The November/December issue of the CBA’s National Magazine featured an article entitled “Workplace Transformation“. The article poses the question of whether the legal profession is ready to focus on methods of practice that emphasize the lawyer’s performance above presence. I was interviewed for this article because of my work in virtual law practice and unbundling. The article does not necessarily pertain to online delivery of legal services, but also focuses on lawyers who want to practice remotely but still provide full-service representation.
The National Magazine article provides a few updated resources and applications to use to deliver legal services online and work remotely. It also includes quotes from lawyers who have chosen to focus more on performance for their clients rather than on their workspace environments. My words of wisdom on the topic for the article:
“Time management and the ability to work independently is key. Technology is great because it gives you more freedom to work when and where you want to — and offers more ways to communicate with clients and with other firm members — but if you can’t manage your time and manage the technology, then it’s not going to work. So I say anyone considering e-law really needs to look at themselves and how they use technology and decide whether this is really something that is going to benefit them and work for them.”
My perspective has always been that a lawyer does not need to be in a traditional office environment in order to be the most productive and effective. As an introvert who does her best thinking and working away from others, the idea of working in a traditional law office environment has always been stifling. I managed to get several good years of mentoring in such an environment, but found that I was better able to work when I had more control over my own schedule.
When I teach law students and young lawyers about virtual law practice, I don’t recommend they start out in a virtual law office environment. Those few critical years of traditional office time were valuable and without mentors starting out lawyers won’t have the experience they need to learn the practical ins and outs of their specific area of practice. While there are some great sources for online mentorship, the best ones in my opinion are still the ones you can meet with in person. But once new lawyers have a few years of training under their belt, each has to figure out how they do their best work and what will best serve their clients. That may or may not include working remotely through the use of cloud-based services.