This year has brought the legal profession closer to the acceptance of virtual law practice as a method of delivering legal services through the use of technology. Virtual law practices are improving access to and affordability of legal services to the general public. For legal professionals, practicing law online provides the flexibility to create innovative and unique law practices that provide improved work/life balance in addition to professional success.
In this post I wanted to review some of the online articles related to virtual law practice that came out in 2009. As more virtual law firms launch in 2010, expect to see the tone of these articles change to include more detailed discussions about technology and ethics issues involved in the delivery of legal services online as well as discussions about different structures of virtual law practices that are now in the planning stages. This might include multi-jurisdictional virtual law firms with interesting fee and management structures, using a virtual law office as a non-profit to provide pro bono legal services, “cost-co” type firms with registration fees, and other unique ways that legal professionals are envisioning the use of the technology to collaborate with attorneys and clients online.
I work mostly with other solos and small firms who are opening virtual law practices, but I have spoken with many other attorneys who envision collaboration with others to expand their practices beyond the solo or small firm realm. More legal SaaS products are also entering the market, each with a different focus and concept about what virtual law practice can be. It will be interesting to see what develops in 2010 not only in terms of what structures individual attorneys come up with, but what new features and functionalities the technology will bring. There are also major changes in the legal profession happening in the UK and abroad that may serve as an influence here in the States.
Along with many others, I see great potential for virtual law practice to even the playing field for access to justice in our country. Of all of the benefits, I think this may be the most important goal for the profession to keep in mind as it moves forward in defining and supporting the use of technology to deliver legal services.
That said, here is a list of virtual law practice in the news in 2009. I’m going to limit myself to mostly North American news here to keep the list manageable, but be aware that similar articles are popping up within other countries’ legal professions. I’m also posting both the negative and the positive articles on the topic and they are in no particular order.
Know of any more? Feel free to pass them along.
Mid-Year Review of Virtual Law Practice in the News — a round-up post from January 2009 – July 2009 with links to articles
ABA eLawyering Task Force publishes Draft Minimum Guidelines for Virtual Law Practice
The Firms of the Future, Jordan Furlong, Law21
An Office Can be Virtual, but Client Service Can’t, Edward Poll, Canadian Bar Association, National Magazine
Virtually Legal: Bricks and borders place no restrictions on the growing wave of virtual lawyers, Alison Arnot, Canadian Bar Association, National Magazine
The Virtual Paralegal Podcast, The Paralegal Voice, Lynne DeVenny and Vicki Voisin
4 Steps to Starting a Virtual Law Office, Jay Fleischman, The Untethered Lawyer
Legal Implications of Cloud Computing — Part One, David Navetta, Information Law Group (not so much related to attorneys practicing law online, but a good explanation of “cloud computing”)
The Virtual Law Office — Not Your Father’s Cloud, Donna Seyle, Freelance Law Firm
Does the Future Belong to Virtual Law Firms?, Francesca Heintz, EDD Blog Online
Unbundled Legal Services Or Self-Represented Consumers? You Decide., Jay Fleischman, The Untethered Lawyer
Setting up a Web-based Virtual Law Office, Stephanie Kimbro, ABA GP/Solo & Small Firm Division Technology eReport
SaaS Security: Can you Trust your Data in the Cloud, Jack Newton, ABA GP/Solo & Small Firm Division Technology eReport
Disaster Ahead for Lawyers Unwilling to Change, Richard Susskind, ABA Journal Legal Rebels Blog
lawtechTalk Episode #5: Cloud Computing and Your Law Practice, Nicole Black, lawtechTalk
Adding a Virtual Law Office to your Practice, Stephanie Kimbro, Lawyerist