The trending wave of virtual law practice: what’s the hype?

Updated: Dec 5, 2019

Nanya Osamor|

With the rise of the technological age, the profession of law is diversifying and opening up a new avenue for career development, expansion of reach and increasing profits. The concept of ‘virtual law’ has become a significant innovation for several law firms across the world, as it inverts the traditional practice of an in-house meeting. As a result of the economic downturn in 2009, many lawyers needed to divert their expertise onto an alternative platform. There is no denying that the demand for lawyers will always exist but why is this virtual trend becoming so popular?

The legal profession has and always will be a profession integral in every society as justice is imperative. However, it has changed immensely. According to the American Bar Association, the specialty of law accounted for over 1.3 million people at the end of 2015. So, there is no denying that there are a lot of lawyers. Which raises the question of how there is space for every single lawyer to practice. The founder of both Mestel and co. and Hire Counsel, Lynn Mestel noted that the profession of law used to be a very local one. Lawyers could only attend to the clients they could physically reach in the shortest space of time. However, Mestel noted that “today, it does not matter where you are sitting” highlighting the cultural shift from local law to global law. Clients or colleagues could be miles away but still very easily accessible.

The benefits of a virtual law landscape

The accessibility of virtual law is on the rise and continues to increase its scope. For example, 7% of lawyers offered services virtually in 2014 which shows an increase compared to 2012 which was only 5%. In recent years, this figure has grown even more exceptionally and the reason for this is that it presents significant benefits. The demand for cheaper and more available justice has been a trend since the economic downturn. Many lawyers realised this, and thus the virtual law is a cheaper solution as it cuts legal fees for clients and travel costs for lawyers. The convenience of the virtual landscape fosters efficiency which is why so many law firms are now looking for online solutions.

Studies have recently questioned, despite the efficacy of virtual law, whether it is a sustainable platform for a long-term innovation. Would it be possible to run a whole law firm virtually without in-house practice? This is highly dependent on the development of technology but overall yes, this innovation is sustainable. It not only allows lawyers and clients to work on their own personal schedules, but eliminates the burden of travel. Particularly in the interest of pro bono cases which do not generate revenue for lawyers, the virtual law landscape facilitates a stress-free environment for accessible justice.

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