Virtual Associates of New England LLC
Founded: August 2010
Employees: 1 full time and 2-3 independent contractors who work as needed
Startup costs: $5,000
Projected revenue, year one: $60,000
Projected revenue, year two: $100,000-$110,000
75 Pearl St., Suite 210, Portland
What is Virtual Associates of New England?
It is a contract legal services firm, providing legal research, drafting and litigation support services to attorneys throughout Maine and New England. In a nutshell, we offer outsourced legal services to solo practitioners, private law firms and in-house legal departments. For example, an attorney in private practice might hire us to perform a discrete research assignment or draft a legal memorandum if she is overwhelmed with other projects or if she lacks the resources or expertise to do that work herself. Similarly, an in-house legal department might hire us to perform document review or drafting to reduce the demands on its in-house attorneys or reduce fees paid to outside counsel.
The attorneys who hire us not only benefit from our low rates and the quality work-product we provide, they are also able maximize their own time. We like to think of ourselves as an attorney "cloning" service: The attorneys who hire us are literally able to complete two tasks at once, often at a reduced cost to their clients.
Why did you start the company?
After law school, I worked for a number of years as an attorney in a local firm and also as a law clerk for the Maine Superior Court. During that time, I developed a talent for legal research, writing and litigation strategy. I also began to understand that many attorneys — particularly solo practitioners or members of smaller firms — are often so overwhelmed by their caseloads that it can be difficult for them to devote the time that quality written advocacy and case preparation requires. I learned, too, that not all attorneys enjoy or excel at research and writing. It occurred to me that there might be a need for an outsourcing service that provides legal support on an as-needed basis. I have been delighted to discover that I was right.
How do you market the company?
Up to now, my marketing has primarily consisted of my website, a brochure and targeted mailings sent to solo practitioners and smaller firms in Maine. I am beginning to dip my toe into social networking. However, word of mouth and the recommendations of attorneys with whom we have worked seem to have been the most effective marketing tools so far.
How do you finance the company?
The business has been financed entirely out-of-pocket and with modest personal loans.
What has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is convincing attorneys to change the way they do business and to recognize the advantage that outsourcing provides. Traditionally, attorneys have either done all of their legal work themselves or, at larger firms, delegated work to junior associates. Our challenge is to help attorneys understand that by outsourcing some of their research, writing and case preparation to skilled and qualified contract attorneys, they will not only receive a quality product, they'll also be able to increase their own time and profits.
Legal outsourcing services have taken off in places like New York, Chicago and Boston. In fact, the American Bar Association has recognized the benefits of legal outsourcing, calling it a "salutary trend." My challenge is trying to convince Maine attorneys to jump on that bandwagon.
What has been successful about your business strategy?
My fundamental strategy has been based on a belief that the work-product and the advantages our services provide speak for themselves. Once an attorney uses our service and gets a good result for his client, he will become a believer. So far, that has proven true.
What are your goals for your company?
My goal is to continue to get the word out about our services and to grow the company by bringing on new clients and additional contract lawyers who are skilled in all areas of the law. Ultimately, I hope to position Virtual Associates of New England to become the primary provider of contract legal services throughout Maine, New England and beyond.
Interview by Carol Coultas
New Ventures profiles young companies, 6-18 months old. Send suggestions and contact information to email@example.com.