Every client-facing industry is undergoing changes due to the increased availability of technology and automation. These advances in technology and the increased usage of internet in everyday life make it necessary to have some form of virtual presence in order to run a successful business. Law firms are no different, and in fact, it is almost impossible to practice law without some form of virtual presence, such as email.
“Virtual Office” is one of the latest trends in the legal practice. Whether it is the use of cloud-based technology or a web-based accounting platform, most firms incorporate at least some measure of virtual functionality into their operations, however, there are some who are taking the whole law firm virtual and no longer have the traditional brick and mortar office. A 100% Virtual Law Firm is a fully connected, cloud-base practice. It incorporates multiple virtual functions which enable attorneys to access essential firm functions, documents and client files at any time and from anywhere. This does not necessarily mean giving up on any sort of physical office space or face-to-face interactions with clients, but it does mean placing an emphasis on both digital efficiency and cost efficiency.
There is a wide array of options available when it comes to setting up a virtual law firm. The basic package provides a business mailing address, with a la carte administrative services, while the most comprehensive package includes personal phone answering of a phone line(s), voicemail boxes, secretarial services, and access to conference room space. There's no "one-size-fits-all" mold, instead, the wide range of options allows attorneys to operate their firms based on their needs and the needs of their clients. Further, the business can change as these needs change over time.
Benefits of Using Virtual Law Firms
1) Economic Benefits
Perhaps the single major benefit of using a virtual law firm is the economic benefits since the rent for a traditional office space is usually the single biggest expense of any law firm. A virtual firm allows you to effectively cut out the day-to-day costs of operating a brick and mortar office. You will minimize both minor expenses, like office supplies, and major expenses, like employing full-time support staff and paying rent. This minimal operational expense and low overhead can even be converted into more attractive client pricing.
Further, a virtual law firm which makes use of cloud-based technology has lower costs, because it is less expensive than paying for software, local storage, and server hardware, which often requires an additional IT professional to manage these functions within the office. Also, use of web based softwares means no need for local in-house software installations and regular software updates and new features can be added instantly without disturbing the law firm's work flow. This use of technology will help make you more efficient which usually translates to more profit.
2) Extend Your Client Base
When you are tied to a traditional office, you tend to become limited by your geographic proximity to others. A virtual law firm presence enables you to extend the reach of your practice either through the state where you are licensed to practice, or nationally if you practice a federal specialty like immigration. You will gain the potential to reach brand new client bases and collaborate with other law firms and professionals from across the country.
Also, majority of business which provide virtual offices have branches throughout the state or the country, and they have plans which will gives you the flexibility to meet clients at different locations. This also allows you to easily meet with clients where it is most convenient for them.
The savings that use of virtual office brings you, allows you to spend more money on your online presence. This in turn will allow you to capture those clients who look solely to the web to find legal help. There is a huge market segment of potential clients which turn to the web to do almost anything, such as shopping, banking, booking travel, and entertainment. These clients expect that their attorneys will also work with them online.
By operating a virtual law firm you will be in a position to make good use of numerous productivity-enhancing technologies. Cloud-based technology in particular—such as Google Drive—allows you to cast off the shackles that tie you to a single location, to reach more people, and to be more productive and efficient. The use of internet and web technology, also allows your client to be able to work with you from their home or work during traditional or non-traditional work hours when it fits into their daily routine
4) Freedom to Work from Anywhere
A virtual law firm gives you the freedom to work from any location you desire. Work from home and spend more time with your kids. Head down to your favorite coffee shop and work from there. Use of virtual office provides you with a credible address for business communications and a professional, fully-equipped physical location to utilize when needed for face-to-face meetings with clients or anyone else. Further, you will have 24 hour access to files and records as long as you have an internet connection. Being able to work from anywhere and at any time, also gives you scheduling flexibility.
In the past, some of attorneys would opt to work from home which has its own pros and cons. However, working from home has one major security risk which is opening your house to potential clients. Use of a virtual law firm gives you all the benefits of working from home without the risks and concerns associated with that and allows you to maintain a business professionalism.
6) Environmentally Friendly
A virtual law firm is an environmentally friendly office. The use of cloud-based technology allows you to practically eliminate your use of paper. Also, no commute means drastically cutting down your carbon footprint.
Drawbacks of Using Virtual Law Firms
As with almost anything, there are some drawbacks to the use of virtual law firms. There can be a variety of distractions when you are working from home or at a coffee shop that you would not experience in an office setting.
Another major drawback is that the virtual law firm is not yours. Although you can use the conference rooms or day offices to meet clients, you cannot decorate them or make them feel like your own office space. Further, your access to the office space is limited to the business hours which can sometimes be an inconvenience.
Disclaimer: This post is meant for general informational purposes only, and it is not to be construed as legal advice. As with any laws, the information in this blog post may change at any time and may apply differently in different jurisdictions. The post may constitute Attorney Advertising as defined by the rules of professional responsibility of some jurisdictions. Holborn Law is based in Orange County and Riverside. The attorneys of Holborn Law APC are active members of the State Bar of California and licensed to practice law in California. All services relating to immigration and naturalization provided by Holborn Law APC are provided by active members of the State Bar of California or by a person under the supervision of an active member of the State Bar of California.