Yesterday I received an email from a member of the ABA Division for Legal Services regarding the upcoming hearings to be held by the Standing Committee on The Delivery of Legal Services. The Committee plans to examine the use of technology to deliver legal services online and will listen to presentations by technology providers and attorneys regarding the technologies used and any policies that governs its use. The Committee will then determine from the hearings whether the creation of policies is needed to assist practitioners in providing online legal services.
It’s during opportunities such as these when I sincerely wish I had a gift for public speaking and at least an ounce of charisma with which to transmit my ideas in front of a live group of people. Unfortunately, I am a writer and more comfortable with a keyboard than a video camera and microphone. I am going to submit to the committee my ebook which I have just finished entitled “Practicing Law Online: Creating a Web-Based Virtual Law Office.” The ebook discusses the Web 2.0 technology used to practice law online and also looks at ethics considerations and malpractice risks while making best practice recommendations for operating a virtual law office.
I wish there were a way to share with the Committee the positive responses that I have received over the past two and half years from my online VLO clients and from the public in general to the delivery of legal services online. I have formed close relationships with my clients and all of our communications were conducted through my VLO, never face to face.
If you can please allow a moment of bragging, recently, a first-time client of mine was so pleased with the online services I provided that she emailed a referral to her 100+ person mother’s group recommending my services and providing all of my online VLO information. I have small business clients that come back repeatedly and refer their other small business friends. They tell me that my online services are efficient, fairly priced and most important to them, convenient for the entrepreneur starting a new business who is often working a 9-5 job while getting off the ground. They enjoy the ability to pay online, set up payment plans through the system and check on their legal matters 24/7 whenever it best suits them.
I hope that whatever policies the Committee comes up with will respect the fact that each individual virtual attorney may operate his or her VLO using different technologies and combinations of technology. It should be the responsbility of the virtual attorney, as I have written in previous posts, to make sure that they understand the security and technology used by the VLO hosting company. As with traditional law practices, I believe it is the resonsibility of the individual virtual attorney to create policies and standards for their virtual law practice that compy with his or her state bar’s rules and regulations for ethics and professional conduct.
My fear is that the delivery of legal services online may be restricted through any policies created by the Committee due to a lack of understanding regarding the security of the technology. They may not be aware of the ability of features to be created within the VLO system that can provide safe and ethical communications between attorneys and the public, such as the conflict of interest checks, establishing the attorney/client relationship, jurisdiction checks, notice of unbundled services, etc.
VLOTech is a small, family-owned company. We are growing quickly and forming new relationships with other attorneys interested in virtual law practice every day. It’s an exciting time. It’s clear to us from the responses we receive that a revolution is quietly happening in the area of the delivery of online legal services. It’s driven primarily by the public’s desire for these services and secondarily by attorneys, largely solos and small firm practitioners, who want to use the flexibility of the technology to practice law for a variety of reasons. There is no way VLOTech can pull together for a presentation in two weeks all of the research and positive feedback that we have assembled over the past three years and about which we are so excited to share with VLOTech attorneys and their clients.
Instead, I will be submitting my ebook which covers a lot of our research and hopefully this will be accepted for consideration by the Committee. If you would like a free copy of my ebook, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will also write a post about the hearings following the presentations and let my readers know what happens as far as any statements or policies issued by the Committee that may affect virtual law practice. If you would like to view the online hearing, details about the presenters and schedule will be posted on The Standing Committee on The Delivery of Legal Services’ website.