Today, I participated on a Twitter discussion group (#mhvt) on Big Law versus Virtual Law Offices (VLOs). I think the debate itself was very healthy and solid points all around. However, about half way through, someone mentioned (not coming up in my searches or notes exactly who) but somebody mentioned that the debate is not about Big Firm versus and VLOs. This is a very valid point. VLOs are neither small firms nor big firms. The tendency is to related VLOs to small or solo startup lawfirms, because of the DIY mentality that is associated. Yes most VLOs are small firms, but with companies like Legal Zoom setting a corporate standard and SaaS becoming a standard in all workplaces, the VLO Big Firm is right around the corner.
The arguments being used in this debate are really small firms versus big firms. If you look at the major players in the online media of lawyers, VLO writers and bloggers are often one and the same as “go solo” advocates. As in so many industries, a small group of innovators are making strides using new technology that is easier to implement in a smaller firm. It bucks the norm and the debate will continue. Honestly, I will save my arguments against Big Firms for another time. However, I am really curious one crucial point of VLOs. Are people, as clients, comfortable with the idea of an online legal service by a licensed attorney?
I truly believe the title is misleading. They (we) are not “virtual” people. We choose to operate in a space that has been termed a “virtual” world. However, our business, our law degrees, our services are real. I recently had this argument with my father (discussion of course). It is a misperception that the internet is separate world, a separate jurisdiction that is not part of the real world(unless you play Second Life or WoW) Sure people are more candid on the internet, but isn’t that a good thing? That doesn’t make it less real. If that is the logic then attorney’s who only talk with clients on the phone are practicing “virtual law”. The internet is a tool for communication between real people. Services, goods, and discussions are simply facilitated by the the internet.
Of course I am an advocate for virtual law services, so I want to hear from you, potential clients, (mine or anyone else’s), what is your take on virtual law services? Please comment on anything that sparks. I would really like to hear the pros and cons from those potentially seeking services, instead of an argument between attorneys. Thanks in advance for your input.
*Update* Seems I wasn’t the only one blogging about yesterday’s conversation. If you’d like to hear more. Check out Stephanie Kimbro’s blog today at The Virtual Law Practice Blog. Keep the feedback coming on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments. Thanks again.