The Elusive Dream of the Virtual Law Office

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How would you like to practice law from home, in your pajamas, on your own schedule, and make a ton of money? Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Lots of people are talking about virtual law offices these days. Bar publications, CLE courses, blogs, Twitter, and LinkedIn are full of articles jammed with technical terms like cloud computing, software as a service (SAAS), and data encryption. Read much of this stuff, and you get the impression that all you need to profit online is a secure client portal.

I am a big fan of technology (I would say “geek,” but everyone who can turn on a computer and install Wordpress calls themselves that these days). I believe that the internet age has permanently changed the way law is practiced. The decomposition of the traditional value chain in legal services, coupled with disintermediation of the supply chain, has created all sorts of new ways for attorneys (and non-attorneys) to add value. But it is a mistake to focus on the technology itself as the value add.

When I was first thinking of adding a virtual component to my law firm, I reviewed all of the blog posts on one of the more popular virtual law office platforms. The blog had a post for each firm that signed up for the platform (these blog posts appear to have been removed in mid-2011). When I went back to review the websites of each of these hopeful new virtual law firms, a surprising number had gone out of business.

That tells me that not enough attorneys are looking before they leap. So, at the risk of stating the obvious, I would like to offer a few humble suggestions for those who are considering virtual law practice.

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