Practice Management — 23 November 2020

COVID-19 has changed the way many organizations approach business. For example, how many Walmart shoppers do you know who are choosing to ask for store pick-up rather than shop for themselves? Customers need only order their required groceries online, choose a pick-up time, and then park outside. Workers come out to the car and place the groceries in the trunk. That’s all there is to it.

Theoretically, this could result in more permanent change. For example, if store pick-up proves to be good for business, then why should Walmart spend so much money on surface area for huge stores when it already has distribution centers? Why not allow customers to pick up groceries directly from these locations or simply deliver? There will always be plenty of customers who wish to shop for themselves, but you don’t need as much surface area for fewer people.

We can apply these same principles to legal businesses as well. Law firms will always need business space where clients can meet with partners. But do they need tons of surface area for firm associates when most of that work can be handled remotely? Probably not. COVID-19 might have presented these firms with the perfect opportunity to step back and reevaluate the needs of the business.

Many firm practices don’t require a face-to-face meeting. In fact, many clients might prefer to shop for the right lawyer online via video chat rather than spend time setting up an in-person meeting. Why waste time and money when you might not like a particular service? It’s easier for both parties to turn on a webcam.

What types of activities can be mostly set up online? Lots! Estate planning lawyers can provide many legal services online, especially when constructing simple documents like a last will and testament. All a client has to do to officialize these documents is come in for the signing. Debt relief firms can begin proceeding when attempting to vacate a default judgment relating to wage garnishment.

Many lawyers who have graduated in the last seven months have opted for something even more radical: an almost completely virtual law firm. These firms don’t have a brick and mortar location. They rely more wholly on virtual communication, and require lawyers to travel to clients’ homes when in-person meeting is required. These virtual firms might be more successful when they cater to the wealthy (because those clients are less likely to want to visit an office when they can simply spend a few extra bucks to summon lawyers to their homes).

What are these virtual offices known for? Generally, they all have a group of attorneys who work remotely. Most still maintain a familiar partnership structure. They maintain relationships with brick-and-mortar firms for those instances when such a location might be required. They invest in computer technology (which sometimes means their technology is more cutting edge than other firms). Because all work is done remotely, the overhead costs tend to be much smaller.

This might be the time to transition!

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Dolores Obrien

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