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ABA Techshow 2010: Taking Your Office Virtual
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ABA Techshow 2010: Taking Your Office Virtual

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As economic, technological and demographic forces put increasing pressure of the traditional law firm business model, virtual law firms provide one solution of how lawyers cannot only survive but …

As economic, technological and demographic forces put increasing pressure of the traditional law firm business model, virtual law firms provide one solution of how lawyers cannot only survive but thrive now and in the future.

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  • The junior associate (1-4 year call) invests 13 hours each day preparing for, traveling to and from, and working at the firm. They are expected to bill no fewer than 1700 hours / year to reach their minimum target (1680 is used in this example for clarity); no bonus is paid until this threshold is achieved. Their billings generate $420,000 gross fees before write offs, assuming they bill out at $250 / hour, which would be typical for a lawyer at this experience level. This slide shows the relationship between hours worked (both billable and non-billable), compensation, and revenue to the firm (in percentage terms, and in terms of dollars per working hour), for a mid-level associate working in a traditional firm.
  • The junior associate (1-4 year call) invests 13 hours each day preparing for, traveling to and from, and working at the firm. They are expected to bill no fewer than 1700 hours / year to reach their minimum target (1680 is used in this example for clarity); no bonus is paid until this threshold is achieved. Their billings generate $420,000 gross fees before write offs, assuming they bill out at $250 / hour, which would be typical for a lawyer at this experience level. This slide shows the relationship between hours worked (both billable and non-billable), compensation, and revenue to the firm (in percentage terms, and in terms of dollars per working hour), for a mid-level associate working in a traditional firm.
  • Categorical comparison between working as a mid-level associate in a traditionally-structured firm, and working as a Virtual Partner in Heritage Law.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Taking Your Office Virtual Presenters Nicole Garton-Jones, Heritage Law Alan Wernick, FSB FisherBroyles, LLP March 25 - 27, 2010 www.techshow.com
    • 2. What is a virtual law firm?
      • A law firm where legal services are delivered to clients entirely online through a secure web-based portal;
      • A law firm with a centralized administration, management and brand but the lawyers work remotely (at client sites, home, satellite offices etc.)
    • 3. Virtual Law Firms & Blue Ocean Strategy
      • Rather than assuming that the legal marketplace is a given and compete head on with competitors, a firm could instead employ a reconstructionist strategy that seeks to reshape the competitive environment;
      • Specifically, to innovate, firms should break out of the traditional “red ocean” cycle of intense direct competition and sail into the open “blue ocean” by using a strategy of creating new markets where none previously existed
    • 4. Practicing Law 100% Online
      • Why?
      • Democratization of information and availability of forms via the internet
      • Increasing encroachment on traditional legal practice by non-lawyer competitors
      • Clients increasingly expect to do business online
      • Downward price pressures, especially on commodity type legal services
    • 5. Practicing 100% Online: Strategy Framework
      • Focus: convenience, accessibility and cost effectiveness
      Create Convenience – legal services from anywhere, 24/7 Reduce Specialized drafting from scratch for each client Raise Cost effectiveness for client No intimidation of having to go to a lawyers office Eliminate Physical location Meeting with client
    • 6. Practicing 100% Online: Examples
      • Online Firms:
      • https://www.kimbrolaw.com/
      • http://www.marylandfamilylawyer.com/divorce.asp
      • http://www.heritagelawonline.com/
      • Vendors of Online Platforms:
      • http://www.vlotech.com/
      • http://www.directlaw.com/
    • 7. Centralized IT, Management & Brand but Remote Lawyers
      • Why?
      • Better for Clients – senior lawyers with established experience, delivering legal services at hourly rates which are often less than traditional firm rates
      • Better for Lawyers – work/life balance and flexibility
    • 8. Virtual Firm: Strategy Framework
      • Focus: (for lawyers) flexibility, autonomy to guide own practice and more compensation for less hours
      Create Flexibility – to work when and for how long the lawyer wishes Reduce Training – hire already trained lawyers Raise Compensation – more money for less hours Autonomy – lawyer guides own practice direction Eliminate Requirement to go to physical office
    • 9. Centralized IT, Management & Brand but Remote Lawyers: Examples
      • http://www.fsblegal.com/
      • http://www.virtuallawpartners.com/
      • http://www.rimonlaw.com/
      • http:// www.bcheritagelaw.com /
    • 10. How it Works in Practice
      • lawyers work remotely and access a secure, private cloud-based infrastructure with centralized branding, administration and management;
      • lawyers collaborate through in person meetings if possible and via technology such as VoIP phones, video conferencing and email as required;
      • Heritage Law also has traditional offices for client meetings
    • 11. Heritage Law Virtual Firm Technology
      • practice management software to centrally manage billing, time tracking, matter information, contacts, appointments, documents and document assembly;
      • all staff log into one remote, secure server over the internet which is a repository for all firm data and software applications;
      • a VoIP phone system which allows ten staff in ten different locations to use the same phone line and system;
      • a remote answering service which answers client calls during the business day if a staff member is out of the office and routes the message to the appropriate person to deal with;
      • All staff have a computer, high speed internet, a VoIP phone and a scanner at their home offices .
    • 12. A Day in the Life – Associate in Traditional Firm T B B N B L B N B B N B T 7am 12pm 7pm 8pm 1pm 8am
      • (T) – prepare and travel to and from office
      • (B) – billable work at $250 / hour
      • (N) – ~1 hour of non-billable and administrative for each 2 hours of billable work
      • (L) – 1 hour for lunch and breaks
      48 weeks / year X 5 days / week X 7 billable hours / day X $250/hr 1680 hours / year X $250 / hour = $420,000 client fees
    • 13. A Day in the Life at Heritage Law P P B B N L B T N P B P B 7am 12pm 7pm 8pm 1pm 8am
      • Work ‘9-5’ plus one evening hour, including 1 hour (T) for travel to and from office for client meetings
      • Flexible (P)ersonal hour mid-day; work a (B)illable hour in the evenings after the children are in bed
      • (B) – billable work at $250 / hour
      • (N) – non-billable and administrative (L) – 1 hour for lunch
      48 weeks / year X 5 days / week X 5 billable hours / day X $250/hr 1200 hours / year X $250 / hour = $300,000 client fees 5pm 9am 3pm Kids to school Kids return
    • 14. A Side – by – Side Comparison Effective hourly pay Flexibility Compensation Required Hours Criteria $150,000 ( 25% more) $120,000 Work on your schedule Traditional hours 1200 ( 70% as many) 1700 $78 / hr ( 173% as much) $45 / hr Traditional Firm
    • 15. Thank you
      • Nicole Garton-Jones
      • Heritage Law
      • The Village at Park Royal
      • 203 – 815 Main Street
      • West Vancouver, BC V7T 2Z3
      • Canada
      • Tel: 778-786-0615
      • Email: [email_address]
      • Web: www.bcheritagelaw.com
      • Twitter: @ngartonjones

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