Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 29


accompanying benefits. Many large corporations
favor a white-shoe law firm to handle their
voluminous and complex global matters, while others
select the comfort and security of a smaller
mom-and-pop shop with a local presence.

confirm the rules of conduct around confidentiality
and technology, remote office spaces, verifications of
client authority, and effective supervision of
subordinates before launching a virtual firm or
accepting clients.

Virtual lawyers say that younger clients who have
spent most of their lives on the Internet have a higher
level of comfort with the virtual approach than their
older colleagues. And there is an expectation from
some entrepreneurs that lawyers have more than a
passing familiarity with bootstrapping a business
online.

First and foremost, virtual attorneys say, it is key that
anyone considering e-lawyering be transparent with
clients about the virtual nature of the business
through their Websites, business cards, and in
conversation. Most professional rules err on the side
of caution and transparency to ensure that
practitioners do not mislead their clients.

"A virtual law firm is particularly attractive to startup
companies because they feel they're dealing with
somebody who operates the same way they do," says
Samuelson. "Entrepreneurs know what it means to
have a lean operation and to take advantage of online
opportunities."

FINDING A HAPPY MEDIUM

Most e-lawyers say their clients don't care much
about where their offices are located and are more
concerned with being able to reach a lawyer
whenever they need advice. The emphasis is on the
quality of service and not the quantity of lawyers or
square footage of an office. It helps that e-lawyers are
prepared to travel whenever and wherever clients
request. Technology today allows the profession a
level of mobility it never has had in the past.
"I see people all the time because I travel and visit my
clients," says Lisa Stone, another D.C. partner at VLP.
"For years my clients haven't focused on the model of
my law firm. To them, I'm just another outside counsel
like any other law firm, only I'm the one that is more
flexible and available to meet their needs."
In fact, many e-lawyers argue that clients might be
ahead of lawyers when it comes to accepting the
concept of virtual firms. "I feel like, by and large, a lot
of people are shifting gears," says Rinker. "I have
long-term existing clients who I've never actually met
in person. Some of them don't even know what I look
like, and they're fine with that."
There are limits to serving clients virtually. The types
of cases being handled might require a more
hands-on approach, such as those dealing with
certain violent crimes. Some clients also may lack the
ability to conduct business online due to technical,
financial, or language constraints. Certain jurisdictions
require lawyers to have bona fide offices to practice in
the state. And there is no substitute for a face-to-face
interaction.

Mosesethical
Cookconsiderations surrounding virtual
Moreover,
LSICareExecutive
Director
practices
very real and
being decided in many
jurisdictions today. It is critical that lawyers and firms

Sometimes the highest hurdle for e-lawyers is as
much personal as professional. It is difficult to
maintain a sense of community and shared purpose
when everyone is secreted away in their home
offices. Firms need to be more than a shared
marketing platform to ensure partners aren't remote
islands with little in common with each other.
Practitioners say it is essential to build a shared
identity.
VLP addresses those concerns by holding periodic
conference calls and in-person meetings to provide
continuity and networking. "As a firm, we get
together via video conference calls twice a month,"
says Stone. "We have also learned over the years that it
is important to see people face to face. Twice a year,
our entire firm gets together, and then there are
regional events."
Ultimately, the key to a successful virtual practice is
knowing the opportunities and risks of going virtual,
and then planning for them. The value of
transforming a practice can be measured in any
number of ways, but those who have successfully
bridged the transition say its merits remain the
independence it provides both attorneys and clients.
"In advance of making this move, I probably thought
about it and prepared for it for a couple of years," says
Taylor. "I had a good idea of the former clients I was
going to be reaching out to and other types of work
that I was going to go after. I had a good idea what
the rate was in the marketplace for the type of work I
wanted to do. I tried to prepare myself to be
self-contained and ready to go live on day one."
Sarah Kellogg is a regular contributor to
Washington Lawyer.

Looking into a less conventional office?
Read practitioners' experiences with
offices on demand at dcbar.org/news.

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The mission of the D.C.
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* WASHINGTON LAWYER * JANUARY 2017 29


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - January 2017

Washington Lawyer - January 2017
Contents
Your Voice
From Our President
Our Membership
Career & Professional Development
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Government & Gavel
Feature: An Inside Job
Feature: Investment Planning for Lawyers
Feature: Making the Virtual Leap
Feature: Lawyers Have Heart
Member Spotlight
Global & Domestic Outlook
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Partners' Perspective
Ask the Ethics Experts
Attorney Briefs
Pro Bono Effect
Community & Connections
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Washington Lawyer - January 2017
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 1
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Contents
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 3
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 4
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 7
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Our Membership
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 9
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Career & Professional Development
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 11
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 13
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 15
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Government & Gavel
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 17
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Feature: An Inside Job
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 19
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 20
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 21
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Feature: Investment Planning for Lawyers
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 23
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 24
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 25
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Feature: Making the Virtual Leap
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 27
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 28
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 29
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Feature: Lawyers Have Heart
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 31
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 32
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 33
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 35
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 37
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Partners' Perspective
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 41
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Ask the Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 45
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - 47
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - January 2017 - Cover4
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