New technology — and increased consumer demand to conduct business online — is giving rise to a new kind of legal practice: the virtual law firm. A growing segment of the legal community is embracing the idea of a viable, alternative business model that makes the practice of law more mobile and efficient, and significantly reduces the up-front investment required to launch and run a firm.
The key technologies that have enabled them include cloud computing, law practice management software, and access to digital records, and advanced legal research tools.
Virtual law firm defined
According to the American Bar Association (ABA) 2016 Tech Report, a virtual law firm is defined by heavy, web-based interactions, a lack of traditional office space, minimal in-person client contact, unbundled legal services and secure client portals.
Cloud computing gives lawyers the flexibility to operate just about anywhere there’s Internet access. And innovations like virtual assistants, law practice management software and online, investigative tools like TransUnion’s TLOxp® are enabling lawyers to take greater control of their practice by custom designing a technology-driven infrastructure that meets all their needs — virtually.
The resounding success of online legal services like LegalZoom proves consumers are ready for a virtual law model. The annual revenue of the online legal industry — a category that didn’t exist a decade ago — is expected to reach $5.9 billion by 2019, according to the ABA’s Report on the Future of Legal Services in the United States. More than 70% of law practices have begun using secure, web-based portals to exchange information with clients, and more than 10% are offering real-time consultations online, the report said.
The technology that makes virtual law firms possible
- Cloud computing
Cloud computing is the secret ingredient that has spurred the recent growth of virtual law firms. Cloud sharing allows users to instantly store, share and retrieve documents instantly, no matter where they are.
- Law practice management software
Law practice management software that provides a secure client portal is another foundation of a virtual law practice. The best portals are user-friendly and incorporate stringent cybersecurity measures. They can be used to exchange documents, allow for flexible, online payment options, and provide for messaging and other communication access.
- Digital records and legal research tools
The advent of the Internet enabled legal research to break free from the constraints of massive law libraries and gave attorneys on-demand access to case law, judgments, and other legal records from almost anywhere. The latest game-changer is the availability of detailed data that goes beyond standard legal documents and resources — digital research and investigation tools that enable firms to build better cases from a range of public, proprietary and behavioral information.
Investigations and due diligence with TLOxp take virtual legal services to the next level
Whether attorneys practice in a virtual or a traditional law firm, one of the most beneficial tools available is TransUnion’s TLOxp product, which enables lawyers to dramatically improve research and investigative functions. TLOxp makes it easy for legal professionals to build and strengthen their cases with instant access to unparalleled data and unmatched search control. It’s the fastest and most efficient way to uncover and verify information on individuals and businesses.
As the legal profession adapts to clients’ changing expectations, virtual law firms are emerging nationwide in various incarnations — from solo practitioners delivering complete online services to large firms allowing some employees to work remotely. New technology paves the way for lower costs and streamlined services that ensure the information attorneys need is at their fingertips, whether they share a brick-and-mortar office or are scattered around the world.
Technology like TransUnion’s TLOxp platform takes the benefits of virtual services a step further. Its sophisticated analytics of vast information sources allows law practices to service clients faster and more effectively by delivering actionable intelligence. To learn more about the technology, please fill out the form below.