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Virtual Law Office - What It Is & How to Use It


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A conversation with Stephanie Kimbro

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Virtual Law Office - What It Is & How to Use It

  1. 1. Virtual Law Office: What It Is and How to Use It A Conversation with Stephanie Kimbro
  2. 2. Why is Virtual Law Practice Important for the Public?  Greater Access to Justice  Court systems and non-profit legal aid organizations already rely on cloud computing methods to deliver legal services online  Affordable and accessible legal services for lower and moderate income individuals  Help pro-se litigants  Create pro-bono opportunities
  3. 3. Why is Virtual Law Practice Important to Lawyers?  No in-house software installation needed  Streamlines and automates the workflow, creates efficiency & allows the attorney to focus on practicing law  Lowers overhead, less expensive than paying for software, storage & server hardware & running it internally with or without IT assistance  Creates less office waste, eco-friendly  Enables access to data anywhere attorney can securely access the internet  Prevents Malpractice through automated checks and processes  Expanded client base, competitive advantage  Better quality of life through work/life balance and flexibility  Be prepared for your future clients: the “Digital Natives”
  4. 4. Prepare Yourself for Future Innovation  Features of a virtual law practice will continue to expand beyond what currently may be imagined  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 client portal  The growth of online legal services is largely consumer-driven  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 beset interest to acquire online legal services.  In order to stay competitive and address the needs of clients, most firms will need some form of virtual component in the next five to ten years.
  5. 5.  The Task Force works through the Law Practice Management Section of the ABA  Members stay current on the effect of technology use on our profession  Offers studies and guidelines on how to ethically practice law online What does the eLawyering Task Force Do?
  6. 6. Virtual Law Office vs. Online Practice Management Virtual Law Office  A virtual law office is a professional law practice located online through a secure portal that is accessible to both the client and attorney anywhere the parties can access the internet.  Other terminology: VLO, virtual lawyering, virtual law firm, web-based or web- enabled law practice, online law practice, delivering legal services online Online Practice Management  Office, case & client management used as productivity tool  Clients have access to their own online documents with limited control  Document archiving, contact management, calendaring, conflict & jurisdictional checks, billing & invoicing, online payment  Collaboration spaces such as deal rooms or workspaces
  7. 7.  “…all the ways lawyers can do their work using the web and associated technologies. These include new ways to collaborate and communicate with clients, prospective clients and other lawyers, produce documents, settle disputes and manage legal knowledge.  Think of a lawyering verb – interview, investigate, counsel, draft, advocate, analyze, negotiate, manage. . .and there are corresponding electronic tools.”  Mark Lauritsen, co-chair, ABA eLawyering Task Force What is eLawyering?
  8. 8. What Virtual Law Practice is Not!  An online website that sells legal documents without attorney review, such as LegalZoom and other web-based companies selling online legal forms  A law firm website with an email “contact us for a free quote” form for prospective clients  Communication by email even if sent through law firm’s website  A rented physical space that may be shared with other professionals along with a receptionist  VPNs, extranets or other services, such as GoToMyPC and LogMeIn  A conglomeration of attorneys in remote locations pooling resources and communicating over the internet  A law practice based in a virtual reality world such as Second Life
  9. 9.  Break out tasks associated with a legal matter and provide the client with only specific portions of the work  Clearly define for online client the nature and scope of unbundled legal services – what will and will NOT be covered  Provide comparisons and education for the client to make an informed judgment Unbundling Legal Services
  10. 10.  Automating document assembly for clients online  Uses intuitive legal forms in combination with questionnaires  Purchased directly by client after attorney review  Can also be purchased in conjunction with additional legal advice Document Assembly & Automation
  11. 11. What is the Market for These Services? Your Clients are ready. They shop, bank, conduct business and pay credit cards and taxes online.  50% of middle-income households in the US have at least 1 legal problem per year  Only 20% seek legal assistance from attorneys  26% do nothing at all  Potentially huge market waiting to be tapped in the US for personal consumer legal services  During March 2010 – one month alone – an estimated 535,000 people in the US searched online seeking legal solutions through the LegalZoom site  E-commerce trends are increasing  Also consider trends in legal outsourcing and the globalization of law firms
  12. 12. How Attorneys Use Virtual Law Offices  Completely Web-Based  Unbundled or limited legal services  Integrated into a Traditional Law Office  Unbundled and full service  As a transition method to allow them to practice law while meeting other personal and professional needs  To raise families  To care for ill spouses or elderly parents  To ease into retirement  After layoffs, to start a solo practice or work while searching for another legal position
  13. 13. Risks of Using Piecemeal Apps Rather than Law-Specific Saas  Security Level  Encryption  Secure transmission  Who has access?  Ethics/Malpractice Concerns Unique to Lawyers  Confidentiality  Privacy  Record Keeping/Consistency  Data Return and Retention Policies  Offshore Servers
  14. 14. Daily Best Practices  Keep up-to-date on security issues. Designate attorney in the office to be responsible for this  Create law firm policy covering the use of best practices for cloud computing applications by firm members  If you use wireless networking, be sure all wireless traffic is encrypted with WPA2  Keep anti-virus software & all software patches updated. Turn on firewall  Use a safer browser, such as Mozilla with pop-up blocker  Avoid free wifi hotspots when using any cloud application remotely. Use a cellphone modem adapter instead  Never write down usernames & passwords. Create strong passwords & change them frequently. Us a password reminder application to keep track