Starting Your Own Virtual Law Firm

When you start your own practice you quickly realize that you go from just being a lawyer, to becoming the head of marketing, technology, accounting, finance and operations. You are no longer just a lawyer, you are a business owner. It’s a big shift from practicing in a firm where you have no obligation to find new clients or manage accounting practices.

I can say that without a doubt one of the hardest parts of practicing the way I do has been overcoming social norms and stigma that goes without having a traditional law office behind you. But I can assure you, that if you can get over that stigma, there are some big benefits to practicing the way I do.

  • I am not advocating for any particular technology or process. When I mention systems and software I use, its because they work form me. They may not work for you. Everyone has their own level comfort in working with technology.
  • The single greatest piece of advice I have on the technology side is to only use the tech that you are comfortable using. Don’t let someone else tell you what technology you should be using. If it doesn’t work for you, don’t use it. Try to avoid technology that makes you rely on someone specific if it doesn’t work or breaks down.
  • You must always put your professional obligations first, including the Rules of Professional Conduct and your duty of confidentiality.
  • Operating an online or paperless practice is not for everyone. Some areas of practice simply don’t permit it. For example, real estate and litigation are two practice areas that would be very difficult to convert. They would certainly be impossible to move to an entirely virtual model.
  • Starting an online or virtual practice is a lot easier than converting an offline traditional practice to an online/paperless one. I had the benefit of starting from scratch. I can see how converting a traditional practice would be challenging.

As unfortunate as it sounds, Google determines whether you are a good lawyer by the contents of your website and the reviews people give you.

  • Fill out an online incorporation form (http://incorporate-online.ca).
  • The data they provide includes (1) all of the director and shareholder information; (2) a desired corporate name and information about the corporation; and (3) client identification information I need to put together an engagement agreement.
  • That data gets automatically pulled from my website and a new matter is automatically created in Clio, my practice management software.
  • As soon as the form on my website is filled out, the matter fields inside Clio are automatically populated with the client’s information. Including for example, who the directors, shareholders are. That information is recorded and stored in Clio. This means that neither I, nor an assistant has to record the information and type it into our systems.
  • At the same time, the moment the form is submitted to my website, an automated email response goes out to the person who submitted the form, from my email address. This means that the client gets an acknowledgement that we have their information and are looking at it right away. It helps keep a client engaged right from the get go. The automated email is sent out directly from my own email account. So the client can see they will be working with me right away and not a clerk.
  • The automated email says, in short, thanks for filling out the form, it provides our fees for the services they specified and that in a moment they will receive an email from an e-signature software provider to review and e-sign my engagement agreement.
  • When they are completing the engagement agreement, they are prompted to enter their credit card information. I do not store or have access to the card information, it is all collected via a third party payment provider. I can login and bill their card once work is complete. This has really helped with collection issues. It also avoids slowing the process down by having to wait for a retainer cheque to be sent to me before we begin work.
  • Inside Clio, now that I have the client’s matter information automatically provided, I have different processes I can run on that data. In the incorporation file example, I can automatically generate the company’s organizational resolutions with the new company’s name, directors, shareholders etc. Again, this means that no clerk needs to type out this information, it is all done automatically by the systems in place.
  • We then use electronic minute books, as opposed to hard copy minute book in most cases.

If you can set your ego aside and accept that you don’t have the power of a Bay St. office tower and fine art supporting your reputation, I believe the lifestyle benefits far outweigh the cons.

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Technology and e-Commerce lawyer — https://wireslaw.ca/.

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John Wires

John Wires

Technology and e-Commerce lawyer — https://wireslaw.ca/.

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