Virtual Law Practice and Client Relationships: They Are What You Make Them

If you visit the virtual law practice website of Rania Combs, Texas Wills and Trusts Online, you’ll see something you wouldn’t expect: her telephone number. Yes, although Rania runs her firm exclusively online, she happily initiates and responds to phone calls, from both existing and prospective clients. Her communications are not restricted to online interaction: to her, it’s just not an either/or situation.

Combs is licensed to practice in Texas, and began her career as a full-time firm litigator. She decided to go solo after having her first child so she could better manage her work/life balance. She had just gotten her solo practice off the ground when her husband’s job required a move to North Carolina, with the possibility of more moves in the future. How she could sustain her practice under these circumstances was the challenge that motivated her to research and use web-based law practice technology.

For those lawyers concerned that running a virtual law practice will interfere with the personal client relationships you can build offline, her approach is a refreshing combination of  technology integration and Main Street customer service.

Combs emphasizes that using a virtual platform does not dictate the nature of your client relationship. “There are different ways to use virtual law technology. You can have a document-driven practice or a more client-centered practice, which allows you to build relationships and advise your clients about what they are trying to accomplish,” she says. “It depends on what kind of practice you want to build, and what you’re comfortable with. Both are valuable.”

Calling people in response to receiving a new contact and information request via her website is standard operating procedure. She calls them to connect on a personal level and gauge the suitability of their needs to the services she provides. By talking directly with potential clients, she can better elicit information that may effect this decision. It also presents an opportunity for her to explain the process of managing a legal matter through her virtual law practice so they know what to expect and how to find the information they want 24/7.

Most of the contacts she reaches out to are surprised to hear from her after completing her website contact form. It is a great value-add to her practice. Personal contact AND the ability to access their matters 24/7 is definitely a winning combination, and her clients have commented how comfortable they feel having both.

On the other side of the spectrum is the number one complaint of law clients: lawyers don’t return their calls. In a traditional practice, it’s a challenge to provide the level of attention clients want. But clients seek attention primarily because they want to be kept current on their legal matter. The number of phone calls you receive (and must respond to) drops precipitously if you provide your clients with an automated system where they can gain access to anything they need or want to know without picking up the phone.

Jay Pinkert advises combining the use of cloud-based document sharing platforms like Dropbox and project management platforms like Basecamp to solve the problem. This is a great idea, and can go a long way to solve the problem. But there are significant security issues regarding the use of these platforms for the storage and transmission of legal information that have yet to be answered. And why try to combine the use of two separate systems when you can accomplish the same results, and more, through virtual law platforms that can do everything, all in one place?

Virtual (or Saas) practice management systems enable your clients to log into their matter via a secure connection, where documents, notes of communications, scheduled events, billing, and the ability to ask questions in a secure environment and more are all available. For lawyers like Rania, who want to leverage the advantages of a web-based practice, maintain satisfying client relationships and address legal clients’ number one complaint, combining online information access in a comprehensive, secure environment and an open phone line is a great solution.

 

 

 

 

2 Responses to Virtual Law Practice and Client Relationships: They Are What You Make Them
  1. @legallytech
    August 15, 2011 | 10:22 pm

    I'd be interested to learn more about whether Dropbox and Basecamp satisfy security standards. Good article!

  2. Adrian
    December 25, 2011 | 10:58 pm

    Expect your article to go through several stages before it is considered for publication in a law review. Typically, it will go through two or more editors, an articles committee and a peer review. The process may take anywhere from 2 to 10 weeks, depending on the publication. You are most likely to be notified by email if the law review decides to publish your article.

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