Virtual law offices are an excellent option in today’s digital world. Remote work was beginning to gain momentum before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the worldwide epidemic, and the shutdown of branded virtual law offices became necessary.
Law offices and their clients have become more comfortable with remote work and virtual offices. Recent data has shown that consumer opinion about working remotely changed significantly in 2021, and it is important for law firms to adjust to this change in consumer expectations. Are you ready to create a virtual law office for your clients?
Virtual Law Practice Expectations
A virtual law office conducts business online, not in a physical office. Lawyers may work out of satellite or home offices. Lawyers serve clients via digital communication technologies, like video conferencing, email, and chats. Virtual law firms follow the same regulations as law firms with physical offices, but lawyers are often consultants, not partners or employees.
There are many benefits to virtual legal services. Law firms operating only physical offices should consider offering virtual services to accommodate more prospective clients and meet consumers’ digital expectations.
Benefits of offering virtual services include:
A Larger Client Base
A virtual law firm is open to unlimited clients, whereas traditional offices are limited to clients in a specific, local area. Operating digitally means lawyers can serve clients from all over the world.
This benefit works the other way as well. Clients have a larger selection of law firms to choose from that can best meet their needs.
It’s a win-win all around for law firms and their customers.
Many businesses have remained remote after the pandemic because they realized how much they could save in overhead costs by shifting to remote work. Even transitioning to half remote and half office work could save companies significantly.
Office space is a huge expense for law firms, so removing the office space provides great savings. Businesses will also reduce expenses on utilities and supplies when moving online. In addition, workers will save a considerable amount of money working remotely, even half-time, as commuting costs will go down.
Virtual law firms allow lawyers to be flexible with their time. They work as needed and are not restricted to specific business hours. Working online saves time, as commuting is not an issue.
Digital lawyers can conveniently work from anywhere, which helps those who have families find a work-life balance that is vital in today’s busy world. Remote work changes the framework of a law office, increases the pool of candidates to be hired, and allows employers to offer unique flexible benefits to employees.
Client Interaction is Easier
Meetings can be more convenient when a law office is remote. Clients do not need to commute or travel to attend meetings. Virtual consultations can involve all the same elements of an in-person meeting but much more reasonably. Digital interaction also makes it easier to meet with clients more often.
Transitioning to a Virtual Law Firm
Attorneys need to take the time to understand the implications of running a law firm virtually. A virtual law firm needs a strong business and marketing plan, just like a brick-and-mortar business. Working with a digital marketing company for such a transition may be helpful. Some things to consider when switching to a remote office include the following:
State Rules on Virtual Law Firms
Each state has its laws regarding remote work. Some states require law firms to maintain a physical location but will allow employees to work remotely. Researching your state’s rules will guide you in operating a virtual law firm.
Communication is a key component of legal business. Attorneys and clients need to be able to communicate regularly. In a digital atmosphere, reliable communication must be established using modern communication tools, including phones, email, video conferencing tools, and live online chats.
All businesses rely on phones and email in the current marketplace. It may be wise to evaluate your phone and email systems and ensure they provide easy, fast interaction with internal and external clients.
Strong video conferencing is needed for external and internal client meetings. Some conferencing tools available include Google Meet, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams. It is best to research the options out there and see which conference tool best meets the needs of your particular law firm.
Consider adding live chat to your website to increase immediate assistance for future clients. Live chat is helpful when potential customers have questions or need legal guidance online. It is a great way to pull clients in and highlight your law firm’s availability and commitment to its clients.
Once your law firm switches to a remote or virtual office, it is recommended that documentation be virtual or digital as well. The transition to a digital firm means all paper documents must be saved electronically.
It is wise to research digital document software as documents will need electronic signatures. Software should be user-friendly and protect the privacy of your clients and their documents.
Remote Law Firm Management Software
Managing a virtual law office is different from managing a physical office. Legal practice management software assists with scheduling, document sharing and storing, databases, billing, accounting, time tracking, and workflow management.
Updating Company Policies
Official company policies must be updated due to the unique facets of working remotely. All former company policies must be revised to accommodate the new online work.
A virtual law office’s new policies should include the:
- Rules regarding business hours and flexibility
- Virtual meeting guidelines
- Guidelines for recording meetings – Which meetings can be recorded? Where will recordings be stored? How will recordings be kept confidential?
- Standards for the security of data
Website and Digital Marketing Strategies
A strong online marketing strategy, including a well-designed website, is a key component to the success of a virtual law office or any business. When transitioning to a virtual practice, evaluating and possibly overhauling your online marketing plans makes sense. It may be beneficial to create a new website geared towards remote businesses. A professional digital marketing agency will be able to help in this endeavor.
Digital Marketing Next Steps
Transitioning to a virtual office is complicated but provides numerous opportunities to grow and expand your current law firm. Consider making a list of all your next steps and start formulating your plan!
Annette Choti, Esq. graduated from law school 20 years ago, and is the Founder of Law Quill, a legal digital marketing agency focused on small and solo law firms. Annette wrote the bestselling book Click Magnet: The Ultimate Digital Marketing Guide For Law Firms, and hosts the podcast Legal Marketing Lounge. She is a sought-after keynote and CLE speaker throughout the United States and Canada. Annette used to do theatre and professional comedy, which is not so different from the legal field if we are all being honest. Annette can be found on LinkedIn or at at email@example.com.