Update: The appendix to the book Delivering Legal Services Online, contains a much more in-depth definition section covering elaywering, virtual law practice, cloud computing and other technology terms related to the online delivery of legal services.
Virtual Law Practice Terminology for Beginners
Given the rapid development of Web 2.0 applications to provide online legal services, I decided to create this mini-primer which will have to be updated regularly. Feel free to contact me with suggestions and additions. I’ve noticed a lot of confusion of terminology regarding online legal services so I thought this resource might be useful.
eLawyering — The term means the practice of law online and includes everything from form-generated documents for sale and purchase to emailing your clients from unencrypted “contact us” forms on attorney websites. The ABA has an eLawyering Taskforce that covers these issues. Virtual law practice is one form of elawyering.
Virtual Law Practice — A professional law practice that exists online through a secure portal and is accessible to the client and the attorney anywhere the parties may access the Internet.
Virtual Law Office (VLO) — A web-based law office which allows for the attorney and his or her clients to securely discuss legal matters online, download and upload documents for review and handle other business matters in a secure digital environment, including all of the backend management functions of a traditional law office. A VLO may be the sole software used by the virtual attorney or may be used in conjunction with a traditional law office to provide online legal services to clients.
Virtual Lawyer — A licensed professional providing legal services through a virtual law office to online clients.
Virtual Legal Assistant — A professional legal assistant who accesses the virtual law office and assists the virtual lawyer remotely. See Virtual Assistance for a Virtual Law Practice.
Mobile Lawyering/Mobile Attorney — An attorney who makes use of mobile devices to practice law either with a virtual law office or in conjunction with a traditional law office.
Web-based Law Practice Management Tools — Web-based, software as a service (SaaS) applications used in conjunction with other law office software to conduct administrative and management tasks, such as billing and time management, online.
Paperless Law Office (also termed a “Green Law Office”) — A law practice that attempts through the use of technology to reduce or eliminate the amount of paper and law office waste that it generates.
Virtual Reality Law (also termed Virtual Law) — This refers to the development of law in virtual reality worlds, such as the Second Life Bar Association.
Virtual or Online Attorney Collaboration — Attorneys using technology to collaborate on legal cases or to network and share resources within the legal profession. Some online collaboration communities include VLOTech, JDSupra, Lexpertise, LawLink. The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell is a good resource.