Turning your firm into a virtual law office

April 16, 2015

paperless officeWe’ve been talking at length about the advantages of using mobile technology in your law practice.   But missing from this discussion was one significant application of mobile technology: the virtual law office.

This application is comprehensive and transformative, in that it changes the very nature of how you operate your law firm: a virtual office minimizes or outright disposes of the use of a physical office, opting instead for electronic storage of files and forms of communication (for more information about virtual offices, check out this post).

Besides the inherent benefits associated with mobile technology (e.g. ease of access, convenience, etc), there’s also a significant cost reduction benefit to this transition.  Without the need for paper files, you no longer have to worry about spending money on maintaining them; the cost of leasing office space is greatly reduced or eliminated altogether; and with the ability to work anywhere, there’s no longer any need to commute all the way to the office to get work done, thereby reducing transportation costs.

S030079While it may feel as though you’re losing some sense of security by foregoing a dedicated, central office environment in which to store your files and meeting with clients, virtual office environments actually offer unparalleled flexibility and accessibility.  Attorneys working with their files in the cloud can access them from literally anywhere with an Internet connection, allowing them to work from anywhere.  In addition, many offices with virtual space options offer business addresses to receive mail for law firms, as well as conference rooms of a variety of sizes for meetings with clients (not to mention depositions and the like).  Moreover, many of these offices are part of a network of locations across a city, state, or even a larger, interstate region, allowing attorneys to meet with clients across a broader geographic area, expanding the attorney’s area of service.

But aside from cloud-based storage and virtual office space access, what kinds of tools are necessary for attorneys to successfully transition and maintain the virtual office regime?  Clearly, if attorneys are going to store files electronically, they are going to need some way to access them, such as a tablet or a laptop PC (which is also recommended for attorneys to modify or create legal documents to begin with).  But some kind of scanning technology is also needed to transfer those documents attorneys receive in paper form to an electronic format that may be stored in the cloud, and those attorneys that are particularly mobile may find a portable scanner to be a wise investment.

Attorneys will also want to add an electronic fax (or efax) system to their virtual office arrangement so that they can send and receive faxes with nothing more than an email address; in addition, attorneys who will be relying on third-party Internet connections (i.e. those not directly under their own control) should take precautions to ensure that these connections are secured (which can be accomplished through use of a VPN (virtual private network).

However, there is no set model for how a virtual office should operate, and that aspect offers attorneys a great deal of flexibility in itself, allowing them to tailor the arrangement to suit their own respective needs.

(Editor’s Note: For more on this topic, download the free whitepaper: GOING MOBILE: Turn Your Law Firm into a Virtual Law Office.)