectives, your budget, and your personal preferences. Here is a quick outline of the factors to consider when deciding between hiring help versus buying software.

Budget Considerations

Whether you are purchasing legal software or hiring a assistant, you will have to devote time and possibly even money to your search efforts. Buying software requires you to read reviews, talk to colleagues, and test options. Hiring an assistant, on the other hand, requires you to post job listings, hold interviews, and contact references.

Once you are ready to make the jump, however, you will notice a marked difference in the cost of each of these approaches. Software ranges in price, and there are even programs and apps that can help you get organized without spending any money at all. The cost of hiring help also varies depending on the qualifications of the person you hire and the labor market in your area. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for a legal assistant is $22.59 per hour. Even as a rough estimate, this means that hiring help is significantly more expensive than most software.

There are costs to implementing each approach as well. Assistants, regardless of their experience levels, will need to be trained for their role in your office. Obviously, you won’t have to train your software, but depending on the software that you buy, you may have to devote some payroll hours to training your employees how to use it. Luckily, you can mitigate the impact of this cost by purchasing software that has a well developed and easy to understand user interface.

Human Error and Software Limitations

Both legal software and legal assistants can handle a range of critical tasks that improve the efficiency of your firm. Software can help you organize your files more effectively, cutting down on the number of hours you spend searching for lost files or trying to organize paperwork. It can also send automated messages to clients, making it easier to stay in contact without expending any of your own energy. If you already have a support staff, you will notice that software can make their jobs easier as well.

The functions listed above are very similar to the ones performed by a human assistant, but because these functions are digitally programmed, you never have to worry about human error. For instance, you never have to worry about anything getting overlooked because someone is having a bad day, and you never have to worry about a task getting skipped because someone is out of the office due to an illness. However, human assistants can be trained to do almost anything, and they can provide a bright and cheery face to your clients, while software can only accomplish a set range of limited functions–however, the more advanced software becomes, the longer this list of functions gets.

The Perfect Solution

Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution, and most lawyers have to marry these two concepts. A great piece of software is indispensable, but a well trained assistant is an irreplaceable asset as well. To help you make the decision, try making a list of your objectives, review software to see how it will meet your needs, and then, hire help to fill in the gaps. For more information on hiring, the American Bar Association has detailed advice on how to find the perfect freelancer or assistant for your firm.

–Matt Spiegel

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