Virtual law firms have endless benefits and perks, but may not be ideal for all attorneys. The concepts of working remotely and virtual firms aren’t new. Using the newest and improved technology to practice law has been around for ages. The growing demand by the public to use technology to receive quick and efficient legal services has supported this trend of virtual firms being a fast-growing sector of the profession.
A virtual law firm doesn’t have to be solely online. While it can be completely online, the firm has options to establish a physical presence. A virtual firm can meet with clients in-person or over the phone when necessary. What’s more, a virtual firm can also maintain a brick and mortar office or offices. Whether a firm has just an online presence or follows a hybrid model, the benefits remain the same.
While there are many benefits to virtual firms, the following are some of the most prominent.
- By cutting overhead costs, firms can increase profits. Firms can save a ton by getting rid of rent or a mortgage for office space, bundling technology services, and outsourcing staff.
- Firms are able to recruit and maintain the best talent whether it be attorneys or support staff. “Eliminating geographic hiring barriers expands the talent pool exponentially.”
- Less stress and time saved creates greater work/life balance and greater flexibility. A healthy work/life balance includes higher productivity, flexible scheduling, better health, avoidance of office politics, and development of new skills.
- Without having strictly physical ties to a particular location, firms have a competitive advantage by having the “ability to expand client base across jurisdictions.” Firms aren’t bound to clients only within in their home state.
- Virtual firms are better for the environment by generating less office waste and by allowing attorneys to shorten or eliminate their commute altogether. The less amount of attorneys with a permanent physical presence, the smaller their carbon footprint.
Unlike traditional firms, virtual law firms have their own unique set of challenges. These challenges are just some of the reasons why traditional law firms can and will continue to exist as a business model. In consideration of operating a virtual firm, one must ask:
- Is client information and data secure? Operating digitally and operating in shared spaces heightens privacy issues and necessitates close protection of client information and data.
- Are attorneys and legal staff competent to handle the needs of clients? In addition to the ABA’s rule that lawyers must be competent in terms of “legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation,” lawyers must have technological competence.
- Are attorneys authorized to practice in other jurisdictions? Courts are split on whether attorneys at firms without physical offices are unauthorized in their practice of law. While each state differs, most states seem to be flexible in their consideration of what establishes an office.
- Is reasonable communication confidential? Not only do lawyers need to meet the guidance of the ABA’s Rule 1.4, such communication requires a greater need for protection in the virtual space.
FirmVO was founded in 2017 with the vision of offering attorneys the first national, turn-key virtual office and virtual office solutions including a prestigious office address, professional receptionist, telecommunications technology, virtual video depositions, and other services. The company currently operates in seven states and is expanding to legal hubs nationally and internationally.
Aaron Pozanski, FirmVO’s founder and co-chief executive officer, believes virtual law firms are the future, but also recognizes the potential issues with virtual firms. “We understand the challenges that virtual law firms face. In building our company, we specifically crafted our offerings to address the needs of our clients, the wants of our clients, and the ethical issues surrounding virtual firms.” Ponzanski continued, “FirmVO strives to ensure that its services allow firms and clients to operate in the most ethical manner possible.”
Virtual and traditional firms alike have the same goal: stay in business by providing excellent, ethical legal service. To be successful, both require competent attorneys that provide high quality work in the most cost efficient way possible. In deciding whether to operate as a virtual or traditional firm, it’s necessary to evaluate the needs and wants of firm management, attorneys, support staff, and clients to determine what model is best for your firm.