In a widely distributed press release to announce his coaching service in virtual lawyering, Attorney and co-founder of vLawyer Consulting, William McNeil makes this statement:
vLawyer defines a virtual law practice as a blending of a traditional brick-and-mortar law firm and legal services delivered entirely through the Internet and a secure client portal. The American Bar Association has responded by launching an e-lawyering task force, but to this point has only provided guidance for lawyers looking to open virtual law offices where clients never meet with the lawyer in person. This works for certain practice areas, but family law and criminal defense attorneys are left out of this definition. A virtual law practice, as defined by vLawyer, can apply to many different practice areas and gives attorneys the power to design their own lifestyle, while providing top-notch client service.
This statement is "made-up" stuff.
The eLawyering Task Force of the Law Practice Division of the American Bar Association was not "just launched." It was established in 2000 by William Paul, then President of the ABA. Nowhere in the statements that the eLawyering Task Force has published has been the representation that virtual lawyering should be limited to law firms that solely deliver legal services without seeing a client. We have clarified in multiple statements and presentations that the idea of online delivery of legal services should be combined with an off-line face-to-face presence and each delivery mode should support and reinforce the other.
While it is possible to create a virtual law firm pure play where there is no face-to-face presence, it is difficult to make a success of a purely virtual law firm practice. We expand on this idea in a White Paper, published by DirectLaw, the sponsor of this blog entitled: Virtual Law Practice: Success Factors. After working with over 300 law firms that use the DirectLaw virtual law firm platform, we have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t work. Download the White Paper here.
The eLawyering Task Force minimum requirements for law firms delivering legal services online (October, 2009), provides a framework for further discussion and to define the essential requirements for enabling the delivery of ethically compliant online legal services. The guidance was not designed to provide recommendations on how every type of law practice should execute on this concept.
A more expansive discussion of these requirements is contained in an article which just appeared in Legalink Magazine, by Stephanie Kimbro and myself. Ms. Kimbro also served on the Task Force and wrote the book on Virtual Law Practice. We conclude the article with this thought:
We welcome Attorney McNeil’s recent entrance into this field as solos and small law firms need all of the coaching and support they can get to adopt their practices to the requirements of 21st century practice. The eLawyering Task Force is an open group that welcomes discussion of these concepts and their implications. Our next meeting will be during the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Boston in August, 2014. To learn more about what we are really doing come join us. (McNeil that message is for you!).
*Disclosure: Richard Granat is Co-Chair of the eLawyering Task Force, Law Practice Division, American Bar Association.