Is That an Assistant in Your Pocket?



I started this article a while back after reviewing a NY Times article entitled: “Siri, Alexa and Other Virtual Assistants Put to the Test” ( as it highlighted the issue I have with technologies employing the words “virtual assistant” to describe their product or gadget.  More recently, a legal tech company called “Riverview” started tweeting out about the “virtual assistants” built into their product which brought this topic back to the surface for me.

First, to clarify, according to, the term “assistant” is defined as:


  1. a person who assists or gives aid and support; helper.
  2. a person who is subordinate to another in rank, function, etc.; one holding a secondary rank in an office or post: He was assistant to the office manager.

Did you notice the second word in each one of those definitions was “person”.  A “person” – not a gadget, not a cartoon character on your website, not an e-mail reminder service and certainly not a tech.

Just to be certain that I’m not going crazy, I checked and here’s the definition of a “person”:


  1. a human being, whether man, woman, or child: The table seats four persons.
  2. a human being as distinguished from an animal or a thing.

Don’t mean to be touchy on the subject, but I spend my days trying to help people figure out that you can’t replace the live thinking brain in the business process of having an “assistant” with some type of tech – no matter what the tech salesmen state!  If you remove the live, thinking “assistant”, chances are the software, tool or service you are being pitched will be much less effective and much more time/labor intensive than you’ve been lead to believe.

Technology purveyors are not helping the issue.  They throw the term “assistant” around on a whim.  They add it before or after their applications and processes as though any tech could take the place of a live, thinking brain.

Worse still are the ad campaigns calling out to you that if you use a real live assistant, you are “old school” or don’t have a clue about technology.  Not so!  They want to make you think you need to use THEIR tech… yeah only THEIR tech solves all your woes… and for only the low, low monthly price of ….

So, exactly when did having or being an assistant become a negative?  When did the noble profession of assisting become a badge of shame; some sort of weakness or incompetence on the part of the person using the assistant and some sort of sub-human, subservient position to hold as the assistant?

I’m not certain, but I believe it coincided about the same time that the majority of the population started typing with more than four fingers.  No, I’m not kidding.  It’s sad really.  Why? Having the skill to type relatively fast does not mean you can or should be spending the majority of your time behind a keyboard performing the administrative and secretarial functions required to run your practice.

So let me take a moment here and set the record straight. I am a legal Virtual Assistant. No – I’m not a voice trapped in your phone nor am I some technology.  I am a live, thinking brain and I say it loud and proud!

By the way, how many “successful” people do you know who do NOT have a live, thinking and without a doubt human assistant?  Presidents, celebrities, doctors, CEOs … about the only peeps who don’t have assistants are the ones who could use them the most – Moms!

-Andrea Cannavina, New York City.

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