I am currently enjoying a nice discussion on virtual law generally on the Online Bar Association‘s LinkedIn discussion here. Jorge Colon, the founder of the OBA, posed a question “But what about the feeling of physical isolation of the solo/VLO? Is virtual interaction enough?” Below was my general response, with links for additional reading.
I work for home. I run my firm, I do back end support for my wife’s blog, and I am working on an online magazine. To boot, I work 50+ hours a week for a business consultant/VC group, working from home. My point is not one of “wow look how balls I have in the air” but to say that I live on the internet. (I actually breathe through a series of ethernet cables haha). Isolation is a major issue that has to be addressed everyday. It affects the work at home in 2 ways, personally and professionally.
Personally, the lack of human contact can be a bit frazzling. You must have will power to “act” like you are going to the office. At the end of the day, you have to unwind and disconnect to reset your mind for the “real world”. You really have to force yourself to separate your home life from your business life. This, of course, is true for any work from home business.
Professionally, there are several issues. You depend on the internet for peer interaction. A friend who has a solo practice here in Miami told me that the most important thing to have is people around to bounce ideas off of. That can be difficult in forums, chat rooms, twitter, etc. It takes extra effort to reach out within the community. Even then, your online community may not be in your field or jurisdiction. In my case, my peer community is based around VLOs, which is helpful for building a business but not necessarily for staying abreast of the law or brainstorming a case. Moreover, it is not the best referral system.
Nothing beats person to person contact for networking, feeling out a client, or just feeling like part of a working group. This is why I call my firm a “hybrid virtual law firm”. The firm’s space is virtual, however the people are real. If you need to meet me or call me. I am more than happy to step out for a little walk or a nice drive to meet with a client or a potential referral partner.
I truly believe in the virtual model as a viable and advantageous (to both attorney and client) business set. However, as it is not the standard, it definitely requires will power and some coping.
Please let me know your thoughts!!