Remote work is becoming more and more popular, especially with budding lawyers. Before the internet, lawyers had to incur massive overheads to start their own practice. Now virtual law firms can help attorneys and their clients lower costs and transportation complexities for good.
What is a Virtual Lawyer?
A virtual lawyer is an attorney that can discuss legal means with their clients on the internet, usually through video chat. Although it’s common for lawyers to speak with their clients on the phone for a consultation, traditional firms will need to see their clients in person at some point.
However, a virtual criminal defense lawyer, like the ones at Middlesexcountycriminallaw.com, don’t have to see their clients in person unless necessary. This makes it easier for clients to speak to their lawyers anytime, anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection.
What is a Virtual Law Practice?
Do virtual lawyers work for a virtual law practice? Not necessarily. Some lawyers will work virtually for a limited time, or they may be the only virtual lawyer in the firm.
A virtual law practice will possess most, if not all, of the following characteristics:
- Virtual support services, even for personal topics
- A home office and/or no traditional office space
- Secure web-based client portals with unique logins
- Cloud document storage, access, and security
- SaaS systems, like invoicing, billing, and accounting
- eSignature capabilities, usually though a SaaS system
- Web-based phone or fax services (if they have fax)
- Secure email conversations and document sharing
- Limited Scope or Unbundled legal services
- Automation, especially for documents
- Little to no in-person contact with clients
A virtual law practice has to rely heavily on technology to support its business model. With the use of technology, lawyers can bring their practice “on the road,” which lowers costs for clients, allows for enhanced accessibility, increases flexibility, and access to better advice.
Are Virtual Law Practices on the Rise?
According to the most recent data, only 7% of attorneys refer to their practice as virtual. 35% of attorneys think that virtual practices or appointments are the best way to interact with their clients. However, this data was taken in 2015, so this attitude has likely changed since 2020.
Due to the pandemic, lawyers had no choice but to connect with their clients over the internet. There’s a high likelihood that lawyers are changing their minds as they see how easy and convenient it is to communicate online. Still, security seems to be a challenge for lawyers.
Cloud-based services are safer than your own computer’s hard drive and traditional phone lines if you work with the right provider. Plus, the cloud can allow you to sign documents quickly.
How Do Virtual Law Practices Save Time?
Why do people hate going to the doctors, hairdressers, or other appointment-based services? Because clients, patients, or customers rarely get seen at the time their appointment should have begun. This makes it impossible for anyone to plan their day around these services.
Since customers, clients, and patients expect to wait half an hour or longer for their appointment, they aren’t in a rush. So even if everything is running like clockwork, at least one person is going to be late, which disrupts the rest of the day. Virtual appointments can help here.
With virtual appointments, clients looking for a lawyer don’t have to book time off of work, travel, or wait in the office. They’re called when they’re called. If someone is late, they cut their time down and can hang up when the next call is meant to begin. It’s a win-win for everyone.
But that’s not all. Lawyers also save time by unbundling their services. At a virtual office, clients only have to sign one form. The attorney can sign the rest with the forms they have on file.
How Can You Become a Virtual Lawyer?
Making your law firm virtual isn’t too difficult, but the transition may make you experience a few growing pains. Here’s how lawyers can start taking more clients on an online platform.
• Know What Ethics and Rules to Follow
Some states require that all lawyers have a physical office space. That doesn’t mean you can’t help clients virtually, but it does mean you can’t be entirely virtual. You also have to make sure you protect your client’s data and maintain client confidentiality by encrypting online interactions.
• Build a Roadmap for Your Virtual Practice
Opening a virtual law practice requires most of the same steps as opening a traditional law firm. You’ll need to plan accordingly to start off on the right foot. Here are some steps to consider:
- Make a Business Plan: Create a business plan that sets measurable goals and outlines your business’s vision. Don’t forget to analyze the market and make a financial plan.
- Have a Communication Plan: Outline how you’ll communicate with clients over the internet. Will you use email, video conferencing software, live chat, or phones? Will you take advantage of online booking software and other cloud-based solutions?
- Plan for Client Intake: Traditionally, law firms will use intake forms and consultations. WIth software, you can do all of that, and more. Plus, software quickens the process.
- Create a Marketing Plan: To market yourself online, you’ll need an SEO-optimized website that makes it easy for your clients to find you. You need to invest in content creation and look at alternative marketing styles, like influencer and affiliate marketing.
If you already have clients, ask if they’d be willing to switch to online sessions temporarily. This can help you get the kinks out of your virtual practice and provides flexibility to your clients.
• Take Notes From Other Traditional Law Firms
Whether you already have a traditional law firm or you’ve worked for one, you’ll realize that a virtual law practice runs similarly to brick-and-mortar firms. If you’re currently transitioning, don’t rush the process. You don’t have to go virtual all at once or run your firm entirely online. You can click here for more help.
Modern traditional law firms are streamlining tasks by switching to phone scanners or eSignature software, so you may already have these in place. If not, look into any software that automates some of your processes. For example, invoicing software or CRM software.