Technology is rapidly changing the practice of law. A growing number of lawyers are working remotely on a full-time or part-time basis. The American Bar Association (ABA) also notes that virtual practices—a law firm that does not have a traditional brick-and-mortar office—are becoming far more common. For solo practitioners and other small law firms, the virtual practice model can be a cost-effective, flexible, and efficient way to operate.
At the same time, there are some challenges. You need to know how to create a virtual law firm that works. A key step to successfully running a virtual legal practice is putting the right tech tools in place. Now many online tools can make it a lot easier to operate without a physical office. Below you will find an overview of the top seven online tools you need to effectively build, manage, and develop a virtual law practice.
Client intake and client management are among the most important—and too often overlooked—aspects of running a successful law firm. For virtually legal practices, a strong emphasis must be placed on obtaining and managing clients. There is a wide range of online tools available to help virtual lawyers effectively and efficiently handle clients. A virtual legal practice should look into obtaining customer relationship management (CRM) software. CRM tools can be highly effective for both client intake and client management. Notably, there are legal-specific CRM options available. A virtual law firm should strongly consider comprehensive client intake and management software. Some of the most popular options include:
All successful virtual legal practices have a well-designed client intake and client management system in place. How exactly the system works depends on many different factors, including the unique needs of the law firm. By finding the right online tools for your legal practice, you will be in the best position to deliver top-quality services to your clients.
As part of any law practice, an attorney will obtain, review, create, and hold a wide range of important, sensitive documents. It is an attorney’s responsibility to keep these documents secure. When you run a virtual law practice, you will generally benefit from using cloud-based file storage and file sharing systems. As described by IBM, “cloud storage allows you to save data and files in an off-site location that you access.” In other words, all of the documents that your virtual law firm holds in cloud-based storage will be accessible from any location. Some of the most popular cloud-based storage and file sharing options for virtual law firms include:
There are basic cloud storage options available as well as more comprehensive cloud-based storage and filing sharing tools. A virtual law firm needs a storage and filing sharing system that is both functional and fully secure. The confidentiality of sensitive documents that are related to the representation of a client must be fully protected during every step of the process.
Lawyers need a lot of signatures—from clients, counterparties, and others. For an attorney running a law firm without a physical office, getting signatures could potentially be more challenging. You probably do not want to have to take time to arrange a meeting at a third-party location. The good news is that there are great online tools available that are specifically designed to address this issue. Electronic signatures (e-signatures) are a fast, convenient, cost-effective, and fully secure way to get an electronic document signed. There are a number of different popular online tools available for e-signatures, including:
If you own or manage a virtual law practice, it is crucial that you have an e-signature tool that you are comfortable using. These are generally user-friendly platforms. When utilized properly, these platforms help virtual law firms exceed expectations by accelerating the turnaround time of important documents. Your clients—and other parties that you work with—will undoubtedly appreciate the efficiency of a well-designed electronic signature tool.
Communication is one of the keys to running a successful virtual business—including a legal practice. It can potentially be more difficult to communicate with co-workers, employees, clients, and other parties without a physical office location. However, it does not have to be that way. There are a number of excellent, cost-effective online tools that are designed to promote open, efficient, and consistent communication.
As an example, video conferencing software—Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, etc—are very useful for virtual legal practices. They make it easy to conduct consultations, one-on-one appointments, and larger meetings without everyone being in the same room. Video conferencing software puts a virtual law firm in the best position for success.
There are a number of other types of useful online communication tools for virtual law firms. For instance, a virtual legal practice may consider setting up Slack. Slack is a messaging app that is designed to meet the needs of business professionals, including attorneys who are working in one office or are practicing remotely.
Every lawyer should have a professional phone system in place. This raises an important question: How does the phone system work when you run a virtual law practice? After all, you probably do not want to mix your personal cell phone with your professional business phone. One of the most simple and most cost-effective answers for virtual law firms is setting up a Voice Over Internet Protocol or (VoIP). Simply stated, VoIP allows you to make and receive phone calls using the internet instead of using a traditional telephone line.
For a law firm that is operating without a traditional brick-and-mortar office, the benefits of a Voice Over Internet Protocol phone system are immense. As there likely will not be a landline telephone set up—as you would see at a front desk in a law firm—a VoIP phone system allows you to make and receive business calls more easily. In fact, lawyers can use their VoIP system to make any business—from a business number, not a personal number—using a personal smartphone, a tablet, or even a laptop. A well-structured VoIP phone system promotes professionalism and flexibility.
Every law firm needs a professional website. For solo practitioners and small law firms (two to nine attorneys), a well-designed website goes a long way toward increasing your visibility and enhancing your authority. Each year, the importance of a professionally designed and maintained website increases in the legal industry. Thomson Reuters recently cited data finding that the internet is now the most common way that individuals and businesses find, research, and connect with lawyers and law firms. In some practice areas, a strong web presence is even more vital. For example, potential clients often search for personal injury lawyers, business law attorneys, family lawyers, and criminal defense attorneys online.
If you run a virtual law firm, a well-designed website is one of the ways that you can separate yourself from the competition. One of the central challenges of virtual law firms is that they need to establish their credibility with potential clients. A website that is clear, coherent, professional, and consistent with the best search engine optimization (SEO) practices can help improve a law firm’s visibility and trust. There are a number of different online tools—and outside resources—that your virtual law firm can use to develop and promote your website.
The best attorney in the entire world cannot develop a successful virtual legal practice without clients. There are business realities to owning and operating a law firm. You need to be able to identify, connect with, and obtain qualified clients. Without a physical office location, a virtual law firm needs a well-considered branding and marketing strategy in place. One of the best online tools for successfully running a virtual law firm is getting help from the right marketing professionals. At ONE400, we are an agency committed to providing our clients with the services, tech tools, and digital marketing strategy that they grow their business. Among other things, we offer:
As the professionals at ONE400 have worked closely with many virtual law firms, we have a deep understanding of the challenges that you face as well as the opportunities that are available. Our team provides the personalized, detailed-focused, and comprehensive guidance and support that your virtual law firm needs to take things to the next level. We will connect you with the online technology tools that allow you to operate your virtual legal practice more successfully.