In this article, we discuss virtual legal assistants (VLAs). We answer questions like, “What are virtual legal assistants?”, “What services do they offer?”, “What are the benefits of using virtual legal assistants?”, and “What are the limitations?”. We also have a look at some statistics.
What are virtual legal assistants?
When we read articles on virtual legal assistants, we discover that the term is used in different ways. Some definitions restrict it to physical persons who work remotely and to whom purely administrative tasks are outsourced. Most authors also include the work of (remote) paralegals, while others also include all the services offered by third-party (or alternative) legal service providers who may use AI-powered or technology-driven platforms like bots. So, in its widest sense, a virtual legal assistant is an assistant that remotely assists lawyers, law firms, and legal professionals with various tasks and processes. They typically work as subcontractors for the law firm.
What services do they offer?
Virtual legal assistants offer a wide range of services. They can streamline and facilitate client communications and interactions. E.g., they can answer frequently asked questions and provide updates on case status, while maintaining confidentiality and security. They can personalize client engagement. And if you work with VLA bots and/or with physical people in different locations, they can guarantee 24/7 availability and instant responses.
Virtual legal assistants can enhance legal research. They can help lawyers find relevant case law, statutes, regulations, and legal articles to support their arguments and build stronger cases. They provide instant access to legal knowledge.
VLAs can assist in drafting legal documents such as contracts, agreements, pleadings, and other legal correspondence, often by generating templates or suggesting content based on context. One area where VLA bots have been proven very useful is contract review. They can review contracts, highlight important clauses, identify potential risks, and ensure compliance with relevant laws.
Virtual legal assistants also contribute to facilitating and optimizing case management and workflow. They can organize and manage case-related information, deadlines, and tasks, streamlining the workflow for lawyers and legal teams. VLA bots can provide automated case updates.
Other areas where VLAs are useful include bookkeeping, billing, and time tracking. They can help lawyers track billable hours and manage invoicing for clients.
You can also hire a VLA for data entry.
There is the aspect of due diligence, as well. Virtual legal assistants can assist in conducting due diligence for mergers, acquisitions, or other transactions by analysing legal and financial data.
VLA bots are also useful for legal analytics. They can analyse large sets of legal data and provide insights into trends, patterns, and potential outcomes.
Finally, there is E-discovery. VLA bots can help with the process of identifying, collecting, and analysing electronically stored information (ESI) for litigation purposes.
There are plenty of interesting statistics available when it comes to virtual assistants. Here is a selection.
- Virtual assistants can decrease operating costs by up to 78%.
- Investing in virtual assistants cuts the attrition by 50%. (The attrition rate pertains to the number of people resigning from an organization over a period of time).
- Virtual assistants increase productivity by 13%.
- According to a survey by the American Bar Association, 26% of lawyers use virtual assistants or paralegals. The 2020 Legal Trends Report found that law firms only spend an average of 2.5 hours each day on billable work, which can be improved by delegating work to legal virtual assistants.
- A study by the University of Oxford found that 23% of legal work can be automated by existing technology, and that virtual assistants can handle tasks such as document review, contract analysis, due diligence, and research.
- A report by Deloitte estimated that 39% of legal jobs will be replaced by automation, and that virtual assistants will play a key role in enhancing productivity, efficiency, and accuracy.
- A survey by LawGeex found that virtual assistants can review contracts faster and more accurately than human lawyers. The average accuracy rate for virtual assistants was 94%, compared to 85% for human lawyers. The average time for virtual assistants to review a contract was 26 seconds, compared to 92 minutes for human lawyers.
- According to Gartner, by 2023, virtual legal assistants (VLAs) will field 25% of internal requests to legal departments at large enterprises, increasing operational capacity for in-house corporate teams.
- A survey by Virtudesk found that 82% of business owners who hired virtual assistants reported increased productivity and efficiency, and 78% said they saved money on operational costs.
What are the benefits of using virtual legal assistants?
We listed the tasks virtual legal assistants can do above. By delegating these tasks to a virtual legal assistant, you can free up your time and focus on the core aspects of your practice, such as strategy, advocacy, and client relations. As such, they increase efficiency and productivity.
You can also reduce your overhead costs, as you only pay for the services you need, when you need them. You don’t have to worry about hiring, training, supervising, or providing benefits to an in-house staff member. In other words, they can also be a more cost-effective solution compared to hiring additional staff for administrative tasks. (Cf. the statistics quoted above).
A virtual legal assistant can also offer you flexibility and convenience, as they can work from anywhere and often at any time. You can access their services on demand, without being limited by office hours or location. You can also communicate with them through various channels, such as phone, email, chat, or video conferencing. VLA bots work 24/7.
There also is the access to technology aspect. AI virtual legal assistants can automate repetitive tasks. They can leverage advanced AI and technology and may provide access to powerful tools that may not be affordable or available to smaller law firms.
Virtual legal assistants increase accuracy. Especially AI-driven assistants can often perform tasks with a high level of accuracy and consistency, reducing the likelihood of human errors. (Cf. our article on when lawyers and robots compete).
Scalability is another benefit. Working with VLAs allow you to easily adapt to the changing needs of your law practice, whether it’s handling increased workloads during busy periods or scaling down during quieter times.
What are the limitations?
While virtual legal assistants can be valuable tools, they are not meant to replace human lawyers. Instead, they complement legal professionals by enhancing their productivity and efficiency. It’s essential to consider the specific needs of the law practice and the capabilities of the virtual legal assistant platform before making a choice. They are meant to assist lawyers, not replace them.
Another thing to keep in mind is that at present most of the VLA bots are only available in English.
The use of virtual legal assistants is on the rise, and that should not come as a surprise. They boost efficiency, productivity, are cost-effective, and allow lawyers to focus on legal work.