Legal Trend: Cloud Technologies Empower Virtual Law Firms (Part 2)

If you ask five different legal professionals to define “virtual law practice,” chances are you’ll get as many different answers -- anything from a practice that operates without traditional office space to an organization that has limited face-to-face contact with clients to a firm that uses only online tools to communicate with clients and manage cases.

But when you ask the question of Chad E. Burton, principle and founder of Burton Law LLC, he responds, “I believe a virtual law firm is just a fancy way of labeling two or more lawyers who collaborate and recognize that innovation and technology should play a role in serving clients.”

Burton emphasizes that his motivation to launch a virtual practice at the start of 2011 was all about customer service. “Clients have become increasingly sophisticated in their understanding of how legal services can be delivered,” he explains. “I realized that clients really don’t care where their legal team works, if we messenger filings to the courthouse or transmit them online, if our support staff works from a central location or provides support virtually, if we work from nine to five or late at night, when we may be more productive.

“What’s important to clients is that they receive first-class legal advice, counsel and services, securely and confidentially, from highly knowledgeable attorneys for a reasonable cost,” he continues. “It’s the legalwork product they’re interested in, not how or where legal professionals operate. In a virtual firm, we’re able to reduce the costs of running the business and pass these savings along to clients."

You’ll find many different virtual law office models, but you’ll see that collaboration, enabled by cloud technologies, is a common denominator in each.

And the convergence of three key factors -- innovative  legal technologies, cost pressures by clients and the evolution of an increasingly  mobile legal workforce -- enables virtual law firms to deliver quality legal services at lower costs, he says.

According to Burton, collaboration is the cornerstone of a successful virtual legal practice. “I worked in a big law firm for years, and now as a virtual law practitioner, I’m repeatedly asked if it’s difficult working in isolation. My answer -- I don’t consider that I work alone because of the highly collaborative culture we’ve established.

“Our practice group understands the value of connecting as a team, regardless of the fact we each work remotely. We interact on a regular basis -- to collaborate on project strategies, bounce ideas off one another, access feedback, share knowledge and information,” he says. “You’ll find many different virtual law office models, but you’ll see that collaboration, enabled by cloud technologies, is a common denominator in each.”

Burton explains that his virtual firm currently includes six lawyers who operate out of Ohio, Kentucky and Washington, D.C. He says the team holds regular Monday morning meetings and uses online social network tools to keep everyone connected.

“We still meet face-to-face with clients as needed, but our ability to leverage technology allows us to more effectively serve our clients in a cost-effective manner,” he says.

Burton founded CuroLegal with the objective of providing law firms a broad array of back-office services on an outsourced, as-needed basis. He explains that CuroLegal exists to help attorneys and law firms focus on what they do best -- serving clients and practicing law. The same holds true for Burton Law attorneys. Before CuroLegal, the outsourced practice management space was quite fragmented, causing attorneys to look to several different resources for help. CuroLegal has become a resource for bar associations as a member benefit and works with associations to better serve lawyers.

Working in a virtual law practice isn’t a preferred environment for all legal professionals, Burton explains. “But I enjoy the entrepreneurial and flexible spirit of our group and especially how we’re able to optimize service to our clients.”

For more on virtual law offices, see Legal Trend: Cloud Technologies Empower Virtual Law Firms (Part 1).

For more insight on other trends impacting the legal workplace and the business of law, visit Robert Half Legal’s Future Law Office.