Over the past month, I’ve heard from several attorneys who will be opening their own web-based virtual law practices. The following states are on board now: SC, IL, VA, AK, GA, TX, MD, TN and KY. Some attorneys are still in the process of speaking with their state bars about providing unbundled legal services. One solo practitioner is working with a law professor to write a manuscript that addresses the benefits and potential ethics issues that may arise in operating a VLO.
I’m excited about the growing number of VLOs, not only because I run a company that provides the web-based technology, but because most of the attorneys that I have spoken really see the value to the public of offering online unbundled legal services. While many in the public can turn to Nololaw and Legalzoom for legal document drafting, these options do not provide the public with direct and personal communication with a licensed attorney. A web-based VLO can provide this service and still keep the costs affordable for individuals who otherwise may not have been able to seek out an attorney.
Aside from generating additional online client revenue, the one thing I hear over and over again about why an attorney wants to open a VLO is because they are tired of spending more time working than living. Sometimes the comment is coming from a law partner who is fed up after putting in years at one firm and missing out on his or her children growing up. Or it’s from a newly graduated law student who does not want to end up like their overworked parents and wants to start out with flexibility from day one. There are different stories, but the underlying tone is that these professionals love practicing law and want to find a way to stay in the legal profession without sacrificing their personal lives.
I’ve said before that I don’t think virtual law practice is for everyone, and the risk is no different than hanging your own shingle as a solo on a brick & mortar law office. But if you really commit to the concept and the work that it takes to market it and to set up good practice standards for VLO management, then I believe virtual law practice can provide wonderful work/life balance for an attorney.
As for my own virtual law practice, this summer I am busy enjoying the benefits of running my own solo practice from home. The third year of solo VLO practice has brought more referrals and returning small business clients my way. It’s a sign that I must be doing something right. I’ve also honed down the advertising and marketing techniques that work best with my VLO which I hope to share with VLOTech clients when they hang their virtual shingles.
I will be co-presenting another CLE session for the NC Bar Association at the end of September. The session will be similar to the ABA TechShow’s popular “60 Websites in 60 Minutes.” Some of the websites I am presenting would be useful to the virtual law practitioner so I will be sure to post those links and info. after the CLE presentation.
As always, this blog is for discussing virtual law practice, especially ethics and a technology issues in operating a VLO. I welcome any questions or stories about virtual law practice that anyone wants to ask or share.