In late February 2018, I released a column titled “Recession Proofing – Why Now? Perhaps the Better Response is Why Not?” It struck a...
The Future Is Now: (Dis)Advantages of Virtual Law Firms
If you own a business of any sort, having an online presence is mandatory if you want to keep up with the competition. Law firms are no exception. Most have – at the very least – a website, however, some firms are moving their practice online 100%.
How then, does the law firm do its business with no piles of files, no seating area for potential clients and no calls being answered: “Thank you for calling the law offices of (fill in the blank) how may I help you?”
The answer lies on the internet, which is where so many other businesses are not just surviving – but thriving – if they manage their online presence with the same tenacity and care that they handle their cases and clientele.
The Benefits of Virtual Law Firms
Aside from abiding by the rules, regulations, and laws that you already follow, running a virtual law firm has a host of benefits that translate into flexibility and freedom.
- You’ll Increase Your Customer Base: The younger generation is accustomed to doing business online. Your chances of getting clients in their late teens and 20’s will boost because they appreciate and understand the conveniences of operating an online business – and how they can benefit from it. The “unknown” factor is non-existent.
- You’ll Lower Your Bottom Line: Gone are the days of making that monthly payment to cover your rent or lease agreement. When you operate your business online, your office is the world wide web, and there’s no monthly payment for operating out of that space.
- You’ll Have More Tax Write-Offs: As a business owner, you’re likely applying all or most the tax write-offs available already. Because virtual law firms are typically run from the comfort of your home, you’ll be able to write off a portion of your mortgage because your home is used for professional purposes.
- You’ll Save Time: Because you have no physical office to drive to every day, you’re adding time to your day. Plus, there are no more days packed with one face to face meeting after another.
- You’ll Be Mobile: When you run an online business, you can do your work from anywhere. A virtual law firm and the laptop lifestyle go hand in hand because you can complete and submit paperwork and run meetings from the comfort of your own home – or many cases – your hotel room.
The Challenges of Virtual Law Firms
For all the fun perks that may make running a virtual law firm seem like a no-brainer, there are some potential drawbacks that you’ll need to consider.
- You’ll Have to Work Harder at Building Relationships: There is something to be said for the bond that comes along with a lawyer and their client. While it is a relationship built on business, the communications can be very deep and emotional. A client leans on their lawyer for support, so you’ll need to put forth a special effort to create and maintain that all-important trust factor.
- You’ll Have a Learning Curve: All systems need to be in order. This includes investing in the proper software to make sure your cases and clients are handled just as well as they would be if you were working at a law firm elsewhere. A collaborative cloud software program will allow you to communicate effectively with your co-workers regarding cases, tasks, and projects.
- Finding Help Might Be Hard: In a perfect world, you would find the right employees who are just as committed to working as efficiently as productively as you. But the fact is, not everyone is good at working independently. Your employee expectations will need to be communicated clearly and finding the proper team to support your law firm is essential.
- Training Your Team Will Take A Little More Work: When a team member has a question, it’s quite simple for them to stroll across the office or the hallway to pop in and ask. Both you and your team will have to become accustomed to training virtually.
- Your Goals Could Get Compromised: When a client retains your services, they need to feel as if you’re their primary focus, even if, in fact, you have no shortage of cases piling up on your desk. Don’t let your new-found atmosphere become your downfall. Focus on each client as if they were walking into your physical location and they won’t know the difference between your firm and the one located downtown in that modern office building.
The Final Verdict
Virtual law firms are another innovative way to provide services in the 21st century. If you can provide the same quality services as your brick and mortar counterpart, go for it. Just make sure those potential challenges are managed before you get started.
Experienced in representing people in personal injury and underinsured and uninsured motorist claims, arguing the facts and law in court, writing on the subject and presenting materials at continuing education seminars. Scott has been practicing law in Chicago for over 30 years and is currently a managing partner at the Blumenshine Law Group.
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