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Virtual Law Firms

The development of virtual law firms

Rudi Kesic, Azeem Rashid, and Mev Dzihic founded Lawyer 365, situated in Warwickshire, in 2018. The company is a UK-based £5 million-valued application providing legal advice to the public. Consumers have access to hundreds of listed lawyers through app video-call or text messages for consultation, accessible seven days a week from 7 am to 11 pm. Initial appointments are free, 30-minute appointments start at £ 49; some lawyers charge £ 250 for a 60-minute rendezvous.

Suzanne King, a partner at SQM Legal LLP in Oxford and Bedford, is one of the early adopters of the platform. She commented: ‘With the acceleration of virtual law on the back of social distancing, Lawyer 365 is truly a tailwind growth story that provides a sneak-peek into what the future of law holds.’

The virtual lawyer service purposes to substitute a traditional office appointment. The legal sector has been compelled to adjust because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The last recent study from the Lawtech 365 group revealed that solicitors were adapting to hybrid and remote working arrangements taking the place of face-to-face discussions with virtual video meetings much for the first time. Over half (60%) of the solicitors have been forced to spend more on legal technology in the past 12 months, virtually two-thirds of lawyers have never been advised by video before, and 96% of those surveyed expressed that even after the lockdown, they would maintain to provide legal services via video to those who required it.

John Llewellyn-Lloyd, Head of Business Services at Arden Partners, a corporate adviser, and multi-service stockbroker, said: ‘The pandemic has escalated pressure to invest in IT infrastructure and reduce back-office costs, however, nearly all businesses are facing low funds available, and partners are generally reluctant to commit additional capital.’ Law firms that concentrate on advice are today in a powerful position to operate as a dominator. They have a more enhanced infrastructure to deal with and furnish legal assistance.

Virtual law firm: a settled creation

In 2017, Lexis Nexis recounted that there were up to 800 lawyers engaging in ‘virtual law firms’ in the UK. The virtual law firm model very rapidly evolved from an attractive concept into a spreading and very common part of the legal profession. There has been an acute growth in the figure of solicitors serving in ‘virtual law firms’ in the UK. According to Hazelwoods’ accountants, a Business Advisers and Accountants company 1,270 lawyers are currently working in ‘so-called’ virtual firms, or a 22% rise over the total of employees last year, coming from more than 20 firms. Analysts said the new model of virtual consulting firms could definitely change the legal profession. COVID-19 modified the mindset of lawyers about how they desired to move in the future. The idea of handling the hours and locations of work is very enticing to many lawyers.

The main virtual firms include the top 100 pioneer firms, the bigger virtual firm Keystone Law, now has 354 lawyers. It has employed several leading law firms, including magic circles’ firm Clifford Chance in the later months. The firm entered the London Stock Exchange in 2017 and saw a 35.1% gain in revenue to £42.7m with a 56.8% rise in adjusted profits before tax to £5.1m.

Its virtual business allowed it to connect legal talent from medium-sized law firms in the difficulty, facing incremented billing targets and no longer interested in an equity partnership; Keystone lawyers are guaranteed 60-75% of their fees ‘depending on the origin of the client’ with additional earnings acceded ‘to those who give the job to colleagues at Keystone.’

Other leading virtual law firms such as Gunnercooke have more than 230 lawyers, a 28% growth from last year; or Setfords which expand its employees by 48% from 150 to 220 in 2019. The company is supported by the BGF private equity fund, the UK, and Ireland’s most active investor of equity capital in growing companies, backing entrepreneurs and innovators.

Why virtual law firms are replacing traditional practices?

Technology has long been an impetus for advancement. It has enabled organisations to boost their productivity and embrace more competitive business models in comparison to traditional companies. In the sphere of law, ‘virtual law firms’ are re-planned how law firms perform and the services they offer.

In contrast to traditional law firms, virtual firms insert cloud technology to function digitally, without the need for offices. Watching the day-to-day operations of a virtual law firm, working with the cloud technology compared to those of a traditional law firm, bring numerous benefits:

  • General costs – No more rent, no more computers, faxes, printers, and filing cabinets, so fewer expenses and therefore more income. Virtual lawyers using cloud-based practice management software can completely function law firms from anywhere, on any device, at a cut of the cost, as, unlike on-premises solutions, cloud solutions are cost-free information technology (IT) and maintenance attached. Traditional law firms often get bogged down in all these costs, hampering their capacity to progress. For virtual law firms, having a lightened business concern means being able to experiment with differential fee structures, while furnishing a similar high-quality service;
  • Communication with clients – Although it is exact that virtual lawyers do not have an office to house their clients, it can be not easy for traditional firms’ lawyers to find the moment to see their clients outside, whilst virtual lawyers have more flexibility during their workday to meet clients, around their schedules and build relationships. Therefore, ensuring better customer service.
  • Collaboration with colleagues – Virtual lawyers can use cloud-based case management software that supports secure online collaboration on cases and documents, it is more efficient because the current versions of case documents, contacts, and emails are coordinated centrally, and entry is solely authorised to colleagues who handle the case. Further, with the aptitude to enter projects and deadlines in the same software, the lawyers can better control each other’s agendas and set up automated workflows to assure they fulfil all their responsibilities.
  • The way of performing – To stay competitive, law firms need to keep a close eye on profitability and overall financial performance metrics and correct the way they run when necessary. Metrics can help you diagnose where you need to make modifications to obtain profitability, but traditional businesses can be slow to initiate transformations. Virtual businesses are more entrepreneurial thanks to the technology, that permits them to be more resourceful. Thus, virtual businesses can keep pace with very quickly changing customer needs, hold a healthy profit margin, and secure the business is driving in the utmost achievable manner.
  • Mobility – Solicitors utilising on-premises applications in traditional firms can find it difficult to work efficaciously when not at the office. When you build a virtual law firm, you can carry it out from anywhere. This turns into more billable time, and so, revenue.

Virtual law firms, the future of the legal industry?

There are at present 1,355 lawyers working in virtual law firms, up from 1,270 before Covid and only 803 in 2017. This reflects the effects of the pandemic; businesses are reconsidering the need for expensive office spaces. Last month, Linklaters announced to its employees that they could spend up to half of their time out of the office permanently. The company said the new policy was based on their experience during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hazelwoods has related that many lawyers are asking themselves if they could earn more individually in a low overhead virtual firm by retaining a higher percentage of their billing. In addition, some lawyers realised the conversion to remote work to be better for work-life balance. Virtual law firms afford more independence in the number and hours of work lawyers take.

Hazelwoods’ associate Jon Cartwright said: ‘Six months ago, a lot of lawyers wouldn’t have been able to imagine not spending some 45 to 50 hours a week in the office, but they have been forced to get used to it very quickly. Some are finding that the prospect of going back to their desks isn’t particularly appealing. The work-from-anywhere model of a virtual firm is going to particularly be attractive for those individuals.’

A growing number of lawyers are turning to ‘virtual firms’ as they plan to live outside the traditional office environment due to the pandemic. The number of virtual law firms’ solicitors within the UK has increased by 7% since the coronavirus outbreak, according to Hazelwoods firm’s business consultants. Virtual law is a growing industry with several fast-growing and grabbing practices.


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