When we asked our legal network how clients should evaluate virtual lawyers, we received a wide array of responses and advice. Some explained that legal services are not the same without in-person consultation and conversation; others claimed that physical law offices and virtual law firms produce the same results, just using different forms of communication. Either way, all of our legal professionals agreed that virtual lawyers share an array of differences from physical law firms, and it is up to the client to see what type of firm would best serve their case.
Our network generally agreed on one thing: working with a virtual lawyer is cheaper. With essentially no overhead costs, virtual lawyers can and do charge less than lawyers at physical firms. This is one of their main draws. With that, some of our lawyers claim the level of service and attention to detail suffers with lower fees. Authentication is also a factor when working with a virtual lawyer. It is important to research the background of who you are working with, and ensure you are in fact working with that lawyer and are not being manipulated by a fraud. Michele Colucci explains,
Not having overhead expenses attracts lawyers who may have not found a job, may have lost a job or may not have the level of financial success that would enable them to invest the money it takes to start their own firm. It’s generally unusual to find really high quality lawyers that choose not to run their own firm or work in a high paying partnership position with great benefits. And if they are not financially sound, this may also translate into them not having enough funds to pay for the expenses of your case (if a contingency fee case) or for simple filing fees or costs if they are a fee based practitioner.”
In other words, beware that virtual lawyers may be online because they were not successful enough to open up their own firm or join an established firm. This could affect the quality of service you receive, so do your research.
Zachary B Setzer points out,
There are two primary benefits of using a virtual lawyer. First, the lawyer fees are usually far less than a client would expect to pay going to a brick-and-mortar law firm. Second, the client doesn’t have to physically go to the law firm to meet with the lawyer. Many people are intimidated by the thought of going to a law office. Others find it more convenient to save time and travel cost. Some clients are do-it-yourselfers who want to take care of their legal matter on their own but just need a little bit of help from a licensed attorney. Any of these types of people can be well served by a virtual law office.”
Attorney Setzer lays out some of the top benefits of working with a virtual lawyer: both for their cost savings and for their convenience.
Shari Shore adds,
Many lawyers and/or law firms are setting up virtual interfaces to allow easy communication access for consultations and quick questions, as well as payment options or distribution of materials; yet they still have a brick and mortar office and can interact with you in person if it is necessary or more suitable to the situation.”
Hybrid virtual and physical law firms are definitely emerging. Attorney Shore explains that quick interactions can be accomplished online, but the in-person option is still available for more complicated legal matters.
In the end, choosing to work with a virtual lawyer can have benefits and drawbacks depending on the client’s need. Be certain that you are working with an accredited lawyer before embarking on a virtual relationship. And above all, work with a firm (virtual or traditional) that you feel will best serve your interests in your case.