Practicing Law Virtually Is Changing The Career Path of Attorneys

John LivelyLegal Insights, Work-Life Balance

attorney on device looking at computer

Considering a Virtual Law Firm or Practicing as a Solo Attorney?

GET THE GUIDE TO STARTING A VIRTUAL LAW FIRM

Could this be the year you pivot your career from an AmLaw firm to a virtual law practice (or solo practice)? The legal marketplace is shifting and COVID-19 is having a lasting impact on all client services, our legal world included. It’s reasonable to be asking is my job safeIs my firm stableIs this the right time or the wrong time to consider a move?

By now, we’ve all heard that change management metaphor, when do you jump from a burning platform? To me, that sounds dire. The traditional law firm is evolving, sure. It’s not imploding. So, I’d like to offer this reframe: when do you jump over from an ocean liner to a catamaran? (neither aflame.)

“It’s not the biggest law firms or most established attorneys who will survive. The attorneys and firms who are most capable of adapting, will become the next dominant species in the legal market.”

—Frederick Shelton, Attorney At Law Magazine

It was about a year ago that we were writing about balancing entrepreneurial skills with legal skills and the different approach required when you are setting up a solo law practice or are practicing law virtually. At the time, the focus was primarily on unpacking a lawyer’s career goals, life goals, and desired future lifestyle. 

In a matter of months, the conversation has changed. Practicing law virtually is not only a culture, lifestyle, or work-life-balance issue at its heart; but one of survival, growth and success. Are the more traditional AmLaws best positioned to serve the needs of clients as the day-to-day practice of law becomes more tech-enabled and virtual by default? Are they your preferred choice as the place to grow and plant your career? Are you yet fully acquainted with what Virtual law firms can offer and how they are structured?  

frederick shelton quote over virtual lawyer holding phone

The market is in the process of evolving. Check out this great article on the evolution from legal recruiter Frederick Shelton. More and more, people are coming to realize the virtual firms were the earliest adopters of the law practice methods everyone is now scrambling to put in place.    

Are you prepared?

An evolution is taking place in front of our eyes. It’s happening one remote desk at a time. Each law firm has a different pace of change. You will have to be the one to evaluate if you’re in sync with your firm’s pace, or if you need to make a shift to stay current and keep your legal career headed on the trajectory you want. 

Early Career, Mid-Career. Early Pandemic, Mid-pandemic. 

If it’s early in your legal career, you’re just now defining that story. As an attorney, your focus should be on gaining expertise and a great reputation while building a book of business. If you want to do that as a solo law practitioner, it’s certainly possible. However, there are some advantages to cutting your teeth in the company of more seasoned law partners

Mid-career, joining a virtual law firm takes on a different tenor for attorneys. You have a client base and you’re considering what’s best for your law career from here. What is your next chapter? You have something to offer… they have something to offer in return… and it’s a question of forming a mutual alignment. You’re digging in to find if the virtual law practice is positioned for growth, and if they have the systems in place to support your individual success.  

Or do you ride out the headwinds at a firm that leans heavily on its partners in the lean times? Recently, Bloomberg Law reported, “Nearly half of the largest 100 law firms in the U.S. made pay cuts, furloughs, or other moves to trim costs in response to the coronavirus pandemic.” The pandemic is precipitating a rash of austerity measures at the largest law firms.

Bigger Buffer, or Flexible and Responsive

In recent memory, it was assumed that the big and established law firm would have the scale of reserves in place to buffer employees from an economic downturn. It was all about security in numbers (i.e. lots of clients, massive billings). But in 2020 and 2021, some virtual law firms have grown through the pandemic, in contrast to the legal industry trend.  

The evolution of practicing law is now shining a light on the evidence that across the board, nimble, flexible and tech-enabled are waxing at a time when so much of the legal industry is waning. Which leads us to some important points: 

  1. Lawyers working from home – or working remotely – is here to stay.  
  2. Having a home office that can fully function in place of the central office is here to stay.
  3. Using secure, could-based technology to enable communication, synchronous & asynchronous collaboration and administration is here to stay. 

Everyone has to get in the pool. BigLaw firms will all dip a toe in. Virtual law firms, meanwhile, are doing a cannonball into the deep end. 

Virtual law firms (and many solo practices) are client-centric; and last we checked a law firm needs plenty of good, happy, paying clients around. A firm wants clients to feel like they’re getting a fair value to extend the relationship and to get lots of referral work. 

Practus,LLP has been hitting the virtual law drumbeat for almost three years now. And we’re continuing to grow at a steady clip. The evolution has favored our firm.

Our approach is all about…

  • Maximizing technology to serve our clients.   
  • Surrounding partners with the right kinds of support services so they can focus on serving clients and practicing law.   
  • Fostering a culture of teamwork, support, connectivity.
  • Feeling connected to the practice of law again.

For more information about practicing law as a solo attorney, checkout our 2021 Guide to Practicing Law Virtually.

Things continue to evolve rapidly. It’s really keeping all of us on our toes. We plan on updating this guide down the road. We hope you found a good deal of the info helpful and hopeful! We’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Be healthy and stay open to change,

-John Lively
Managing Partner and Founder of Practus, LLP

About Practus, LLP

Practus is an innovative law firm that is disrupting the outdated ways of practicing law. By leveraging mobile technology, cloud-based solutions, and an agile infrastructure to deliver legal services, both clients and attorneys benefit from this visionary model.