For personal assistants to the wealthy and celebrated, the demands of an ordinary day can be extraordinary.

One assistant recalls being given just a few days notice to rebook travel, hotel and social arrangements for a client's large family.
A New York-based personal assistant says her client called while she was on a long-delayed vacation at an Indian Ocean resort. The reason: The client forgot his fax number.

Still another laughs at the notion of an "after-hours" life free of work demands. Her client, a celebrated lawyer, is only a Blackberry or e-mail message away. It's a 24/7 job that leaves room for only three to four hours sleep per night, she says.

Then there are the celebrity clients who discuss the business of the day attired only in underwear, as their personal assistants strive to maintain professional composure.

As one PA put it, a client should look for a personal assistant who never says no, thinks nothing is impossible and will do anything to get the job done-provided it's legal.

One client, Turner Classic Movies television host Robert Osborne, says of his personal assistant, "You can trust him to take over and do those things that have to get done to make your life work, that you really don't have time to spend on and that other people can do better than you. It's a wonderful feeling.''

Finding The Right PA
A family office manager or other advisor who wants to find the right personal assistant for a client must pursue the task with the same diligence as any important business venture, experts say. Professionals in the personal and executive assistant field recommend gold-standard recruiting agencies such as Pavillion, Bouvier and Robin Kellner in New York, Christopher Baker Staffing in Los Angeles, Charles MacPherson in Toronto and Greycoat Placements in London.

Personal assistant organizations have stringent admission rules and can also provide reliable referrals. They include New York Celebrity Assistants, the Association of Celebrity Personal Assistants in Los Angeles and the Association of Celebrity Assistants in London.

"I can't tell you how many clients think they can hire a personal assistant literally on the fly," says Christopher Baker, head of Christopher Baker Staffing. "I had one high-net-worth client rushing to the airport, with 20 minutes to catch her plane, telling me on the phone that she needed a personal assistant right away, while taking other calls on her [cell phone] and having her nails done in the back of her limo.''

Professionals say it behooves clients in search of an assistant to give ample time and thought to hiring. The hiring process should include several levels of interviews, they say.