Setting Guidelines with client?

I have a client who at one time I worked for. He is an old school attorney who really needs a full-time legal assistant but he is in the process of closing his firm and retiring. He has asked me to assist him but he does not want to handle business the way that it is set up. I want to work virtual and he wants me to come in. I tell him I get paid up front and he pays me once a week. I tell him I need him to be on retainer and pay in advance he tells me to submit my time every two weeks. This is just not acceptable to me but it is the first local client that I have so I am trying to accommodate his needs and gain the experience but I am not gaining the virtual experience that I am trying to obtain with him and/or working for law firms because he wants me to come to the office almost everyday. I am trying to establish my business and with it being so new have so many things I still need to take care of and he is hindering me to a certain extent but I could always use the money. I am really in a pickle and I need to know someone else's thoughts or opinions on how to resolve this issue. Please help. :mad2:

VA Allie

I guess it depends on how badly you need the money. If you really need it - do it. If you can do without, let him know that you're sorry but you really only work remotely and under these conditions - and stick to them! I'm sure this person won't be the first who will try to get you to do things "their way", so best to flex your muscles now and lay down the law!

Your Virtual Wizard

Community Leader
Hi Toni,

I know how difficult it can be to say 'no' to a client especially when you are just starting out in the VA business. And it is particularly more difficult because you need the income.

Unfortunately, as long as you allow this client to dictate how you do business, the longer it will take you to set down your own business policies and stick to them.

Every day you spend in his office, commuting back and forth for which there is no compensation is less time you can spend marketing your business to clients that understand and value your services.

I would suggest you put your business policies in a document. List your hours of operation; how often you wish to be paid (monthly); how much deposit you require; the method you wish to be paid and any penalties for late payment. Itemize those things which the client must pay for and that which you are responsible. Detail how you will track your time and when the client will receive your timesheet or log. Determine how you will communicate and the types of services you will offer.

I would present this document to the client and explain that these are your terms. Explain that this document will also need to be signed by both parties in the form of a contract. As an attorney, he would understand the importance of signing a contract listing clear terms.

If he is not willing to abide by these terms, you will need to decide if you will continue to work with him or not.

You can also offer to work with him for a specified temporary period of time, virtually, and help him to find a physical replacement. He will have to pay you for your recruiting services and again that would need to be in a written contract. This way you can still bill him your fees while freeing up some time to market to other clients.

It is very important that you work with clients who understand that you are not an employee, but rather a business owner. It sounds to me that he does not truly understand the virtual aspect of our business, which means that he is not your ideal client. You only want to work with your ideal clients to be successful. That may mean moving on from this client with a lesson learned.

Please post back with how you handle this situation. Good luck! We are all behind you and the success of your business.




I know this issue is really hard when you are trying to establish yourself in the virtual paralegal profession. Further, there are many attorneys that feel because they have to literally supervise our work that it is easier to due so if we work in-house. Here is how I have handled this issue in-part:
1. I politely explain, "It would be unfair to my other clients if I went into his office every day, but I would gladly work from his location on X day and X day, and I can take the remain work to my office to be completed there".
2. As far as the billing, I would politely reinforce my terms with a contract and no work is rendered until the deposit is paid then if he wants time sheets every two week to see where the money is going I would gladly advise my billing department to do that , but only after the retainer is paid.

I would revise his service agreement to reflect the billing sheets to be generated. If he is unwilling to come to an agreement with a comprised schedule and terms, I would decline to work with him.

You really need to have tough skin and not let the need for money guide you to make poor business decisions. This is hard to do in the virtual paralegal field of things because our services are also governed and dictated by state profession code of conduct.
Thank you all so much for your input and suggestions. I have been battling with this issue for two weeks with no solution other than to not work for him but then again, I need the money. I really needed to hear what you all have to say because deep down I feel the same way. I will repost later with the outcome, wish me luck.


New Member
I know when I first started my business (which was only last year) I had some established VA's give me this sort of advice. I kept thinking, but I need clients and money. But they were right, this sort of client.. if he's a pain now, only gets worse with time.

If you tell him the conditions on how you work and he can't respect them, down the line it will only get worse. I'd nicely say, "Good luck to you" and move on.

If you work hard at marketing your business you will get clients, good clients even!



That is correct, especially with attorneys. I learn a long time ago that when you stop focusing on the need for money/ clients and spend the time you have marketing your business, with content marketing the clients come to you that you want. Establish yourself as an expert by giving your prospects and your peers what they want and need and the rest with fall into place. Even if that means you have to cut some deadwood in the process.


New Member
It is very difficult to turn down "any" money or turn away a potential client. However, I agree that you have to set your policies and stick with them. Some things may be negotiable and you as business owner, are the only one who can decide what those are.

It has been helpful for me to create a Client Service Agreement and get it signed at the beginning of the arrangement. That way everyone is on the same page from the start.


New Member
Hopefully things are better now? He's an old school attorney so working "virtual" and not being in the office is an extremely new concept for him!


New Member
Sounds like he's falling back on the time you previously worked for him; ergo he isn't taking you or your business seriously. You are the only one who can open his eyes and keep him from pushing you. Personally I enjoy both types of clients - virtual and on-site. Either one though just remember: a PITA client now is a worse PITA client later.


New Member
I approached my company with the concept of having a virtual assistant to perform some of the administrative-type duties throughout the company. Although some departments are agreeable to it because it cuts their personnel budget cost almost in half, HR has not grasped the concept yet, therefore the push back is tremendous.