Diverse ways of rendering legal services.
By David J. Bilinsky
Said we’re Diverse City, we’re colourful goods
It’s just a state of mind, we gonna shine the way that we should, baby...
– Music, Lyrics and recorded by: The Diverse City Band.
Today innovative lawyers are finding new clients and new ways of rendering legal services by using the vast array of services offered by the Internet. This isn’t just about blogging, using social media or using Skype, although those do factor into the equation. In the words of the eLawyering task force of the American Bar Association:
eLawyering encompasses all the ways in which lawyers can do their work using the Web and associated technologies. Think of lawyering as a “verb” – interview, investigate, counsel, draft, advocate, analyze, negotiate, manage,... – and there are corresponding Internet-based tools and technologies.
This ability to render legal services virtually opens up vast ways to reach out and serve clients as compared to a traditional “bricks and mortar” practice. Think of online forms, unbundled legal services, private discussion forums, deal rooms, document depositories, cloud (public, private and hybrid) services and more. Unlike a traditional office that keeps traditional business hours, a virtual lawyer could work from home asynchronously, at all hours of the day, rendering legal services to fit their schedule, at lower cost and in a way that meets their client’s needs.
The 24/7 nature of the Internet offers the ability for lawyers who may not desire the traditional model of practice the ability to stay active in their profession as well as achieve a work-life balance that fits their lives. Already, lawyers with young families have found that a virtual practice allows them to continue in their profession but without the rigid work-time constraints of traditional practice.
Other lawyers have found that they can build practices that render discrete tidbits of legal information to their clients in an unbundled format by using the Internet. Still other lawyers have found that they can reach out to distant markets and make contact with clients in new ways and at a much lower cost than otherwise by using the collaborative power of the Internet. Lawyers who are building an immigration or international business practice have been able to capitalize on Internet technologies in this way. Other lawyers have built the ability to meet with clients using Web conferencing tools such as Skype and GoToMeeting.com. Cloud-based services offered by web-based companies are changing how lawyers perform their back-office services while still remaining traditional bricks and mortar firms.
A few brave firms are using the off shoring potential of the Internet to contract work out to lower-cost lawyers in jurisdictions such as India to lower the overall legal spend of their clients and to remain cost competitive.
Still other lawyers are setting up websites that seek to go beyond the law firm and seek to be Internet-based companies that provide near-legal services such as legalzoom.com and rocketlawyer.com.
What is clear is that the Internet is changing the profession and allowing for greater diversity in how lawyers and clients meet, converse, interact, exchange, collaborate and more. It is allowing them to shine the way they should.
The views expressed herein are strictly those of the author and may not be shared by the Law Society of British Columbia. David J. Bilinsky is the Practice Management Advisor for the LSBC. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Blog: www.thoughtfullaw.com.
This article originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of BarTalk and is reproduced here with permission of both the author and the Canadian Bar Association, British Columbia Branch.