In order to stay competitive, today’s lawyers must be able to look to the future while also understanding the lessons of the past. In the modern legal world, this requires a clear understanding of how technology and the all-encompassing nature of the internet have changed the face of legal practice. Specifically, in recent years the field has seen significant growth in virtual law practices. This push towards “e-lawyering” is something that today’s legal professionals will have to contend with as the internet grows even more in its use.
What Is Virtual Lawyering?
Virtual lawyering is a form of legal practice that uses web-based tools to interact with clients.These practices are shifting their primary business model towards one that is handled primarily online.
According to the American Bar Association, these virtual firms have several key features, which are follows:
- -The use of cloud-based technology to run the firm.
- -Working outside of a traditional brick-and-mortar office.
- -Using a virtual assistant for administrative tasks.
- -Using an online client portal for client communication and delivery of legal services.
While there is some room for variation, such as a brick-and-mortar practice that offers some services in a virtual environment, these four components seem to be common to the virtual firm.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Virtual Law Practice:
Virtual lawyering has a number of benefits, both for the lawyer and for the client. Most clients turn to these services in hopes of saving money. Because the lawyer is able to lessen the overhead for running a firm, it’s possible for the firm to offer services at a lower rate. Certain types of legal services, like family law and estate planning, lend themselves well to this sort of virtual arrangement, and because these cases have many similarities from one client to the next, a lower cost of service is possible. Lawyers benefit from the more flexible nature of a virtual practice. A young lawyer who has family at home may not want to put in the grueling hours required at a large law firm, but can use a virtual practice to continue to practice law while enjoying more time with family at home. With a virtual firm, a lawyer would have the freedom to move to another location without losing an entire client list, even traveling overseas while maintaining an active practice.
The Inherent Risk of eLawyering:
In spite of the benefits, eLawyering is not a perfect solution. There are risks and drawbacks to this new structure as well.
One risk that both client and lawyer need to understand is the risk common to all cyber businesses. Even the most secure website, chat room and messaging system is vulnerable to hacking. For highly sensitive cases, virtual lawyering is not the most secure option.