Recent technological advances as a result of continued research in the field of application software for smart mobile devices has paved the way for the emergence of virtual law firms. A virtual lawyer is essentially a self-employed lawyer who makes use of remote online access to the ever-growing population of smartphone users. These virtual lawyers can also be employed by an entirely virtual law firm, which operates exclusively via remote cloud-based management software, allowing the lawyers flexibility in their work schedule, while providing competitive fees to clients for on-demand services.
This rising phenomenon of on-demand legal services is unsurprising when one considers the great boom in mobile technology software in the last few decades; we are, after all, living in the age of information and technology. More and more people are using smartphones for a vast and continuously increasing array of functions and features. It is the most convenient platform for the majority of people to access whatever services they may be seeking, so it makes sense for businesses of all kinds to begin investing in cloud-based operations through mobile apps and online portals. The advent of virtual legal services is a direct result of this trend; it utilizes the diverse channels of outreach and service provision that these remote platforms host, allowing law firms to serve a broader clientele, including what may have previously been an inaccessible international client market.
With practically no overhead costs, a virtual lawyer has considerably reduced expenses, and therefore, can offer their full services at much a lower price to the clients. The majority of attorney-client interactions will be via remote internet access, i.e., through online portals and smartphone apps, or other means of remote communication, such as over the telephone or through emails and messaging services. The cases and contracts are managed through cloud-based practice management software, which is purpose-built for this industry. Routine work can thus be handled in its entirety without the lawyer or their clients ever having to expend the time and money to commute to one another for face-to-face consultations, and this does not dictate that all contracts will be fulfilled solely over remote online channels, as it is common for virtual lawyers to arrange appointments with their clients when necessary to further discuss the services they offer or the case in question. However, because of the mobile nature of freelance work, there is much more flexibility for the clients and lawyers both, when arranging the time and location of their meetings. As with any freelance worker, virtual lawyers have more agility, flexibility, mobility, and billable time, and, consequently, increased revenue.
There are two different kinds of virtual lawyers: those who work exclusively through remote channels, i.e., for a dedicated virtual law firm or a self-employed attorney, and those who are employed by a traditional law firm while also offering remote virtual legal services. In this type of arrangement, the virtual lawyer will be working under an umbrella law firm and thus sharing a percentage of their profits with this company, and it is often referred to as being rewarded on a profit share or a ‘pay-as-you-bill’ basis. These business models had to be developed to keep up with the impact of the still-adapting landscape of practice on the legal market.
Yet, this new approach to successfully operating a law firm in the digital age is constantly changing. Many remote management platforms offer analytics services to their users, which can help virtual law firms remain competitive with the services they provide and the fees they charge. They have to track overall financial performance metrics to keep up with the rapidly changeable demands of their clients and avoid becoming irrelevant or redundant. These businesses must be able to leverage the cloud-based technology at their disposal to be able to operate entirely digitally at a much lower cost of business than a traditional law office would be paying.
Potential clients may have concerns regarding the quality of the legal services available through such mediums, but virtual law firms provide the same high-quality legal services as any traditional law office would, with the additional benefits of having a more streamlined business model, more flexibility, and different (namely, more affordable) fee structures. For those seeking legal advice and representation, virtual lawyers have the distinct advantage of more flexibility and accessibility for their clients. The fees are lower, you won’t have to commute to their office, and the entire process will be handled much more efficiently, saving you precious money and time.
By optimizing the time spent interacting with clients, this remote, virtual model of business operation ensures the client receives high-quality communication for full-service representation, allowing virtual law firms to build stronger attorney-client relationships for improved client service.
What’s more, communication between colleagues collaborating on a case or project is also made more cohesive and coordinated, like tasks, deadlines, and meetings that can all be tracked and recorded within the same application software. Virtual lawyers can easily set up and manage both manually entered appointments and deadlines, as well as automated features for regular updates. Lawyers working on collaborative cases can take advantage of this cloud-based management software that supports secure online collaboration on matters and documents. The most updated versions of documents, contacts, and other resources are readily available and organized in one central database for more efficient processing.
In this new environment, firms that are ready to adapt will win the race. Especially those that have already partnered up with other service providers like phone interpreting platforms, that allow for instance to reach out to many new multilingual clients.
Despite the clear and numerous benefits of operating in a virtual space, there are, of course, a few critical drawbacks to consider. First and foremost, you will have to be aware of the projected future of your company. Someday your firm will outgrow your virtual office. As a law student soon to enter into the world of legal practice or a lawyer interested in transitioning into the virtual legal industry, you should also be cautious of your security, especially if you are working out of a shared space. It is also essential to consider where to draw boundaries between your work and personal life if you are working from home.