There has been much debate about the recent New Jersey opinion related to that state bar’s “bona fide office” rule. Around the same time, an inquiry was brought before the NC State Ethics Committee relating to the use of cloud computing in law practice management. Both events have caused some attorneys to once again question whether legal professionals should think outside the box when it comes to delivering legal services online.
When it comes to weighing benefits and risk, we attorneys tend to err on the side of caution and perhaps find it easier to turn a blind eye to the needs of our clients and the public for greater access to justice over the potential discomfort it causes us a business owners to implement changes in the way we operate our law practice. In spite of hesitant attorneys bringing inquiries to state bars and more traditional attorneys forever harping on what they perceived as the “good old days” of being a lawyer, other attorneys push forward in the field of elawyering. Let’s turn our focus back to them and to progress.
Virtual law practice is growing as attorneys and firms see the benefits of delivering legal services online. This form of law practice management provides a competitive advantage, especially for solos and small firms, which is hard to ignore in the current legal marketplace. However, a VLO is only one of the innovations in the area of virtual law practice. In this post I wanted to showcase some innovative law practices and highlight how they use technology to benefit their customer service and expand their practices. Not all of them contain secure client portals for working with their clients online, but may use other methods to either educate prospective clients about legal services or to collaborate with a network of other attorneys across jurisdictions.
Also note that these innovators are not just in BigLaw, but can be found in solos and small firms or are instigated by forward-thinking partners or associates at large firms who speerhead projects to push the use of technology. Of course this list is just a small sample, but I hope it motivates others to explore virtual law practice and consider how it might benefit different practice areas and clients.
- Rosen Law Firm – a wealth of online resources for prospective clients and other attorneys from video tutorials to child support calculators.
- Keystone Law Firm – a UK-based commercial law firm uses satellite offices coordinated by technology to a central administrative office location to “help small clients with one-off single issues as well as substantial organizations requiring on-going, multi-disciplinary advice across several different areas.”
- The Goitia Law Firm – offers online Florida unbundled legal services through a client portal with a focus on fixed fee prices.
- Field Fisher Waterhouse – the UK branch of this law firm has operated a Second Life office for several years where clients and prospective clients may meet with an avatar of the firm’s IP partner online. (If you go onto Second Life, look up Solomon Cortes.)
- Jones Walker – this firm recently opened a Second Life office as a common meeting and training space for the legal professionals in their different branches.
- Olea LLP – the two members of this firm, one located in Washington and the other in Toronto, Canada, use technology to provide Washington State Legal Services, including the delivery of pro bono services online.
- Rimon Law Group –This firm uses secure online video conferencing to meet with clients. The firm just hired its first “chief sustainability officer” to ensure that the large firm continues its eco-friendly practices.
- Freelance Law Firm – solo practitioner Donna Seyle uses technology to provide resources for other attorneys and law firms in need of outsourcing legal services.