An Interview with Lex Nova Core - A Virtual Secretarial Services Company
Virtual secretarial services or a virtual assistant is a company or person that provides a particular kind of support services such as administrative or technical assistance to other businesses from a remote location. The kind of support services depends on the industry, what services the client wants and what services are offered by the Virtual Secretarial company or virtual assistant. In the case of law offices, these services may include, scheduling and managing appointments and court dates, answering phone calls and communicating with clients or potential clients, managing electronic files and document preparation such as letters.
I had the opportunity to speak to Ms. Gillian Rowe, Director of Lex Nova Core, a virtual and onsite secretarial services company which provides communications, email management, document preparation and secretarial services to businesses including legal offices. I was also able to speak to Ms. Rowe about the benefits of using virtual services and her motivation behind the creation of the company. While Lex Nova Core is based in Barbados it boasts of a clientele located in several parts of the world as the company is seeking to establish itself as the go-to virtual secretarial services company in the Caribbean region.
I firstly wanted to find out from Ms. Rowe what was her definition of a virtual assistant service and how such a service offered by Lex Nova Core, could assist legal professionals in their legal practice.
Ms. Rowe sees a virtual assistant as a function of communication within a company. For her, communication these days not only entails regular mail but now encompasses email management, email platforms, videoconferencing and other audible technologies. She sees a virtual assistant as a critical bridge which enables a business to communicate effectively with its customers. Lex Nova Core prides itself in being able to use these various platforms effectively and to guide and educate its clientele in embracing at least some of these platforms.
Q: What was the inspiration behind founding Lex Nova Core?
Ms. Rowe attributes this inspiration to her need for organization, project management and love of record keeping and reading. She further explains that throughout her life she has worked with various organisations that have allowed her to build and work in project management. For her, most importantly, it is the fact that these services are needed and people often times cannot articulate that. “Companies will find that they have all the right resources in doing a particular task but their biggest question is ‘why are we not achieving that task as often and as efficiently as we thought we could’.
Q: What equipment or programs or other steps would a law office need or take to be able to fully benefit from the services of a virtual assistant?
Ms. Rowe explained that the typical platforms and technologies a business would need are a good email platform(s) such as Gmail or Outlook and videoconferencing apps such as Skype, Zoom and cloud storage. She also emphasised that law offices should also switch their focus towards backing up their files and increasing their cybersecurity measures.
I then wanted to find out the process Lex Nova Core embarks on when a new client is interested in seeking its services. “The consultation process is so critical”, Ms. Rowe states, as it will greatly assist Lex Nova Core in how it can provide the necessary services to the client.
Given that the equipment or programs needed to allow a law office to be able to take full advantage of the services of a virtual assistant include an email platform, videoconferencing technologies and cloud storage, when the client [Attorney-at-Law] comes in for that consultation, Lex Nova Core seeks to ascertain which of these platforms they have and are using, if any. If they have not implemented one of, or any of these platforms or technologies into their practice, or they have these technologies but may not be aware of how to use them, the next step or steps for Ms. Rowe and her team is:
1. To determine what level of education will be required in helping the Attorney-at-Law understand how these technologies work;
2. Educate the Attorney as to why and how they will assist the virtual assistant in executing the necessary tasks or functions that the Attorney-at-Law wants them to perform and;
3. Educate and teach the Attorney-at-Law how to use these technologies.
Ms. Rowe explains that the above steps are incorporated into the secretarial service that would be provided to the Attorney-at-Law.
As it relates to email management, during the consultation process, Lex Nova Core will also attempt to ascertain what kind of communication the Attorney-at-Law would wish for Lex Nova Core to have with their clients. This is also important because even if the Attorney does not physically send communication to their clients, Lex Nova Core will attempt to send some kind of communication to them. An example Ms. Rowe gives is where a response is required for a time sensitive email or some other particularly sensitive deadline and the Attorney-at-Law wants to ensure that such a deadline is complied with. “If you have someone managing your email accounts, sometimes draft answers being sent are better than no answers being sent. You get to determine what those answers will look like depending on your practice, whether that is, personal injury, contract, business or conveyancing. At least there is some kind of update to your client because you want to make your clients feel as though you are hands on with their matter.” Another instance is dealing with the Registry. Ms. Rowe explained that “There is nothing you can do to make that process go faster but what you can do is remind the client that you’re on their side. Taking the time to remind the client of this takes time as you have to go around with a list of all of your clients on your mind. So for instance having a person who organizes your client list, schedule 3-month points of contact or communication will mean that your clients are being updated regularly.” Needless to say, Lex Nova Core’s offering of email management services has been one of its more popular services.
After the consultation process is completed, the Attorney-at-Law would then indicate the tasks that need to be performed and which services they want Lex Nova Core to carry out. Ms. Rowe explained that in order for the virtual assistant-customer relationship to work, the contractual terms between the client and the virtual assistant need to be spelt out so that both parties are clear on what is allowed, what isn’t allowed and what the chain of command will be. Further, as the virtual assistant will be having access to the client’s accounts such as email, videoconferencing and cloud storage for instance, it is important that a clear contractual relationship is in place to prevent or lessen the likelihood of any misunderstanding between the parties.
In order for Lex Nova Core to be able to fully provide its services to any Attorney-at-Law in their practice, proper record keeping is needed. To that end, if there are expected tasks that have to be performed, there must be a document or some other purposeful way of recording that a task has been done.
Ms. Rowe assured me that even though it may sound like a lengthy process, it only takes a couple of clicks to execute tasks as a virtual assistant.
In response to my observation that it seemed as though Lex Nova Core has a mixture of office management services which require a more physical presence and then a virtual component of its services as opposed to a strictly virtual practice, Ms. Rowe’s declared “Yes, we have a communications, email management and secretarial services. After the consultation you would indicate what needs to be done and when those tasks need to be done and then we work from there”.
Q: Does Lex Nova Core make a determination as to what services can and should be provided physically and virtually or do you leave that to the client to decide?
Ms. Rowe: “If the client knows exactly what they want, then we follow exactly what they want. If the client is unsure, we give them the option and once they choose, we work with that. If they are absolutely unsure about anything then we will make a recommendation and if that recommendation is chosen, then we would go ahead and work with that.”
In relation to call management and appointments I indicated that I see this as something law firms can implement more, especially young lawyers who are practicing on their own. They have enough clientele to survive but they are not bringing in enough money to pay a full-time receptionist. I was curious to find out more about that aspect of Lex Nova Core’s offerings.
“When it comes to the telephone, you would have to work out call forwarding and other call options with your telecommunications provider to have your calls moved out of the office or connected to [Lex Nova Core] for a duration of time.” She cautioned however that there may be some areas where the Attorney-at-Law may not be able to opt out of having a secretary unless there is a way to forward those calls. To counter this Ms. Rowe suggests that an Attorney-at-Law can also build up a great virtual rapport with clients to the point that they know that it is easier and faster for that Attorney to respond by way of email communication.
What are the benefits of a virtual assistant when compared to more traditional office staff such as secretaries and/or receptionists?
Ms. Rowe explained that the difference is the inter-sectorial approach. “If you hire staff that come from a particular field, such as a secretary, then they should be steeped in your industry. Which of course should work for you when you’re a company. However, when it comes to any development or learning curves, you should understand that they will have to do just as much learning or re-learning as you in order to tackle novel issues, challenges and changes in the field. When you have a company that has an inter-sectorial approach, which means that although we are in the legal industry, since we work with many various firms, we have a comparison and that analysis across different firms across various attorneys who may be working in different areas. So we have an outsider advantage, which consists of best practice experience or at least an eye towards that”. This is as opposed to a paid staff member who has to come in physically to the office and you have to manage their time from 9:00 a.m -4.30 p.m. This means that their opportunity to be educated in different areas is going to be limited.
Ms. Rowe further explained that there are other benefits of a virtual assistant service. These include not having to deal with certain statutory obligations, like paying employee NIS, having to pay employees who are out sick while still finding options for having their tasks completed, which may result in more costs being borne by the Attorney.
Lex Nova Core also offers flexibility. If an attorney does not need a secretary at some point, they still have to pay for them. But Ms. Rowe believes that the virtual assistant services provide a good option for an attorney to use as required and thus allows for better financial management of their practice.
Virtual secretarial services are a viable option for Attorneys who don’t have a fixed office or their office can’t accommodate staff i.e Attorneys who work from home, operate in chambers or who are always on the go; Attorneys who operate outside of the usual 9-5 hours; Attorneys who may not be able to afford a salaried secretary or Attorneys who are operating or are thinking of operating a virtual practice. Virtual secretaries can provide a flexible, lower cost but efficient offering of secretarial services that can help an Attorney stay up to date with their matters and boost client satisfaction.
For more information on Lex Nova Core and its services, you can visit https://www.lexnovacore.com/ .