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How to Start a Virtual Law Practice

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This video was created for Solo Practice University students enrolled in the Virtual Law Practice course.

This video was created for Solo Practice University students enrolled in the Virtual Law Practice course.

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  • 1. How to Create a Virtual Law Practice
  • 2. Step One – Choose a management structure
    • Decide what part of your practice you want to take online.
      • Working with clients?
        • Unbundling legal services
        • Combination of full-service practice with online clients
      • Document storage?
      • Collaborating with other attorneys?
      • Administrative tasks?
        • Calendaring
        • Case and Client Management
      • Time and billing?
        • Invoicing
        • Accounting
  • 3. Step Two - Choose the Tech
    • Know your own comfort level with technology
      • How quickly can you learn new technology?
      • Can you set and abide by your own security practices for the daily use of this technology to protect your clients (and yourself from malpractice)?
    • Consider the ROI of the product
      • How much does it save in time and law office resources, overhead?
      • Does it help to generate additional or new client revenue?
  • 4.
    • SaaS products designed specifically for attorneys vs. piecemeal apps.
    • Some Legal SaaS products:
      • Rocket Matter
      • Clio
      • DirectLaw
      • Lexbe
      • VLOTech
  • 5. Rocket Matter
    • Rocket Matter ( www.rocketmatter.com ) provides a web-based practice management system that addresses the workflow of a solo and small firm law practice and focuses on time and billing needs. Founded in 2007, the Florida-based company uses SaaS to provide “increased security, business continuity, decreased technology infrastructure and maintenance, and improved ROI for IT expenses for solos and small firms.” Compatible with Linux, Macs and Windows, the product will also operate on most mobile devices for remote lawyering.
    • Product features include matter dashboards, document organization, contact management, calendaring, tagging, batch billing, expense tracking, and accounting, time capture reporting messaging, conflict checks and mobile access. Pricing ranges from $59.99 per month for a solo practitioner to $39.99 per month for seven to twenty users. The company provides support, training, daily storage and backups of your law office data and a 30-day money back guarantee.
  • 6. Clio
    • Clio ( www.goclio.com ) provides a web-based practice management system designed for solos and small firms with an emphasis on time and billing. Based in Vancouver, BC, Clio is owned by Themis Solutions, Inc., a company that provides other web services. Clio was created with the cooperation of the Law Society of British Columbia as a way to meet the challenges that solos and small firms have in the area of practice management.
    • Product features include a dashboard with client and matter management, agenda and tasks, calendaring, performance analysis and reporting, reminder, invoice generation, time reporting, document management, and time tracking and billing. Clio also provides ClientConnect which allows the attorney to share information and collaborate securely with clients to send them invoices and allow for online bill payment. Pricing is $49.99 per month for a single attorney user and $25 per month for non-attorney support. Clio provides a thirty-day free trial.
  • 7. Lexbe
    • Lexbe (www.lexbe.com) - From the Lexbe website: “Lexbe.com is a web-based case analysis and document management application. Case analysis features include fact and issue analysis, case calendaring, tracking of case participants, deposition analysis, case research, fact tracking and dynamic chronology and timeline generation. Document management features include full-text search, automatic optical character recognition (OCR) of PDF files, document sorting, retrieval and repository, native file review, metadata analysis, document coding, document encryption and off-line access. Litigation production tools include, relevancy and privilege tagging, Bates stamping, and automatic privilege log generation. 
    • Lexbe.com is offered on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) basis, so users can access the Lexbe Online application from any web-based computer without the need to install or maintain software.  Lexbe.com is available starting at $99/month, with no set-up or cancellation fees.  A thirty-day free trial and online web demos are available at http://Lexbe.com.”
  • 8. DirectLaw
    • DirectLaw ( www.directlaw.com ) focuses on the delivery of legal services online by allowing attorneys to create automated legal documents. The company was founded by Richard Granat, co-chair of the ABA eLawyering Task Force and owner of a family law virtual law practice in Maryland. Granat is also an instructor on SPU teaching a course in unbundling legal services for family law practitioners.
    • The DirectLaw software uses Rapidocs® to generate legal document automation. This software provides automated, state-specific document catalogues for family law, wills and estates, consumer law, business law and employment law. DirectLaw integrates its software into the attorney’s existing website or creates a new firm website where clients may interact with the attorney to create legal documents. Clients register online, select their legal documents to purchase and make the online payment. They then complete a questionnaire which generates the legal document for the attorney to review before approving the final document which is then delivered to the online client. The fee for the product is a monthly subscription based on the number of lawyers using the product with a minimum subscription term of one year. Additional charges may apply and training, support and other services are available.
  • 9. VLOTech
    • VLOTech ( www.vlotech.com ) provides a software as a service product that creates a web-based law practice with an online, backend law office and a secure client portal for acquiring and working with online clients. The product be used as a completely web-based law office or as a law practice management tool and client generation method for traditional law offices. Attorneys may use the software to work with clients from the beginning of a case through to the online payment for legal services.
    • Product features include case and client management, file library, form library, referral database, law library, time and billing with multiple billing models, document storage, upload and download features, invoicing, online payment processing, exports, and more. The cost of the service is a one-time setup fee of $500 for customization of the product into an attorney’s website, including setup of the jurisdiction checks, conflict of interest checks, customized terms and conditions and disclaimers and more. The monthly fee for a single attorney user is $260 and includes support, regular backup, maintenance and upgrades to the software.
  • 10. Piecemeal Apps
    • Google Docs
    • 37signals’ Basecamp
    • WebEx and other web conferencing services
      • Adobe ConnectNow
    • GotoMyPC or LogMeIn
    • Box.net
    • Skype
    • Glance desktop sharing
  • 11. Risk of Using Piecemeal Apps
    • Security Level
    • Encryption
    • Secure transmission
    • Who has access?
    • Ethics/malpractice concerns unique to attorneys
    • Confidentiality
    • Privacy
    • Record keeping/consistency
    • Data return and retention policies
    • Offshore servers
  • 12. Step Three: Research the Hosting Company
    • Check the data return and retention policy of the service provider
    • Ask about the regular backup of your law office data
    • How is their response time to your questions and concerns?
  • 13. About Data Centers
    • Data centers are highly regulated environments with fire suppression, backup power, redundancy, security, and 24x7 monitoring. These are million dollar investments that small law offices cannot afford.
    • Only high level administrators have access to the server rooms of a data center. Typically, junior level admins are not allowed in the data center hosting the software without a senior level admin escort. Make sure your hosting company has this type of policy in place regarding the security of the servers hosting your law practice data.
  • 14. Summary
    • Choose the structure of your virtual law practice
    • Choose the type of technology
    • Research the hosting company to understand its policies and how they may impact your law practice.
  • 15. Next Class
    • Let’s talk about startup budgeting for a virtual law practice.
      • See the forum topic for a breakdown of potential startup costs.