Jul 19, 2023
This article has originally been featured in Forbes
Law firms have been reimagined with a much leaner real estate footprint, and many of the traditional components have been either outsourced or digitalized. This allows such law firms to revolutionize the way legal services are delivered. Such models offer a win-win for lawyers and clients alike: cut costs by using technology instead of using associates and paralegals, pass those savings on to clients and be more efficient and responsive at the same time.
Given these intrinsic advantages, it should come as no surprise that virtual law firms are on the rise. The shutdown and disruptions caused by Covid have provided a further impetus to this trend. For example, it would take an attorney the whole day to drive to the courthouse, park, wait for the judge to call their case, argue the matter, then drive back to the office. Now the same matter can be handled through Zoom and court filings can be filed online. However, after these measures were instituted, I’ve seen how the opposition to such virtual measures has eroded as the real savings in time and money to all parties concerned have become very clear.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, I already had a thriving virtual firm with an established infrastructure while big law firms were adjusting from traditional model to virtual. This is the year when I represented clients in many different fields: corporate, immigration, product liability case, personal injury, franchise, trademark. With this experience, I’ve witnessed many of these advantages firsthand.
Virtual law firms should aim to offer a number of benefits to clients to create a more cost-effective and efficient option for legal services. For those interested in working a virtual practice, here are some tips for businesses hiring a virtual law firm and what to look out for:
Finding A Virtual Law Firm Right For You
1. Reputation And Reliability
Businesses rely on well-reputed AM-LAW 100 law firms for established presence, reputation, reliability and high success rate. However, there are attorneys out there who can render excellent legal services while keeping the legal budget of a business at a much reasonable extent. But with the rise of virtual legal services, businesses should conduct a thorough research on the attorney, look at the bar website for licensing credentials, schedule a call to assess the knowledge of the attorney, ask for past client testimonials. In legal cases, there is a dearth of predictive analytics to determine the outcome of matter, but oftentimes the outcome is determined by two factors: skills of the practitioners and case management.
The American Bar Association in its preamble for the Model Professional Rules of Conduct states, “As a representative of clients, a lawyer performs various functions.” Businesses must ensure the scope of engagement is memorialized in writing through a legal services agreement. Whether a firm is virtual or brick-and-mortar, this requirement goes without saying. But what has improved is the delivery of such agreements via DocuSign or any Legal CRM software such as CLIO. This exemplifies how a basic tenet of entering into attorney-client relationship can be done online.
Businesses that need attorneys to be more hands-on should inquire how work assignment is delegated in a virtual law firm. If there is no in-house staff, then ask about the type of outsourcing the virtual law firm does to complete the work.
4. Human Touch
Attorneys from virtual law firms are not only meant to be behind the screen. If you work with an attorney such as for outside general counsel services and the attorney is basically your legal department outsourced, then it is expected for the attorney to visit the client, understand the business models, talk with the employees of the client if need be. Depending on the area of practice of law, the human touch factor varies.
Businesses, even with a hefty legal budget, can consider virtual law firms, if the firms meet the aforementioned factors, and use the opportunity to spend some of the legal budget elsewhere in the company, such as research and development or other revenue generating department.. While this may be truer with increasing supply cost, inflation, and businesses’ inclination for austerity to manage cash inflow and outflow, nevertheless, businesses may find its cost effective to work with attorneys in a virtual setting.
The image of shiny law firms housed in tall skyscrapers, with well-adorned conference rooms and young associates scrambling and staying until 4 a.m. to work on a brief, is being replaced by attorneys with their own practices using cloud-based software and client management tools to interact with clients. Today’s modern attorneys have technology at their disposal to respond to clients while designing a work-life integration where attorneys can explore their hobbies, spend time with loved ones, practice law and serve clients without the constraints of billable hours. As technology continues to advance, I believe virtual law firms are likely to become an integral part of the legal landscape, permanently reshaping the way legal services are delivered and accessed globally.