Have you been nervous about saying yes to a virtual assistant? In this episode, Stephanie talks with Raquel Gomez and Dimitri Rico, founders of Stafi, about why a VA may be the missing link for your team’s growth, how to get started with the process, and tips to making the relationship a success. Bonus! Listen to the end to learn about an exclusive discount Stafi is offering Lawyerist’s listeners!
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- . Virtual staff and security of data
- . Finding the right fit
- . Keeping mental health at the forefront
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
Raquel Gomez (00:35):
I’m Raquel Gomez, founder and CEO of Stafi.
Demetrio Rico (00:38):
And I’m Demetrio Rico, also a founder and COO of Stafi.
Stephanie Everett (00:42):
Awesome. Well, welcome to the show, guys. To kick us off, I would love for you to say a little bit more about what Stafi is and maybe your story on how you got started, how you got here today.
Raquel Gomez (00:53):
All right, great. Thank you so much for having us. So my dad was an entrepreneur and he was a successful business owner, but he sacrificed all his life in the name of success. He barely had any time to spend with us, could never take vacations, and he suffered multiple heart attacks throughout his life and then never sat well with me. I moved from Brazil to the US to do an MBA and I climbed the corporate ladder in high corporate America for large corporate America in the high tech space, and I became very successful, but I was unhappy. I felt that I always had to prove myself. And when I became a mom, that became even harder for me. All the pressure, the travel, and the lack of flexibility. So with Stafi, when we created Stafi was to solve a problem that I had. I wanted to be able to see my business growing successfully and flourishing while being able to enjoy my life at the same time and to be able to take on vacations and have time for myself and my family. So that’s why staff fee goes much beyond providing highly qualified virtual staff to law firms. We provide all of the HR support that goes around it to free up the law firm owner from onboarding, continued management and continued education to the Stafi representative assigned to them. And that makes us very, very different than any other virtual staffing company out there.
Stephanie Everett (02:28):
Demetrio Rico (02:29):
Yeah. And if I could just add, I think that this is not something that’s new. Having worked in companies with 400,000 employees and managing teams of up to 200 people, I could say that large corporate American, any large corporation will find the best talent irrelevant of where that person sits. So it’s just that smaller companies were uncomfortable with that, and I think we still have some of those very large customers today, but the smaller companies today after Covid, I think it was obvious to them that if their child could attend school and if their admin could work from down the street from their house, then why does it have to be down the street? Why can’t it be in another country?
Raquel Gomez (03:13):
Stephanie Everett (03:13):
I think you hit on something which is that uncomfortableness, and I’m curious there still is some reluctance and maybe some hesitancy and people might be afraid. And what would you say to those folks that might be nervous about outsourcing or working with someone in a different location?
Raquel Gomez (03:30):
I would say that the quality of work that you get, especially with us, we are very strict in the vetting and the screening process like no other company out there. It takes us five weeks to go through that entire process and only 1% of all of the applicants make it to the final cut. And then we hire them, we train them, we take them through an intensive training of two weeks that they have to graduate with 90% or above before they are assigned. So the quality of the professionals you get is incredible. I know that some might have beliefs that, oh, the quality of work that I’m going to get from abroad is not the same as locally. And I would say it’s the opposite because these professionals, they have graduated from college and they have years of experience. A lot of them are lawyers in their home country. Whenever we’re assigning a legal assistant or a paralegal, they are lawyers in their home country and they have ears of experience. And when you compare apples to apples, you would pay two or three times more to get that equivalent talent locally. So that’s definitely one of the things I would say.
Demetrio Rico (04:41):
And I think at a broader level, everyone has a fear of the unknown, and we try to put as little barrier to entry as possible so that you can work with someone and really try it out and see how it’s like and talk to other people that are using it. If you go to our testimonials, you’ll see lots of very satisfied clients that have been growing. I mean, we have the direct correlation with our clients that the more people they hire from us, the better they do, the more we want to support them, we’re very much related to their success.
Raquel Gomez (05:18):
And the more they grow their law firms. One thing that I wanted to talk about is some folks that haven’t maybe used talent that are in another country might think, oh, how about sensitive information? How does that work? And I would say that the measures that we take, that we apply within Stafi turns out that if you use a virtual staff member from us, it’ll be so much more secure if you hire directly in the US and they work from their home. So it’s like if you think about it is maybe a limiting belief of the unknown. Right? In the screening and banting process, we run all sorts of background checks from money lounge, fraud, anything police related, global and locally who does that when hiring locally, we call all of their employers for five years to see if they would hire them again, we call the universities to make sure that their diplomas, they have the diplomas, they say they have, we run assessments, personality assessment.
Demetrio Rico (06:23):
So I think that Raquel’s point is that because we are an organization that that’s all we do, we’re an extension of your HR during the hiring process, and then we’ll talk a little bit of what we do afterwards. You get that benefit. So a typical small business might do one or two interviews and just they do it by gut and it’s like hopefully it’ll work out. And believe me, there are some people that interview wonderful. We do the interviews and like, wow, this person’s great, but then we do the assessments and they’re not so great, and then we call the job references and they’re like, we’re not going to hire this guy. There’s a whole talent acquisition team that is dedicated to doing that. And then when we put ’em through training, that training is also a vetting process. If you talk to our trainers, they’re looking every day, it’s like, how long did it take ’em to do this task? What’s the attention to detail that they’re putting into the job? So it’s not just typical grades or they’re getting it, but how are they doing it and how will our customers react? Because for us, we want to make sure that if there’s a failure, that it happens in our house before we assign that person
Raquel Gomez (07:29):
Fair. All of the cybersecurity training, confidentiality training, I mean, if you’re going to implement that on your own, imagine the amount of resources and time that will require from you to have those things done.
Stephanie Everett (07:43):
That totally makes sense. And I’m just imagining what listeners might be thinking. So I’m going to throw probably just a few quick softballs just so you can knock ’em down. I know some people are worried about another country beyond the security. I’ve even heard someone say, do they have power outages? People just don’t know what it’s like in another country. And so I just wonder how do you address some of those really kind of base level concerns people might have?
Demetrio Rico (08:08):
Yeah, and those things do happen. I mean, power outages and things like that, as far as the computers and the devices are concerned, we check all of that, obviously for any kind of malware and make sure that they have a computing capabilities to be able to do the work. They will have backups during training. That’s one of the things we do. It’s like, okay, if your power goes out, what are you going to do? What is the plan? Where do you go? So we have a processes in place for each individual person. With that said, I mean, we live in Miami, Florida, we get power averages too.
Stephanie Everett (08:40):
I was about to say that we just did a training for our team of what happens if a snowstorm hit and 40% of our team lost power in a day, and we did a little exercise because we were like, wow, we might not be as prepared as we think. So yeah, I love that.
Demetrio Rico (08:56):
And in some ways I think we come from telecommunication. So talking over video is something that my clients were AT&T and Verizon, I would do that in 2002. So working remotely and disaster recovery is immensely important in the telecommunications field. And we brought that over to Stafi. And so what I mean is we have people all over the world. So yeah, there might be a power outage in Nicaragua, but there’s no power outages in Brazil and Argentina at the time. So there are some things that we can do and we have done in the past where someone has been out and there were important documents that needed to be sent and they were escalated. So we had other people to do it.
Stephanie Everett (09:39):
Raquel Gomez (09:40):
Yeah. Just to add to that, we check on the type of connectivity they have. We also make sure that they have a safe private space to work from. Since confidentiality is very important to us and to all of our clients, we don’t allow them to share an office or anything like that. So those are the things that we ensure before they’re hired that they’re okay.
Stephanie Everett (10:05):
Yeah, it totally makes sense. And I agree, you’re probably going well above and beyond what we would do here. If I was hiring someone down the street, we have a remote team and we take some of these things for granted. I’m curious if we shift a little bit, what tips might you have for someone who’s like, okay, I think I’m ready to get started, but I’m still a little nervous. How do I make sure this is a good process and a smooth process so that it works well?
Demetrio Rico (10:30):
Yeah, I think a lot of it has to do with really understanding where you’re spending your time and what things you should not be spending your time on. So the first thing we do is we have a consultation, and it’s really to understand where that person, that lawyer is spending their time on and what their goals are. Because there are some lawyers that really they don’t want to grow their business, they just want to have more time for themselves, and that is what they want, and we want to help ’em with that. In most cases, it’s not, in most cases, they want to grow, they want to make more money, and it’s a little bit about what can they do to scale. So at a very high level, if you said, okay, a lawyer’s fee is $250 an hour, if we can save you two hours a day, that’s over a hundred thousand dollars a year. So that’s just two hours. The idea is to save you eight hours so you have more billable time. So at a very basic level or a very tactical level, that’s how we think about it.
Stephanie Everett (11:30):
Yeah, love that. Raquel, anything you’d add there?
Raquel Gomez (11:33):
I would say establish clear goals, goals and establish. I would say if you are starting with a virtual staff, establish the meeting times, especially in the beginning. So for example, if you’re working with Stafi, we have an entire team that is supporting you and your virtual staff throughout the entire journey. So we are considered an extension of the law firms from an HR perspective. So our client success team will meet with you. We’ll go through the entire onboarding and we’ll set meeting time. So let’s say we’ll facilitate in the beginning. So how about every morning you meet at 9:00 AM with your virtual staff through video, and you’re going to assign the tasks, or you’re going to give a few tips that are things that are specific to your business. While our coaches, internally, the coaches who work with the virtual staff, they will ensure that that person is sending every day in the morning their plan for the day.
They can send it through text message or however you work the communications methods that you want to use. And at the end of the day, they’re sending daily recaps with everything that was completed a day. Things are in progress. So if you are working independently with a virtual staff, I would highly advise that you follow that because then you know what a person is spending their time. And I know that a lot of people when they’re new to working with someone virtually, they’re like, oh, but what is that person going to be doing all day? I don’t know. But these meetings and these check-ins will allow for you to have a good grasp of what they’re doing. And we assign a local number, so we assign a local number. You choose the area code, so you’re going to be able to call the person, you’re going to be able to text the person, and that person will be included. They’ll be using all of the platforms that you’re using for your law firm. So the communication will be very fluid. Now, again, if you’re working with us, you have an entire team facilitating and managing that staff, that member of the team to free up your time. So you’re going to tell us what are the goals, what are the tasks, and we’re going to ensure that the person is doing those things. So that’s the advantage. That’s how we free up your time beyond providing you with a virtual staffing member.
Stephanie Everett (13:52):
Demetrio Rico (13:52):
Yeah. I mean, I also think that in general, I mean I don’t want to generalize, but to some degree, lawyers are type A personalities. They are perfectionists. They want to make sure that everything, I mean, you can win or lose a case based on how a sentence is written. So they’re very specialized. And what happens is they don’t think that anybody can do it, but nobody cares as much as they do. And here’s the fact it’s true. Nobody cares as much as you do. That’s okay. That client has to figure out what are the things that somebody else can do, and they might not be perfect, but it’s going to bring them 90% to there so they don’t have to do a hundred percent of the work. They can just do the 10% that makes them special. And so I think there’s a little bit of that that has to happen where they have to just put a little trust in the process and allow us to help.
Stephanie Everett (14:45):
I love that. And it’s true. And they can get pretty close and they may care in different ways. So as you guys know, I’m a client, so I have a Stafi assistant, and she came to me early on in working with me and was like, Hey, I noticed you don’t have time set aside for lunch every day. Could I add a lunch break into your calendar so we can make sure we can reserve that time? And I was like, that’s great. And so here’s an example of her kind of going above and beyond looking out for me. She wanted to make sure I’m taking care of myself. She knows that I’m not good at doing that.
Raquel Gomez (15:22):
Demetrio Rico (15:23):
That’s great. And that’s part of the culture that we provide to our people to like, it’s okay to take a break. We don’t want you to work more than eight hours. And we have some customers that want people to work overtime, and we’ve set up a system to be able to do that. But in general, we don’t want to burn anybody out. There’s some definite benefits in working remote. And there’s also some things that make it a little bit lonely. So for example, we have a psychologist, all of our staff members can talk to, especially if you’re doing intake for immigration or for family law, and you hear a lot of certain types of cases that can wear you down after a while. So we provide that internally to make sure that they have that support.
Raquel Gomez (16:07):
The paralegals and legal assistants too, they work on hard cases. And I would say I’m a psychologist myself. Mental health for me is a priority, has always been. And even if you don’t have things you have to elaborate that are related to work, you have things that are going on with your personal time, your personal life that you might need a safe space to elaborate. And what people most times don’t know or maybe don’t want to admit is that our mental health space is highly related with our performance and how we’re doing at work. And that’s why we call her the mindset coach. All of our staff, they have an open door to have a session with our psychologist. And if they don’t ask for one, she is putting one in their calendar in the beginning when they’re starting with a new client client, it’s weekly, twice a week, and then it goes to twice per month, and then it’s monthly at a minimum is monthly.
But then if something happens, they come in and they ask for more. So that’s really important, Demetrio saying for them to not feel lonely. We also have the TGIFs, thank god its Friday, all of our staff gets together, all of the virtual staff, and one of them is in charge of teaching something new, whatever that is. Maybe it’s a new recipe, maybe they want to sing a song, maybe. I don’t know. It’s whatever that is. And that also is really good for their creativity to add joy to their days and for them to feel that they’re part of a larger team. So those practices are very important. We also have yoga days that we as a 15 minute mindfulness session before the start of the day, and it’s not mandatory, but you would be surprised with the level of attendance from everyone. And what I want to say is our business, Demetrio and I, the only people in the US is the two of us plus our vice president of client success, who’s in California, everyone else, and right now we have about 150 employees and we’re adding maybe five a week. Everyone else is virtual. So we are leaving proof that this really works and the amount of clients that we have helped grow their business and how thankful they are is really fuel to my soul. So not only helping them become more successful, but being able to live a more balanced life, which is very hard for lawyers, very hard- lawyers overwork. So that’s why we love helping them.
Stephanie Everett (18:47):
Yeah, I love all that. I love how you guys go really above and beyond. I think there’s some of your competitors do really focus on matching someone with a virtual assistant. And I think you guys, you don’t just leave the process, you stay involved, you have all this coaching, all this training, and really that’s what set you apart in my mind and why I was excited to establish a strategic relationship with you guys. And so maybe now as we kind of wrap up, we could share that we do have this in place. So if you’re listening right now and you want to try it out, you can do so. We have a landing page you can visit and you can even get a little discount for saying that you heard about Stafi from Lawyerist. So anything else you want to say on that?
Demetrio Rico (19:35):
Well, I like to say that we’re extremely excited about this partnership, that I think that we provide a very tactical way of helping our clients, and you do a very strategic way of helping them. So I think it’s going to be great for our clients as well to know about you and the work that you guys have done. And so we’re very excited about that.
Raquel Gomez (19:56):
Absolutely. And I want to close out by saying that we truly care. Every person that we speak with, we really, really care not only about your business flourishing, but we care about your lives and helping you have more joy and more fun. So that’s what I want to, we do this with our hearts and souls.
Stephanie Everett (20:16):
Yeah, I love it. And it shows in the work you do. So Bravo.
Raquel Gomez (20:20):
Demetrio Rico (20:21):
Speaker 1 (20:24):
The Lawyerist podcast is edited by Brittany 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 dot com slash book, looking for help beyond the book. Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities are right for you. Head to.com/community/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.
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.
Demetrio served as Global Vice President of Sales for 2600Hz. Prior to 2600Hz, he was Global Director of Service Provider development for Five9, where he helped service providers launch the cloud contact center, Demetrio was also director of customer experience for Cisco and Global Vice President of Professional Services for Broadsoft, where he led a team of 200 people with over 16MM dollars/year in revenue. During all these years he has increased his experience in team management and business skills, and his background has led him to this new – not new – chapter as Stafi’s COO.
Last updated November 13th, 2023