Virtual Law Firms
In insight / By Lydia Cooper / 29 May 2019
According to a report produced by The Law Society earlier this year, widespread adoption of lawtech and the increasing automation of legal services and processes is set to have a profound effect on the UK legal sector.
What is a Virtual Law Firm?
A virtual law firm is a legal practice that doesn't have a physical office, but operates from offices of its lawyers virtually instead. It enables the lawyers to deliver a service to their clients from a distance - usually online.
From the implications on future skills, to the changing nature of service delivery models and the increasingly competitive environment; the legal industry is currently experiencing a fundamental disruption. Firms should be looking ahead to what legal services might look like in two years’ time and be ready to make the shift or risk being left behind.
Benefits of a Virtual Law Firm
One scenario in The Law Society’s report pitches the ‘law firm of the future’ as a network of lawyers made available through backend infrastructure, reducing the need for administrative roles and therefore allowing for lower prices for consumers and increased productivity of fee earners.
The report goes on to cite that the future of the virtual office also means that firms can recruit a mobile workforce, employing staff in multiple locations and enabling a flexible working pattern including working from home. This approach opens up a geographically and demographically diverse pool of talent, as well becoming a tool for attracting and retaining talent.
Nasstar client, Keystone Law operates with a focus on innovation, achieved through a flatter organisational model and supported by a resilient IT platform. This model not only enables the firm to better recognise talent but also retain and promote it across their business. While many law firms talk about agile working, Keystone Law has taken proactive, organisational steps to encourage it across their business.
However, more agile working practices require the technology to be in place to allow workers to connect seamlessly with their companies’ systems, resources, applications and files. The good news is that more dynamic communication and collaboration technology is now enabling flexible working to become much more prevalent across the legal industry, with more and more companies allowing staff to work more flexible schedules; from home or on the go. Solutions such as secure cloud hosting and Microsoft Office 365 are now giving lawyers the ability to access emails, documents and financial information from anywhere.
Being able to access applications and client data at home, on the go, or at client sites with the same experience as working in an office means that flexible working doesn’t impact on a firms’ ability to service its clients; while allowing lawyers to have a better work-life balance that they have more control over.
Yet whilst the industry talks about implementing flexible working options, is enough being done to enable better working practices?
“Most law firms talk about remote and flexible working, but their culture doesn’t fully embrace the model – with managers watching over their employees and worrying about staff actually working when away from the office. The cultural acceptance of remote working is just as important as having the technology infrastructure in place to support more agile working practices,” says Dee Sian, Consultant solicitor in the Corporate team at Keystone Law.
A recent report by the Law Society cited that 52% of respondents said they currently worked in an organisation where flexible working was an option.
“There’s a greater acceptance of remote working today, across both employers and clients,” commented Zoe Bloom, Family Solicitor at Keystone Law. “My clients don’t expect me to be in an office in London when I take a call; it’s much more accepted that we’re all on the go or working in a range of environments compared with even just a few years ago, which makes it easier for flexible working to be successful.”
Outside of providing staff with diverse working options, more agile working enables firms to better communicate with their customers; sharing files on the fly securely and collaborating live on document changes, while video conferencing with teams across the world. Agile working, through a modern, collaborative desktop available on any device, unleashes lawyers from the confines of their physical offices – enabling them to work more dynamically, in a way that better suits their own work and lifestyle preferences, in addition to their clients’ preferences.
Secure IT in the Legal Industry
In the legal industry, remote working has to be secure. When handling highly sensitive and critical files, lawyers need to be confident that their devices - both in the office and at home - are secured to the highest levels, and that data being shared in the cloud or outside of company networks is protected. More flexible working practices cannot come at the cost of the security of data and firms’ IT systems. Read our top tips for protecting your company's IT security here!
Nasstar works with law firms to implement the technology, systems and processes to offer more flexible working solutions to staff, without compromising on the performance of systems and the security of data. Lawyers can work confidently away from the office, accessing their normal desktop applications from mobile devices.
Keystone Law has embraced technology thoroughly, using tech to reduce business overheads and drive efficiencies across their firm, enabling over 300 lawyers to work more dynamically and flexibly. Technology is critical for a firms’ ability to ensure lawyers can collaborate seamlessly with their colleagues and clients quickly and efficiently, no matter where in the world they are.
“Lots of traditional law firms are constrained by legacy IT systems which are difficult to change,” says Sarah Needham, Commercial Contracts and IP Lawyer at Keystone Law. “Having access to industry-leading technology that enables us to set up and invoice clients in a matter of minutes lets me focus on my core job and be as productive and efficient as possible for my clients.”
Flexible working also promotes more productive working environments.
“I’m much more productive working at home compared to working in a traditional office, and I can fit my work around picking my children up from school, working later in the evening at a time that suits me,” says Joanna McKenzie, Consultant Solicitor in Keystone Law’s dispute resolution team.
How Nasstar Can Help
Nasstar is the UK’s leading technology partner to the legal industry and has worked with Keystone Law since 2012. Keystone partnered with Nasstar in order to enhance and deliver modern, flexible and secure IT to their staff via cloud-based solutions in addition to 24/7 IT support for all their lawyers. Nasstar also works with over 50 other law firms across the UK which equates to over 3,400 legal end users.
At Nasstar, our dedicated legal professional services team can help implement managed IT systems that will results in a powerful working force. Contact us today for more information.