For awhile now I have been interested in learning about virtual practice models that go beyond the purely web-based model that I operate. Over the past year, I’ve been talking to Chad Burton, the founder of Burton Law, LLC, to understand his firm’s structure and how it uses technology to operate. Burton Law launched at the beginning of 2011 and is based in Ohio. They offer legal services in several practice areas, including business, data privacy, dispute resolution, estate planning and probate and intellectual property.
What impressed me the most about this virtual law firm was that it does not have the traditional law firm hierarchy. Many of us who are solo practitioners became so because we had less than stellar experiences with the traditional firm structure of partners and associates – not to mention the billable hour requirements and other firm policies that did not allow us the flexibility we needed to serve our clients.
Burton Law’s virtual firm structure is unique because the attorneys are all “members” of the firm. There is a manager, but no partners. The often
least-liked aspects of operating a practice are taken care of by the firm, and the lawyers can focus on delivering quality services to their clients.
Burton Law has also figured out how to create an online firm culture among the attorneys which is a nice balance of support and water cooler content, not unlike the ABA Solosez’s listserv. To do this, Burton Law uses a cloud-based application called Yammer to create a private “Facebook”-like environment – a fun way to be connected while practicing independently. The lawyers in Ohio also get together in-person from time to time and collaborate on cases when it makes sense to do so.
As of this week, I have agreed to be “of counsel” and the director of a branch of the Burton Law LLC virtual law firm. I will be building a North Carolina branch of the firm with lawyers here in the state. While doing this, I will continue to operate my virtual law office, Kimbro Legal Services, LLC, as a solo practitioner.
The synchronization and use of cloud-based technology in the Burton Law firm structure also appealed to me. Burton Law currently uses Clio as its practice management software. It also uses Box, Google Apps (professional version), a virtual assistant and other systems. In the near future, I will be introducing the firm to direct online delivery of legal services to their clients and the unbundling of services. We will be using the Total Attorneys platform for this aspect of the firm’s work.
I see a lot of potential in this form of virtual practice to provide attorneys with the same flexibility that I have as a solo virtual practitioner. Joining Burton Law and taking on the responsibility for building the NC Branch of the firm will give me a better understanding of the model and where it may develop from here. I expect it to provide me with new insight and ideas to share with readers of this blog.
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