Tips for Opening a Solo Virtual Law Practice
If you are a lawyer thinking about setting up a solo practice, your first impulse might be that a major pandemic might not be the best time to do so. However, since the COVID-19 health crisis has caused many firms to begin working remotely, and even courts are conducting more business virtually, solo practitioners may actually have a unique advantage during this time. Working virtually puts small practices on a level playing field with many bigger firms—especially among those firms that have had trouble adapting to the idea of working from home.In other words, now may indeed be the best time to open a solo virtual law practice. Let's discuss some important tips to help you get started.
Don't Skimp on Your Website
In the virtual space, your website is your “front-of-house”—the lobby of your law firm, if you will. It needs to be attractive, eye-catching, inviting, and informative. It's where your prospective clients will learn about what you do and decide if they want to work with you. Make sure your site is designed to give clients a clear path to find the help they are looking for, whether it's to make an appointment, make a payment, or just learn more about your services and why they need you. There are affordable ways to set up a website, but don't sacrifice quality to cut corners here.
Set Up a Workable Office Management System
If your website is front-of-house, your office management suite of software is back-of-house. These are the applications that help you maintain efficient operations of your law firm. Make sure your system covers the following basic functions:
- Accounting and billing
- Time and billing tracking (especially if you charge billable hours)
- Word processing
- Document management
- Calendar/docket management
- Client portal
- Case management (for communicating/filing with courts online)
- Online legal library, if applicable
You might choose to cover these functions using a piecemeal approach to applications and platforms, but to make things easier, you might want to consider an all-inclusive legal management system like Clio or Practice Panther. Explore your options to find out what works best for you.
It's Okay to Be Cost-Conscious
You need a virtual setup that runs efficiently, but doing so doesn't mean you need to overspend. For example, you need reliable, secure Internet service, but as a solo practice, you don't need the ultra-fast package that accommodates 25 employees. You may be okay with the basic accounting package for now—you can always upgrade as your firm grows. Look for solutions that work for your budget now but can be expanded to adapt to your needs later.
Don't Forget Cybersecurity
Although you're working from home, you're going to be entrusted with sensitive client information, and that data needs to be protected. Make sure you have a solid security suite to cover your Internet services and set up redundant backup systems for all files in case of a crash or cyberattack. If you ever work on public wi-fi, make sure you conduct all business behind a VPN (virtual private network) for an added layer of security.
Thanks to modern technology, starting a solo law practice has never been easier, and the fact that you can operate virtually means you can be competitive even with much larger firms—even in a pandemic.