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Are You Cut Out to be a Virtual Lawyer?

Virtual law is a fairly new concept in the legal community. Many businesses have been truly successful while only offering an online “store front.” The reality is, many industries have learned to use the tools of technology to become more efficient and to attract new customers. For many attorneys, a Virtual Law Office (VLO) is that tool. Basically, a VLO is a tool used by attorneys to do their work using the web and provide legal services to clients primarily online.

Do you have what it takes to effectively run a VLO? Here are 3 simple questions you have to ask yourself before taking the plunge:

1. Can you focus on pure transactional and / or counseling?

2. Do you have an interest and willingness to keep up with technology?

3. Are you a sharer?

If you’ve answer yes to all the above then you might have the knack to be a virtual lawyer.

1. Can you focus on pure transactional work?

Clients are becoming more and more sophisticated in their legal knowledge and providing full legal service is becoming more difficult in today’s environment. Limited, unbundled, transactional, or whatever you wish to call it is the way to go. With that in mind, you have to ask yourself what areas of the law lend themselves to be more transactional than others, or how can you be, let me dare say it, CREATIVE to provide transactional work for clients. Some clients wish to do it themselves and seek counseling on their terms. Business, bankruptcy, estate planning, family law — these are just some the areas where attorneys with VLOs have made a mark. A VLO doesn’t have to be all or nothing proposition. If you want to convert limited service clients to full service– that’s okay. It’s your business you can do what you want. Well, you can do what you want within the ethic rules of your jurisdiction that is.

2. Do you have an interest and willingness to keep up with technology?

Having an online law office is all about the technology. There is no way to get past it. If you already are savvy in this area then you are ahead of most attorneys. Take what you know, increase your tech-know and make it work for you. One thing I have learned in my short time as a virtual lawyer is that I don’t have to know it all, but I have to be willing to learn and grow. Technology involves not just marketing yourself by blogging or posting on social media sites. Consider how you will perform your work, and what’s the best way to communicate with clients. What virtual practice management platforms or software will you use for correspondence? Even the simplest avenue such as telephoning takes some additional thought. For example, do you go with a free phone service or pay for a virtual receptionist to answer your calls? Will you have a completely online office or limited office space to meet clients face to face? Do what you are most comfortable with and what makes sense for your practice area.

3. Are you a sharer?

Becoming a virtual attorney requires a commitment to share your knowledge, skills, and expertise without the billable hour attached. You have to be willing to share not only your thoughts and ideas but others point of view. Of course, this will all be done over the public domain of the internet. Nonetheless, this is the most effective means to market your virtual practice and your personal commitment to your clients. How do you share? 1) Blogging for the benefit of clients, other attorneys, or just sharing your opinion, or 2) Commenting or posting about articles that you have or clients might have an interest in. Remember the days when we were told to keep abreast of clients interests, and if we came across an article or wrote an update on case law that could be of interest to them, we should mail them a copy? Think of this in the same way but you save on the stamp.

Becoming a virtual attorney gets your creative juices flowing. This is not a one size fits all. Today’s technology provides you with the choice as to how you want to practice law and be of service. Keeping abreast of our ever changing environment shows an obligation to learn more and more about how to use virtual technology to make the practice of law more accessible and more effective for clients.

Please share your thoughts on what it takes to be a virtual attorney in the comments.

About the Author

Tenicia Vanzant practices law from her virtual law office in her home state of Michigan. She focuses on helping small businesses with an emerging interest in alternative energy law. Tenicia strives to be efficient in all areas of her life and that includes the business of the law. She uses social media, software and online law firm management to run her online law office. Her motto is “there’s always room for improvement”. She can be reached at tvanzant@orionlegalservices.com

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2 Comments

  1. Matt Vititoe says:

    Your article applies to every attorney who wants to keep up with modern trends in the marketing, the law and practice management.

    • tenicia vanzant says:

      Yes, Matt. I believe it does. I am one of those attorneys. These are exciting times and there’s much room to learn and grow in the practice of law.