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Exactly What is a "Virtual" Law Office?

I often speak to other attorneys about virtual law offices and how to incorporate some of the benefits of this model of legal service delivery into their own practice. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am frequently asked by friends, colleagues and others what makes my firm different than a traditional law firm. I thought I'd share a small slice of what us virtual practitioners mean when we say that we operate "Virtual Law Offices". As you'll quickly see, there's no "one-size-fits-all" mold that we all fit into. Instead, we operate our firms based on the belief that the utilization of technology creates flexibility for us to serve our clients for a much more reasonable cost than traditional law firm models while maximizing accessibility and convenience for the client.

Definition

Virtual Law Practice permits the attorney to interact with clients completely online through technological means. This removes the need for a brick and mortar office and the costs associated with one. The virtual law office also gives lawyers increased flexibility to work from practically anywhere at any time. Cloud computing, storage and software enable the attorney to essentially “bring the practice” on the road to anywhere with internet access. This in turn means: a) lower costs for clients; b) enhanced accessibility; c) increased flexibility; and d) high-standard legal service not otherwise seen online with businesses like Rocket Lawyer and Legal Zoom.

Virtual Law Offices can be defined any number of ways depending on who you ask. While technology plays a central role in their operation, the reality is that most, if not all firms are operating, at least in some sense, “virtually”.  Whether it is the use of cloud-based document storage or an SaaS (Software as a Service) accounting platform, like Intuit QuickBooks, most firms incorporate at least some measure of “Virtual” functionality into their operations.

A 100% Virtual Law Office incorporates multiple virtual functions into a law firm model that enables attorneys and support staff to access essential firm functions, documents and client files at any time and from anywhere.

Common characteristics

Virtual Law Firms commonly possess most, if not all, of the following characteristics:

 

    Lack of a traditional office space

    Secure Web-based client portal with unique client login credentials***

    Cloud document storage and access

    SaaS Accounting, Billing, Invoicing, Bookkeeping, Calendaring, etc.

    Video Conferencing and real time document collaboration

    Electronic signature capabilities

    Unbundled, Limited Scope or “a la carte” legal services

     Web-based phone and fax services

    Document Automation

    Virtual support services

    Minimal in-person contact with clients

Benefits

Virtual Law Firms offer a number of benefits to both the client and the attorney. These include:

 

    Extensive geographical reach

    Lean operations and operational flexibility

    24 hour accessibility to files and records from anywhere with an internet connection

    Scheduling flexibility

    Minimal operational expense and low overhead which can be converted into more attractive client pricing

    Client flexibility to work with the attorney from their home or work during traditional or non-traditional work hours when it fits into their daily routine

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