Episode Notes

Do you hear all this talk about how lawyers can use an assistant but worry it will never work for you? In this episode, Stephanie talks with law firm owner Robyn Christo, law firm owner, and Raquel Gomes, Stafi founder. Hear about Robyn’s experience hiring her first virtual assistant from Stafi and finally delegating her inbox to someone else! It can be done!  

Links from the episode:

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  • 09:00. Choosing the right virtual assistant
  • 16:07. Transitioning
  • 28:41. Get $500 off with code Lawyerist

Transcript

Announcer: 

Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast, a series of discussions with entrepreneurs and innovators about building a successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Lawyerist supports attorneys, building client-centered, and future-oriented small law firms through community, content, and coaching both online and through the Lawyerist Lab. And now from the team that brought you The Small Firm Roadmap and your podcast hosts 

Stephanie Everett (00:35): 

Hey everyone, it’s Stephanie, and this is episode 505 of the Lawyerist Podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today, I have two special guests with me talking about something. I know so many lawyers out there are struggling with how to effectively use a virtual assistant and finally, get yourself out of your inbox. So take a listen as I’m joined by Robin and Raquel talking about using a VA effectively. 

  

Robin Christo (01:07): 

I’m Robin Christo and I have a small law firm in California that is called Epstein Holds Apple Christo. For EHC law, it’s much shorter. I’m trying to get Courtney, who answers our phones to say EHC law. Yes, I have a team of 11, and we handle trust and estate litigation, so just disputes that involve decedents estates and trusts and conservatorships and anything surrounding that. 

  

Stephanie Everett (01:33): 

And Raquel, you’ve been on the show before, but just maybe remind everybody who you are and what you work on. 

  

Raquel Gomes (01:40): 

All right. So I’m Raquel Gomes, founder and CEO of Stafi. And at Stafi we provide highly qualified top-notch for assistance to law firms with the support to alleviate law firm owners from onboarding co-management and continuous training of their virtual assistants. 

  

Stephanie Everett (01:58): 

Yeah, nice. So Robin, what were some of the challenges you were facing and thinking about when you first decided maybe to go with a virtual assistant? 

  

Robin Christo (02:09): 

There were so many, I don’t even know where to begin, but I became a Labster last year right before Lab Con, a week before, and I went to Lab Con and I met you and all the other folks there and decided, okay, this is it. I got to get my stuff together. So I remember coming home and I had a session with you and I remember exactly where I was sitting outside and you were like, well, it sounds like you could really use a virtual assistant. Have you ever thought about that? And I said, I don’t even know where to begin, how I would delegate anything. I’m so overwhelmed, I can’t even think about it. So mostly drowning in emails, trying to keep up with scheduling, and just always feeling like I was behind the eight ball, trying to keep up with everything that was coming at me every day. So you had mentioned Stafie because I believe you were just hiring a virtual assistant through them. 

  

Stephanie Everett (03:04): 

Yeah, sounds about right. And from your perspective, did you have any concerns or reservations when you were going into the process? Were you nervous about how you might use a virtual assistant and make this relationship work? 

  

Robin Christo (03:20): 

Yeah, I mean, definitely had reservations about having somebody who was totally virtual that I would never meet in person. We have a small law firm, and it’s a small business. It’s like a family business. I mean, everybody who works here has been here for a long time except for the new people. And I really try to create an environment that is, we’re a small team and more like family. And so that was one reservation I had. How am I going to integrate this person into our team without having them physically here and how am I going to build a relationship with them, having them completely virtual, and then also just not really even knowing where to begin as far as what to outsource to them. 

  

Stephanie Everett (04:05): 

And I suspect a lot of people also are like, how do I even manage this person when they’re not in front of me? We think we know how to manage people and probably because we’re in front of them, we think it’s easier, but I imagine it feels, at least in the beginning, it’s going to be harder when someone is pretty far away. 

  

Robin Christo (04:23): 

Yeah, definitely. And I’m thinking to myself, how am I going to talk to this person every day and explain what’s going on and what my needs are and how are they going to be able to anticipate my needs when we’re not in the same place? So definitely I had a lot of, well, I wouldn’t say a lot of reservations, but I was skeptical, I would say, because the experiences, I’d never had an experience, but I did know people who had had virtual assistants and some of them had good things to say and some of them had not so good things to say. So what pushed me over the edge was when you were like, we’re hiring somebody from Stafi. So I went, okay, if Stephanie’s doing it, then I’ll do it too. 

  

Stephanie Everett (05:01): 

Nice. Raquel, from your perspective though, I mean you were shaking your head as Robin was answering, and I’m sure you hear these kinds of things from lawyers all the time. And are there other concerns that people might be thinking about? 

  

Raquel Gomes (05:16): 

Yeah, I think they think about the security aspect of having someone virtually as if they had someone in the office. It’s easier to control when in reality it’s not really right. That’s something that comes up. I think a lot that lot of people that in general needs to hire someone and need to desperately start delegating, but they delay is because they say, I have no time to onboard this person. I don’t have the proper tools either. I don’t have time to train this person. And I think, Robin, when we spoke the other day, you mentioned that this was a big hurdle to you too. How am I going to train? I don’t have the time. I’m overwhelmed as it’s bringing someone else. Even though the idea of having someone else after they are with you for the first month and a half or so and they’ve been truly onboarded, sounds very appealing. But that thought that, oh my God, and how do I onboard and how do I train? And you mentioned that, and I think it’s something really important to bring up. I think it’s good for other listeners that might be going through burnout or overly stressed or not having enough hours in a day, and they need someone desperately, but they’re holding off because they don’t even know where to start. And I think it’s good to talk about your experience with us from that perspective. I think that could be something helpful. 

  

Robin Christo (06:40): 

Yeah, definitely. You and I talked about this recently too, how that is, I mean, you just described it to a TI didn’t know where to begin, and the thought of having to figure this part out alongside of figuring out all the things that go with running a small law firm was totally overwhelming. And I just held my breath and jumped into the deep end. And I was really impressed with the Stafi team, even from the first interaction I had, the first meeting, it was just kind of a get to know you meeting to see I could learn more about your services, see what you guys offered. And I was just really impressed by the way you come about it, because right from the start, it was like they really wanted to get to know me and my business, and they were able to tell me how they could support me. 

  

(07:31): 

And I didn’t have to articulate to them every single thing I thought I needed help with, which is, that was what was overwhelming to me. So they put together this presentation, which of course you know about, but I thought it was really great because it said, okay, these are all the different areas in which a virtual assistant can help you. And they asked me a bunch of questions. They interviewed me, what do you need help with? And then they helped me narrow down the list. You need an executive assistant, that’s where you start. This person can help you get more organized as a person who I consider myself to be really organized. But as life has gotten busier and I become a managing partner of a law firm, and I have three kids and a husband, and all the things I knew, I needed somebody by my side helping me with all of the stuff that I used to do myself. So they were really helpful. And just narrowing that down and laser focusing me on, okay, this is your first hire, and that was, I didn’t expect it. And so that was a good bonus. 

  

Raquel Gomes (08:35): 

And I love that what you’re describing is the first consultation that we run, which is one hour long, that we go through the four different areas of work within the law firm, which are marketing, client facing, administrative and legal work. And we have built a proprietary software where we pull up lists of every task that falls into each one of the areas. And you’re right, a lot of lawyers come to us and say, I need the paralegal, but in reality, that’s not exactly what they need. They need someone that is more of an intake, more client facing. And why is it that that’s so important? Because not only based on that, we’re going to find the right match from a background and experience perspective, but also soft skills personality. So important. We like to say that, come on in, have a consultation, have a free consultation. 

  

(09:25): 

It doesn’t matter if you’re going to work with staff or not, but we love to help you define in your mind who your next hire should be from personality, background, degree, all of that. And I remember that one of the things when you came to us was, oh, I need this person to have experience working for a law firm. And you had this conversation with the team, and the team was like, no, that doesn’t, what you need is an executive assistant. This person doesn’t have to have an experience working for a law firm. We’ve been doing this for 10 years, and you trusted us, and here you are, you’re happy. So I love that. And that is not uncommon. It happens very often. Yeah. 

  

Robin Christo (10:05): 

Yeah. That was interesting because right away it was like I had the one hour meeting, and I want to say the next day I had resumes to look at, and then the day after, or a couple of days after, I had interviews, and Claudia, who we ended up hiring, had no legal background, but I really liked her. And I think her background was in the aerospace industry, and she worked for airlines, but they were very reassuring. And they said, she has transferable skills, she’s very smart. And that’s what I got from my interview with her too. And so they were absolutely right that I didn’t need somebody for this position that had experience in a law firm. And the great thing is that she is, with all of the support that Stafie provides, she came to me already knowing our practice management software. So that was great because if I had had to train her or say, okay, go find this video or that video, or had to pull away one of my other staff people to train her, that would’ve been tough and a stress on the firm. And instead you guys made it really easy, it was like, oh, okay, she already knows this. 

  

Stephanie Everett (11:11): 

So tell us some of the things initially, and if it’s evolved, we’d love to hear that too, but what kind of task and work have you been able to give Claudine that done for you? 

  

Robin Christo (11:24): 

The first thing I said to her was, I need to get to inbox zero. And she’s like, okay, great. We can do that. She asked me questions, is there a way you want to do it? Is there a way you like to manage your email? And there was when I was doing it, but I just said to her, you figure it out. You tell me what to do. And that’s really what I needed was somebody to just come in and say, this is how we’re going to do it, and when there’s something in this inbox that’s for you to look at. And when we came up with the whole system, actually, she came up with the system and trained me on it, which was so great. And so that was the first thing. And then she came in and started doing scheduling. So any appointment that I have that isn’t set by a court deadline or something like that, that goes to our docketing team, Claudia schedules. 

  

(12:12): 

So even I remember I was trying to schedule with Raquel to get together with her and talk about this podcast, and I was like, oh, talk to Claudia. She’s doing all my scheduling. And then when I talk to the Stafie group every month, usually they say, okay, let’s schedule something new. And I’m like, reach out to Claudia because she has my schedule and she can do it for me. So that was huge. Isn’t that a great feeling? Wow. Yes. Very, very. And having her be able to look ahead and say, so next week you have three things scheduled at the same time, so we’re going to move some of that stuff around, which is very, very helpful. And then also just coordinating scheduling. When I’ve got meetings with multiple clients or multiple attorneys on a case, I don’t have to take the time to track everybody’s schedule anymore, which is huge. 

  

(13:02): 

So that’s a major time saver and allows me to focus on other things like managing the firm or client work, and that’s really what I need to be doing. The other thing that she’s doing is she’s providing support to my firm administrator. So every Tuesday we have a morning huddle. We go through our calendar and docket items for the next four weeks on a rolling basis. And so one of the pain points for my firm administrator was putting together the calendar to go through. And we have a docketing system. We have a calendaring system, but it was pulling out the things that we needed to talk about. And so here comes Claudia and just jumps right in. And now she does that and eliminated that pain point for my firm administrator, which is huge. And then she does a lot of special projects for me. 

  

(13:54): 

For example, I sent her a message this morning and I said, I need you to tell me all of the referrals that have come to me from my networking group this year. Can you do that for me this week? And she’s like, yep, I’m on it. So she’s going to provide me with a list. And then she’s done a lot of other stuff like that too. She does all our data entry now. So maintaining contacts for cases. Some of our cases have dozens and dozens and maybe even hundreds of contacts because we put all the witnesses and everybody in there, and she’s the one that’s in charge of that, which is also really helpful. 

  

Stephanie Everett (14:34): 

So as you know, I mean, I think I did a session on this at Lab Con when you were there. I’ve been a big advocate that lawyers don’t need to manage their inbox for a really long time. And I’m always preaching this to everybody and the initial responses, but I have to be the one. I have to be in my inbox. And so you’ve made the transition, now you’ve survived, you’re still here, you’re still practicing law. Your clients are happy. So yeah, I mean, maybe people would like to hear from you. Was that a hard transition? Has it made life better? Obviously, yes, but I like them to hear it from you. 

  

Robin Christo (15:11): 

It was a really hard transition, especially from a type A litigator who was used to doing it all herself. And after a couple sessions with my therapist, I got past that. I’m joking, but I’m actually not, because I definitely, 

  

Raquel Gomes (15:26): 

I love 

  

Robin Christo (15:26): 

That it is a transition. It’s hard transit, it’s really hard and giving up control. But once I did it, I realized I wasn’t actually giving up control. I was getting back time in my day and being able to rely on Claudia to go through my inbox, get rid of junk mail, weed out things that she can handle on her own, has been totally invaluable and bought me back a ton of time in my day. 

  

Raquel Gomes (15:56): 

And I feel like when you say it is not giving out control, it’s taking back control of my life. That’s how it feels. Because you have more control over your calendar of your hours in the day what you’re going to do. It’s not that you have to be, because if you miss an important email, something’s going to happen to your business. So you have someone doing that. And one thing I wanted to mention is that we do have that as part of the training. And when we go over that first session, the free consultation, and we click on the things you want to delegate, those are the things we ensure that the person that we provide to you as a possible match, they have been trained on those things specifically as well. So you mentioned, oh, she knew how to do it. So it’s part of the training that we provide, the calendar management, the inbox and all of that. 

  

Stephanie Everett (16:40): 

Yeah, 

  

Robin Christo (16:41): 

And the training. One other thing about training that just popped into my head was that we have a CRM that we use to manage our intake and screening of new clients. And Claudia didn’t know how to use it, and Stafie have at the ready a training about it. 

  

Raquel Gomes (16:58): 

So now we do. 

  

Robin Christo (17:00): 

Now you do. They went into their ranks and found a paralegal that used the same program, and they created a training for her. And so now she knows how to use our CRM, which is great. So that’s another thing that’s really helpful. I think Raquel, about Stafi is that it’s not set in stone and it’s a moving breathing thing. And so anytime something pops up and it’s like, oh, we need Claudia to learn about this or that, you guys figure it out. And one example too is that you guys don’t really have a trust estate training. I think in your family law training module, you have a few things about estates, but there isn’t much. And so one thing that I’ve been doing, because even though Claudia’s not doing substantive work for me, she’s still exposed to the lingo and understandably has a lot of questions because trust in estates is kind of learning a different language. 

  

(17:55): 

I mean, it was for me at least. And so she and I spend a lot of time when I’m meeting with her in the mornings, we do a call most mornings and she’ll ask questions, and then I give her a little primer on that particular area. So for example, I think she was confused about what exactly is a trustee and a fiduciary, is that the same thing? So we talked through it, and so now I’m talking to Raquel about recording some of those and making them available, because I think trust and estates and litigation especially is an area where people could really use support. 

  

Raquel Gomes (18:31): 

Yeah, yeah. No, absolutely. And when you mentioned that you wanted her to learn about queer growth, I believe it was back then, right? So we have all of the coaches that are assigned to the virtual assistants to help support them with ongoing training, make sure they’re supported throughout the onboarding process, and help with co-management. So we have two senior paralegals that they serve as escalation point, and one of them was the one who provided the training on Clio growth. And the reason why I have this implemented is because I know how hard it is when you own a business, how hard it is sometimes to have the time to be the CEO to step into the role of A CEO to be able to strategize, to have time to do creative work. It’s so hard then when you are so busy, it’s simply impossible. You won’t come up with good ideas. 

  

(19:22): 

And I know how lonely it can be too, to be a business owner. And I’m talking from being a woman, and some of us have a business partner. We’re lucky to have a business partner, but some people don’t, can be very lonely. So all of the support that we have, the coaches, the psychologists that we have, the mindset coaches where the virtual assistants, they have regular check-ins to make sure that they are doing well emotionally, mentally, I’m a psychologist myself, and I know how important it is for us to be aligned. We’re all one body mind emotions, and that’s priority to me. So it’s very directly correlated with performance, but also being happy at work and where you are. So you actually stay there because how miserable it is for you to have a VA that is not happy and you know how busy it is for business owners to sometimes even say, how, how is your mom? How’s your boyfriend? How’s many times we mean really well, but we don’t have the time. So we provide that support to small business owners. They will feel that they’re supported. So I find that very important. 

  

Robin Christo (20:29): 

Yeah, that was another thing that really impressed me about Stafie was the shared value of mental health. I mean, one of the things that we talked about in that first meeting and you just mentioned was that you have mental health support for your staff. Strike that for your representatives, for your Stafies. You should call ’em Stafies Raquel. I think I like that better. Yeah, we do staff. Oh, okay. Yeah, for your representatives. And I was really impressed by that because like I said, I have a small firm. I care about everybody in here, my employees, my clients, and prioritizing mental health is really important to me personally too. And so to know that you guys offer that, I think it’s a real anomaly in Stafing agencies. I mean, usually it’s like, oh, you need somebody, okay, let me pick a name out of a pile of resumes and send them to your office and then never talk to them again. So I love all of the support that you guys offer, both me and Claudia when it comes to making sure that the lines of communication are open. And even with related to personal stuff, if somebody’s going through something, I know that you provide support to ’em as well. So that’s great and really impressive. 

  

Stephanie Everett (21:46): 

Yeah, I love that too. And before Robin, you were mentioning that you were worried at the beginning. How do you integrate this remote person into the team and into the culture? Knowing this is so important to you, and it is a small business and everybody feels close to one another. I’m just curious how that has gone with Claudia, and do you have any tips or advice to people who might be listening of how to go about that process? 

  

Robin Christo (22:12): 

Yeah, absolutely. I’ve kind of done it organically and slowly. So at first, it was really just Claudia was dealing directly with me getting my inbox under control and all of that. And then slowly I started having her give some support to our firm administrator. And then now she’s in touch with pretty much everybody in the firm not providing direct support. But for example, there’ll be a bar event or reminder like, Hey, we just changed our phone numbers. Everybody needs to update them. So she’s emailing everybody, reminding them to update their phone numbers with the state bar or inviting them to the elder abuse symposium that’s coming up, or a lifetime achievement thing that’s being put on by the state bar or the local bar. And I don’t know in the future if Claudia will start providing executive assistant support to more than just me, but definitely everybody in the firm knows that she’s there and can reach out to her if they have a question or if they need support with something administrative. And our legal assistant that’s here in office isn’t available to help. 

  

Stephanie Everett (23:24): 

And there’s even little things you can do with us with Alexa, who’s our VA from Stafie. We have a teams chat going, and if we post in team wins, she’s always the first one in there doing an emoji way to go. That’s awesome. She’s kind of become our team cheerleader, if you will, because she’s very bright and cheerful and she always has kind things to say to everyone. And because we’re in a little bit of a different spot, because we are all virtual, so we don’t have a physical office, but we’re able to include her in our virtual team lunches and meetings and things. So there’s lots of ways you can be creative and make sure that your team knows this person and they feel like they know you too. So I wouldn’t let that be a reason that people don’t explore this kind of help if they’re thinking about it. 

  

Robin Christo (24:15): 

Yeah, absolutely. And I think now everybody, well, I don’t want to say everybody, but a lot of people, the people in my circle at least are definitely more accustomed to working virtually. And so it’s not totally weird. Whereas maybe five years ago I would’ve been like, oh, I don’t think so. That’s not going to work out for me. But now, once I got past that initial concern about, oh my God, what is this going to look like? It’s really no different than having somebody here in the office. 

  

Stephanie Everett (24:44): 

Yeah. Awesome. Raquel, any kind of words of wisdom for you, or last thoughts for people who might be hesitant in thinking about this? I’m wondering if it would work for them. 

  

Raquel Gomes (24:53): 

Well, that we are you along the way throughout the entire journey, we not only make sure that the candidate is highly qualified, we have a very strict vet and screening process that they have to go through, the ones that make it through the final cut they go through in-house training, but also once we assign a virtual assistant to you, we are with you and holding you throughout the entire process, and I love to hear the value that you perceive from this relationship. Robin is really music to my ears because it just confirms to me that what I’ve put in place, it’s very valuable for the small law firm owner, and we love working with you and helping you grow and scale your farm, but doing it from a place of balance, not having to sacrifice your life in the name of success. Exactly. 

  

Robin Christo (25:44): 

My family is a lot happier now, let’s just say that. 

  

Raquel Gomes (25:47): 

I love that. 

  

Stephanie Everett (25:48): 

Yeah. That’s awesome. Well, obviously two happy Stafi clients here, Raquel, we’re always excited to talk to you, and we’ll make sure in the show notes to this that if anyone’s interested in learning more about how maybe someone from Stafi can help them, we’ll put the link in there. Also, we’ve got a fun discount code. If you mention Lawyerist, do you have the URL for us? Maybe handy? 

  

Raquel Gomes (26:11): 

I do not, but it doesn’t matter if they go to our website, www Stafie cc, you schedule a call or you say that you want to talk to us and you put the quote Lawyerist, then you’re going to have $500 off. 

  

Stephanie Everett (26:24): 

Nice. There you go. Well see. You get rewarded for being a lawyer listener. So thanks for that. Thanks Robin for coming in and sharing your story. I know it really helps lawyers. We always tell ’em, but they like hearing it from you, so I appreciate you being on with me today to tell your story and your experience. 

  

Robin Christo (26:42): 

Thank you so much, Robin. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I’m always listening to the Lawyerist podcast and wanting to hear from the lawyers about the various things that you guys suggest. So happy to help. Thank you. 

Announcer: 

The Lawyerist Podcast is edited by Britany Felix. Are you ready to implement the ideas we discuss here into your practice? Wondering what to do next? Here are your first two steps. First. If you haven’t read The Small Firm Roadmap yet, grab the first chapter for free at Lawyerist.com/book. Looking for help beyond the book? Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities, are right for you. Head to Lawyerist.com/community/lab to schedule a 10-minute call with our team to learn more. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you. 

Your Hosts

Stephanie Everett

Stephanie Everett is the President of Lawyerist, where she leads the Lawyerist Lab program. She is the co-author of the bestselling book The Small Firm Roadmap and is a regular guest and co-host of the weekly Lawyerist Podcast.

Featured Guests

Raquel Gomes

Raquel Gomes

Raquel is passionate about helping business owners, and especially women entrepreneurs, understand that they can, in fact, have it all – the successful business, time with loved ones, and the freedom to pursue the things that matter most. But she knows to have it all, you can’t do it all. That’s why she founded Stafi – a company that finds and places highly-qualified, highly-educated offshore staff that can do all of the tasks that keeps business owners from their most valuable work: serving their clients and growing their companies. Originally from the south of Brazil, Raquel is a licensed psychologist with an MBA in International Business. She has been both a sales Rockstar and a leader of Rockstar Sales Teams. But just as important as being a successful businesswoman, she is also a loving wife and mother. Raquel has an incredibly active imagination, probably because, – fun fact – due to her religious upbringing, she didn’t have a television in her house until she was 16. And that was before the internet! But that imagination also allows her to fulfill her true passion: empowering small business owners to achieve success both in their professional and personal lives.  

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Last updated May 22nd, 2024