Introduction to Virtual Law Practice


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This presentation was given to students at Campbell Law School on February 11, 2010. For more detailed information regarding ethics and technology issues in virtual law practice as well as the setup and management of a virtual law practice, please see the Virtual Law Practice blog -

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  • Features of a virtual law office Methods of eLawyering are found in a virtual law practice.
  • Remote and rural areas providing access to justice for them. Client base to help remote clients
  • eLawyering Task Force’s minimum requirements
  • Introduction to Virtual Law Practice

    1. 1. Introduction to Virtual Law Practice
    2. 2. Overview <ul><li>What is Virtual Law Practice? </li></ul><ul><li>Delivering Legal Services Online </li></ul><ul><li>Technology </li></ul><ul><ul><li>SaaS </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Data Centers </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Benefits </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Legal SaaS vs. Piecemeal Apps </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Understanding the Ethics Risks </li></ul>
    3. 3. What is virtual law practice? <ul><li>A virtual law office is a professional law practice that is located online through a secure portal and is accessible to both the client and the attorney anywhere the parties may access the Internet. </li></ul><ul><li>Other terminology: VLO, virtual law firm, web-based law practice or online law practice. </li></ul>
    4. 4. What virtual law practice is not <ul><li>Virtual law practice is not : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>an online website that sells legal documents without attorney review, such as LegalZoom and other web-based companies selling online legal forms </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>a law firm website with an email “contact us for a free quote” form for prospective clients </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>communication by email even if sent through a law firm’s website </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>a rented physical office that may be shared with other professionals along with a receptionist service </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>VPNs, extranets and other services, such as GoToPC and LogMeIn </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>a conglomeration of attorneys in remote locations pooling resources and communicating over the Internet </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>a law practice based in a virtual reality world, such as Second Life </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not all legal SaaS products providing web-based practice management tools create virtual law offices. </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. How Attorneys Use Virtual Law Offices <ul><li>Completely Web-based </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Unbundled or limited legal services </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Integrated into a traditional law office </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Unbundled and full-service </li></ul></ul><ul><li>As a transition method to allow them to continue to practice law while meeting other personal and professional needs: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>To raise families </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To care for ill spouses or aging parents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To ease into retirement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>After layoffs, to start a solo practice or work while searching for another legal job </li></ul></ul>
    6. 6. Why is Virtual Law Practice Important? <ul><li>For the Public </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Greater access to justice </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Affordable and accessible legal services for lower and moderate income individuals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pro-se litigants </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pro bono opportunities </li></ul></ul><ul><li>For the Legal Profession </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Better quality of life through work/life balance and flexibility </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technology streamlines and automates much of the routine work allowing the attorney to focus on practicing law </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technology may help prevent malpractice through automated checks and processes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lower overhead, less office waste, eco-friendly </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Expanded client base, increased competition </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. Software as a Service (SaaS) <ul><li>Also commonly referred to as practicing law “in the cloud.” </li></ul><ul><li>The technology used to create and maintain the virtual law practice is handled through a secure, third-party hosted system. </li></ul>
    8. 8. Benefits of SaaS <ul><li>Security </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Regular data backups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Data stored on the server is encrypted using a 128 bit or greater </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) quality cipher algorithm </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Time saving </li></ul><ul><ul><li>No in-house software installation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Access to data anywhere the attorney may securely access the Internet </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Regular software updates and new features added without disturbing the workflow (and typically at no extra cost) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Economic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lower overhead costs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Less expensive than paying for software, storage, and server hardware and having to run it internally with or without hiring an IT professional for the office </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Streamline your practice for greater efficiency </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Expand client base across jurisdiction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Clients appreciate the convenience, efficiency and feeling “in control” over the status of their legal matters </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Eco-friendly </li></ul><ul><li>Better work/life balance </li></ul>
    9. 9. Risk of Using Piecemeal Apps <ul><li>Security Level </li></ul><ul><li>Encryption </li></ul><ul><li>Secure transmission </li></ul><ul><li>Who has access? </li></ul><ul><li>Ethics/malpractice concerns unique to attorneys </li></ul><ul><li>Confidentiality </li></ul><ul><li>Privacy </li></ul><ul><li>Record keeping/consistency </li></ul><ul><li>Data return and retention policies </li></ul><ul><li>Offshore servers </li></ul>
    10. 10. Ethics Concerns <ul><li>Many of the risks are similar to the ethics and malpractice risks seen in a traditional law practice. However, here the risks may be decreased through the use of the checks and processes built into the technology. </li></ul><ul><li>UPL </li></ul><ul><li>Issues unique to multi-jurisdictional virtual law firms </li></ul><ul><li>Establishing the Online Attorney/Client Relationship </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Defining the Scope of Representation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Conflict of interest checks </li></ul><ul><li>Confidentiality of Client Data </li></ul><ul><li>Accepting online payments </li></ul><ul><li>It is the responsibility of the attorney operating a virtual law office to do the following: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Make the determination on a case by case basis: Can I competently handle this legal matter online or does it require in-person representation? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Understand the technology and the security risks </li></ul></ul>
    11. 11. Future Innovation <ul><li>Features of a virtual law practice will continue to expand beyond what currently may be imagined. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The core function of a virtual law practice should remain the same - the ability to securely deliver legal services and work with clients and other legal professionals online through an online portal. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The growth of online legal services is largely consumer-driven. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The legal profession should step up to meet this need or the public will continue to use methods that are not safe or in their best interest to acquire online legal services. </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. Contact Me <ul><li>Email: [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter: @StephKimbro </li></ul><ul><li>VLO: </li></ul><ul><li>Virtual Law Practice course at </li></ul><ul><li>Solo Practice University: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Blogs: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>