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Virtual Law Firms Going Viral

Nearly a year ago, I posted here about the launch of Virtual Law Partners, an 18-member corporate and transactional virtual firm of "elite" lawyers. Though some observers expressed doubt about the viability of the VLP model, today the firm has nearly 40 lawyers.

But VLP isn't alone -- more and more virtual firms are cropping up. As the National Post blog describes, there's the Rimon Law Group and Atlanta-based FSB Group. Both of these are virtual firms comprised of lawyers with at least 10 years of large firm experience; like VLP, Rimon focuses largely on transactional and corporate work, while the 50 attorney FSB Group handles a wide range of practice areas.

In addition to these large virtual firm models that serve corporate clients, there are also smaller virtual practices geared toward individuals or small entrepreneurs. Larry Bodine has a post today about Natoli-Lapin, a two-man virtual shop founded in 2008 that is building a niche in low-cost legal services for entrepreneurs, artists and others launching new business ventures. And Stephanie Kimbro's Virtual Law Practice blog lists a dozen solo and small firms operating virtually, including Kimbro herself in North Carolina. The ABA's GP Solo magazine documents the solo/small firm trend to create virtual practices, with this article by Aviva Cuyler and Niki Black.

The experiences of these virtual firms, large or small, suggest that they provide a win-win for lawyers and clients. Because the firms rely on experienced lawyers and slash overhead by eliminating large offices and administrative infrastructure, lawyers can charge substantially less for the same services provided by a large firm. For example, Rimon caps its rates at $185, while VLP partners charge around $350-$400 an hour, a huge discount off their former $700+ BigLaw rates. As for the lawyers themselves, virtual practices offer more flexibility.

The younger generation of lawyers should be following the virtual trend for several reasons. Notably, the large virtual practices do not want inexperienced attorneys, which means younger lawyers could potentially be left out in the cold. At the same time, virtual law practices make it easier for younger lawyers to go solo because they remove the cost barrier. In theory, newer attorneys could start a virtual firm by handling smaller, less complicated matters to cut their teeth, like Natoli and Lapin, and move on to more complex cases down the line. Is this something recent law graduates you know are considering?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on June 26, 2009 at 03:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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