Lawyers work notoriously long hours at the office. Many attorneys report that they spend more than 60 hours working each week – the equivalent of holding both a full and part time job.
But solo and small law firms have a unique option when it comes to finding office space – opting to open a virtual law firm rather than renting an office or building.
The Advantages of a Virtual Law Firm
A virtual law firm is different from a traditional law firm. There are 4 key differences.
First, with a virtual law firm, there is no need for physical “headquarters” to meet with clients – all interactions are done completely online. Second, virtual law firms can operate with just one lawyer rather than a group of partners.
Third, virtual law firms capture the huge market of people searching for legal assistance online. Finally, virtual law firms make use of outside tools or services to fill in the gaps left by going virtual. More details on each of these differences follows.
No need for physical headquarters
Lawyers can save a considerable sum by choosing to open a virtual law firm instead of renting a building or office space for their practice. Rent is one of the largest expenses a law firm incurs each month, so doing away with it increases your cash flow.
It’s not only cost effective, but also immensely appreciated by clients for other reasons.
“My clients come to me with sensitive subject matter. They have to reveal potentially embarrassing or difficult things to me in order for me to accurately represent their case, and that’s tough for them to do in person. It’s harder to look someone in the eye while relating the events leading up to a divorce or filing for bankruptcy. Once I went virtual with my law firm, I kept hearing from clients that they really appreciated being able to communicate with me in such a convenient way.” – Geoff C. Mueller, attorney at law
Operate alone or with a partner – your choice
One of the best parts of opening a virtual law firm is the total freedom you’ll have. You can choose whether you want to work alone as a legal consultant or partner with other attorneys to build a true law firm. Even if you choose to work with a partner, there’s no need to work side by side or even in the same building. You can both work from home if you have the right services and tools in place to handle the workload.
If you choose to work alone, make sure you plan some time to be social each day or week – it’s all too easy to drift into wearing pajama pants and slippers every day if you don’t guarantee yourself some time out of the house with other people.
Capture the huge market of people looking for legal help online
There’s a huge market of people looking for legal assistance online. Check out this graph from Google Trends, which tracks the world’s searches for the term ‘online attorney’ over time and you’ll see that it’s a very common search. People clearly want to find reputable virtual law firms, and if you can provide that for them, you’ll have guaranteed clients.
As mentioned above in the quote from Geoff Mueller, legal clients are often reluctant to approach a lawyer in person with difficult confessions, questions, and reports of past events. Removing the barrier of face-to-face interaction makes it easier for these clients to be comfortable with their lawyer and give accurate information.
Fill in the gaps with outside services and tools
You can’t decide to go virtual with putting some strategies and plans in place, first. Whether you’re already running your own practice and want to go virtual or you’re still in the planning stages of starting your virtual law firm, your first step should be covering the tasks that are traditionally handled onsite. That includes reception, accounting, and client meetings.
You can view our plans for both virtual legal receptionists (answer phones, take messages, manage appointments) and virtual legal assistants (all of the above, plus random tasks like research, documentation, planning, and more) to determine which is right for your virtual law firm.
Check out sites like Upwork to find a reliable freelancer or outsourcing agency to delegate your accounting responsibilities to. Design a plan for holding client meetings – sites like GoToMeeting.com and apps like Skype are common choices.