Virtual law practice, cloud computing, online practice management: these are aspects of what’s known as “elawyering.” Elawyering is lawyering using web-based technology. While the use of technology in the practice of law is nothing new, the speed of recent advances in online communication, storage, and transactions of all kinds has created a potentially confusing environment for new lawyers. Law students should be first in line to learn how online technologies can effectively deliver legal services.
One year ago, Steph Kimbro wrote on Lawyerist about law schools’ efforts to incorporate aspects of elawyering into professional skills instructions:
Realistically, any legal professional starting out today would be negligent to enter the practice without understanding how technology will play a role in his or her interactions with clients, other professionals and the justice system.
If your school hasn’t joined in, start with these resources to familiarize yourself with the possibility of a virtual law practice.
A good jumping-off point is the American Bar Association’s eLawyering Task Force website. There you’ll find simple explanations of what elawyering is and how you can anticipate using it in your practice. Be sure to check out the ABA’s Guidelines for the Use of Cloud Computing in Law Practice, released in May of this year. Standards like these can help you avoid malpractice if you plan on remotely storing client files.
Get to know the experts
There are several leaders in the elawyering field. Two of them, Richard Granat and Stephanie Kimbro, are heavily involved in (read: pioneered) platforms for delivery of legal services online, DirectLaw and VLO Tech (now Total Attorneys), respectively. I know from experience both of them are extremely approachable and active online. Get a basic understanding of the concepts. Then seek out the experts to answer your questions. Most of the people at the forefront of the elawyering movement will be happy to help. They understand you’re the future of the profession.
Try out the tech
Once you have a basic understanding of what elawyering is and isn’t, and have poked around in the community of people who really know this stuff, give it try for yourself. Sign up for remote document storage, like Dropbox, and experiment with sharing files and folders. Imagine what you would want if you were obtaining legal services online. Better yet, become a client to someone who practices online. (You know you really should have a will, right?) Finally, don’t worry about trying to learn everything at once. Just be aware of the issues and commit small amounts of time to learning about elawyering, bit by bit.
For a roundup of recent articles, opinions, and analysis of elawyering news, check out Steph Kimbro’s recent post on her Virtual Law Practice blog.