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According to new research, there are now over 800 lawyers working for ‘virtual’ law firms in the UK. Advances in technology has paved the way for so-called ‘virtual lawyers’, a group of self-employed lawyers harnessing remote IT access and flexible working hours to provide competitive fee arrangements to clients. We speak to a range of legal experts about the advent of the ‘virtual lawyer’ and what impact this might have on the legal market.
For Mark Harrison, managing partner at Flexlaw Solicitors, a virtual lawyer is one who is able to provide a full service to clients but at a lower cost because of their reduced overheads. ‘Virtual’, he says, doesn’t necessarily equate to second best, but usually indicates the lawyer ( through the use of technology) is going to have a degree of remoteness from the client on a day-to-day basis.
Having said that, remoteness is not a defining feature, and Harrison says virtual lawyers can meet ‘face-to-face’ when needed with routine work ‘actioned by email and telephone’ and marketing via digital investment and social media.
In terms of law firm set-up, Tariq Mubarak, managing director at Matrix Legal says the law firm could be a dedicated virtual law firm, sometimes referred to as a ‘dispersed law firm’, or could be a ‘traditional law firm, where the virtual lawyer happens to work remotely’.
He adds ‘this arrangement is akin to barristers and chambers’ with virtual lawyers usually remunerated on a profit share or ‘pay-as-you-bill’ basis, ie they share a percentage of their billing with their umbrella law firm.
Placing greater onus on the technology aspect, Chad E Burton, chief executive officer at CuroLegal, says the virtual lawyer is simply a lawyer who ‘leverages technology to run a modern law firm outside the traditional brick and mortar setting’.
This, he adds, typically means lawyers have established a cloud-based tech ecosystem in which their firm can easily interact with clients across the globe. In this set-up office space is leveraged where/when needed but is secondary to delivering legal services.
Burton says virtual law models are by definition ‘lean’ in nature which provide for
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