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Have you considered joining a virtual law firm or practice? Are virtual law practices or law firms a growing trend?
Attorney Char Pagar left Manatt, Phelps & Phillips seven years ago for a new job with a wonderful perk: No more hour-long commute in heavy rush-hour traffic.
Pagar, an advertising, marketing and promotions lawyer, joined VLP Law Group, a virtual law firm where attorneys can practice wherever they like, whenever they like. “It just makes sense for me, for so many of us,” said Pagar, who has more than two decades of experience. “It’s a really nice way to work.”
She was initially apprehensive about how her clients—mostly large companies—would react. “I wasn’t sure how they’d take to this type of transition,” said Pagar, who’s based in Southern California. But it turned out that they didn’t care. Pagar remains available by phone and email and travels several times a year meet with them at their offices, just as she did at her previous job.
Her transition to a virtual law practice was fairly seamless. She and 50 other VLP Law Group attorneys set their own hours and work anywhere that’s convenient for them. Clients enjoy the same quality of work they’d get from Big Law attorneys but at a much lower price because a virtual firm has virtually no overhead costs to pass on to clients.
Virtual law practices account for just a small percentage of law firms overall. About 5 percent of the roughly 800 attorneys who answered a 2015 American Bar Association survey about legal technology described their practices as virtual. Firms of every size can operate virtually, with solo practitioners are most likely to say their practice is virtual.
The number of virtual law firms may be small now, but it’s projected to grow over the next decade as an increasing number of tech-savvy Millennials earn law degrees and reinvent the profession. Most ripe for disruption are smaller practices, said Richard Granat, president of Direct Law Inc., a virtual law firm and former head of the American Bar Association’s eLawyering Task Force, because “change starts at the bottom and work its way to the top.”
Could you thrive in a virtual law firm?
Could you make a move like Pagar did, from a traditional law firm to a virtual one? Cathryn Chinn, VLP Law Group’s CEO, finds that lawyers best suited to make the leap to a virtual practice typically share these five traits:
- Their practice areas are a good fit for virtual work. Patent work is a popular field for virtual law practices. But those who must often meet with colleagues or clients—such as criminal defense attorneys—may need the structure, support and physical space a traditional law practice provides.
- They’re experienced attorneys. VLP Law Group recruits only seasoned lawyers, ideally those who have put in time at big firms. They’ve developed expertise in their practice area, know how to manage their workload and don’t require intensive mentoring or training to succeed.
- Technology is their friend. Attorneys who practice virtually depend on software to track their time, manage their documents, and store those documents in the cloud. A working familiarity with cutting-edge software geared to attorneys is a must.
- They’re motivated self-starters. At virtual practices, no senior partner walks the firm’s halls, silently noting which attorneys are already hard at work by 9 a.m. Lawyers in virtual practices are accountable to their clients and themselves, so a strong work ethic and an entrepreneurial mindset are musts.
- They’re comfortable working independently. A brick-and-mortal law firm offers on-site support for administrative and secretarial needs, plus word processing, copying, coffee and snacks. Attorneys who thrive in virtual practices readily make do without those amenities.
Considering a career change? If you’re ready for new opportunities in your legal career or considering an advancement in the legal profession contact Special Counsel today to learn more about opportunities available to you.
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