Here is the revised version of the Practicing Law Online ebook, which I first released in 2008 and updated in 2010.
This revised edition of the ebook examines different business models for virtual law firms and goes beyond solos and small firms to apply the concept of virtual practice to larger firms and in-house legal departments. The ebook walks the reader through the process of choosing a virtual law firm business model and examines methods of online delivery that work best with the firm’s practice area and client base. I also incorporated some of the design methodology and design thinking process I have learned here at Stanford.
The updated 2nd edition of the full book has a lot more detail, including checklists and policies and procedures, and goes into topics such as online marketing, developing a virtual law firm business plan, ethics issues and best practices. The second edition of the book is with the publisher right now and should be out by the spring of 2015. I hope my readers enjoy this new edition of the ebook. Please consider checking out the full book in the spring. It’s full of case studies from law firms of all sizes as well as an appendix of sample documents, checklists, and ethics resources.
The first publication of this ebook was created as a way for me to address all of the questions I was receiving from lawyers when I would give presentations about virtual law practice. Questions about ethics issues and cloud computing came up back then. Lawyers wanted to have a virtual law office, but they were hesitant because they did not understand how the technology would work and how that would comply with their jurisdictions rules. This first ebook was intended as a basic guide for setting up a virtual law office and geared towards solos and small firms.
Back in 2008 there was still a lot of controversy around the use of cloud computing in law practice – yes, basic cloud computing for practice management. There was even more controversy around delivering legal services to clients online. Only a handful of states had issued ethics opinions on the topic at that time and lawyers had a ton of questions, most of which related to ethics and malpractice concerns. A lot of misinformation was flying around. Jack Newton, founder of Clio, Larry Port, founder of Rocket Matter, Richard Granat, President of DirectLaw, and myself got together by phone for the first Legal Cloud Computing Association call to discuss how we could set industry standards, reassure state bars and lawyers, and counteract some of the false statements that were going around about cloud computing. A couple of us even sat in on state bar ethics committees and spent a considerable amount of our unpaid time advising and evangelizing to make sure restrictive rules and opinions that did not make sense from a technology perspective did not make it to print. So that first ebook, which has had hundreds of downloads since I released it, spent a lot of text looking at how SaaS and cloud computing work, what the benefits and risks of virtual law practice are, and how to apply best practices to avoid ethics issues.
This time around revising the ebook I did not feel the need to focus on the same content. Many state bars have either published formal or advisory opinions approving of virtual law practice or third-party hosting of law office data. There is less skepticism about the consumer demand for online legal services and our profession’s ability to deliver it while complying with the rules of professional conduct. There are more hybrid virtual firms – traditional law practice incorporating some form of online delivery. More law firms are finding ways to unbundle their legal services which also facilitates online delivery. I receive fewer questions about ethics concerns and more about the successful online marketing of online services. I’m glad that I have my strong tech and ethics background for these questions, but I’ve had to learn a lot about business planning and management, online marketing and design to keep up.
Thank you to those who have worked with me over the past ten years to develop and support the concept of virtual law practice. Future innovations on the model are no doubt on their way in the New Year.