Technology has changed the way that many industries operate. Some industries have thrived due to technological innovations and some industries have fallen due to an inability to keep up with the changing times. Furthermore, certain professions with age old traditions are being slowly changed due to changing technology. The legal profession is not immune from technological changes and new ways for lawyers to work with their clients are arising rapidly. A virtual law firm is one of the new ways attorneys have to organize their practices and serve their clients. There are positive and negative aspects to virtual firms, but it is clear that they will be an important part of the future of the legal profession.
Traditionally lawyers operate out of physical offices located in office buildings or malls surrounded by other businesses. Lawyers needed large office spaces because cases required the lawyer to keep physical files and a staff to monitor and handle the complexities of a law office. However, technology has enabled most offices to go “paperless” which means that files are no longer stored in the physical office, but rather, they are stored in the firm’s hard drive. Paper is only generated when it is necessary to present to the court and the client. This means that lawyers no longer need to maintain large offices and staffs if they do not wish to. Naturally, larger firms will still need physical offices, but smaller boutique firms can make the switch to a virtual firm if they wish to do so. Lawyers are generally adverse to major changes in their industry, but virtual firms appear to be here to stay.
A virtual firm can help a firm devote more of its time and energy to working on cases on behalf of clients rather than worrying about the upkeep and overhead associated with a physical office. Furthermore, without a physical office a lawyer can increase the geographic area that they are targeting and attract new clients that they may have otherwise been unable to attract if they were tied down to a specific area. Furthermore, the attorney will be able to balance work and life much more effectively if they decide to utilize a virtual rather than physical office. The virtual office will allow the attorney to decide when and where he or she would like to work. This allows for the attorney to have the energy necessary to work on cases that are often stressful and cause burnout. A virtual firm could make for a happy attorney which in turn could make for a better result for clients.
However, a virtual firm does have drawbacks. The attorney will need to be very careful not to blur the lines between their personal and professional lives when they no longer have the buffer of a physical office to separate the two. Furthermore, clients will still want to meet with the attorney in person from time to time. This means the attorney will need to have access to a physical meeting space, which can be time consuming to organize. Despite these difficulties, it is likely that virtual firms will continue to be a factor in the legal industry for years to come.