Exhibitor Hall at this year’s ABA Techshow has a number of different web-based technologies that allow for attorneys to take all or portions of their practice online. Most of them seem to be practice management applications, and not so much geared towards working online securely with clients. However, there are a few new developments that assist virtual law practice that warrant mention.
DirectLaw and VLOTech are again this year the two products intended for the online delivery of legal services. (By way of disclaimer, and as most of my readers know, my husband and I co-founded VLOTech which was acquired by Total Attorneys this past fall). Both products are SaaS, but with different features and focuses so they will appeal to different types of law practices. Both products facilitate the unbundling of legal services online and from my exploration of the exhibitors’ booths there are not any other products at the show this year that focus on unbundling legal services for online clients. DirectLaw has recently launched a new site for members of the public to locate a virtual law firm, MyLawyer.com. If you operate a virtual law practice, you should see about getting a listing in their directory.
Rocket Lawyer, a company that has partnered with Lexis, has branded their suite of services “Web Law Office” and provides a rehashing of the LegalZoom method but also connects the clients filling out legal forms to attorneys who may be able to then meet with those online clients in-person. Expect to see more technologies specifically designed for attorneys to deliver legal services online coming down the pipeline in the near future as other technology companies attempt to integrate this capability into their existing software features.
This year there are more web-based products that are offering services that might be used to create what I’ll call a piecemeal virtual law practice or at least allow the attorney work with the client online for some portion of the legal matter, whether that is invoicing and online payment, calendaring and communication. I’ve written before about the benefits of having the entire communication with the client stored securely online in one space, including security and ED reasons. But many attorneys are preferring to dip their toes into cloud computing slowly when it comes to working with their clients online and this is the way they are doing it.
Attorneys are using these products to allow clients to communicate with them through client extranets, encrypted email exchange, document storage, calendaring, online billing and invoicing and other features to take a portion of the legal services delivery process online. Some exhibitors that are providing these services that I’ve run across inlclude Clio, Rocket Matter, Dialawg, IOCOM, IVCi, mindShift Technologies, PBWorks, and Scribl. Most of the products here are still geared towards assisting attorneys with legal research, securing email communications, law practice management tasks and firm administration rather than the direct online delivery of legal services. They are all worth keeping an eye on if you are interested in the development of virtual law practice.
There is one disconnect I’m seeing at Techshow between the exhibitors and the sessions. The sessions themselves are geared toward virtual law practice, online social networking, emarketing, security in the cloud and using the Internet to market your services to clients. If you are pulling in clients to your firm using online methods of marketing, won’t those same clients want to work with you to obtain legal services from start to finish online? Of course. Accordingly, I would expect to see more companies in the exhibitor hall stepping up to the plate to facilitate this need as solos and small firm attorneys seek out methods of tapping into that large market base of clients seeking online legal services through a virtual law practice.
So far Techshow is a motivating ride. I’ll be coming back to work on my own virtual law office full of energy and ready to try out some new emarketing methods.