I conducted a law office tech focus group during the first session and now I'm finally getting a chance to start this. As for homework:
PART 1:
Five good things/advantages about running a VLP
  • As Steph Kimbro said, the clients have more flexibility in meeting with their attorney. They can have conferences without taking time off work, etc.
  • The attorney can have more flexible hours if needed.
  • Efficiency is excellent. As a teacher, I enjoy not going to the office on some dates and actually find I am very productive sitting here in the uninterrupted silence of my own home. I assume this improves my concentration and my work product.
  • Clearly, there are cost savings to the lawyer that filter down to the client.

Five things that could go wrong

  • UPL is the big one I think of. I teach paralegals and constantly tell them they need supervision. From the angle of the paralegal being supervised, I would be concerned; however, I wonder if these rules will "relax" as far as the old theory that a paralegal needs to be in the lawyer's office to be fully supervised. Technology may very well change this common assumption.
  • Representing people in states where you are not licensed to practice is a concern. One would need to be constantly aware of the dynamics of law.
  • Conflict of interest concerns me because I am not clear how I would know that I am communicating with the person that has actually hired me. It seems a great deal of care must be taken in this regard to avoid getting booted off a case.
  • Customer service may be better or worse. Sometimes the humanness being removed is a concern. The distressed client sometimes needs more from the lawyer than a web-based practice.
  • Confidentiality is a huge concern because we are dealing with a third party (ISP).

PART 2:

  • Virtual law office is one where the attorneys "do not typically meet with clients in person, and primarily interact with clients using Internet-based software and other electronic communications software."
http://www.legalpracticepro.com/death-to-virtual-law-firm/

  • A “virtual law firm” or “virtual law office” is characterized by access by the firm’s clients to a password protected and secure web space where both the attorney and client may interact and legal services are consumed by the client. More specifically a virtual law firm can be defined as having asecure client portal that is accessible from the law firm’s web site. The "client portal" is what enables a law firm to have a law practice on the Web. Through this secure portal, for example, a client can have private discussions of legal matters online, purchase legal advice online, assemble documents through the web browser, download and upload of documents for review, and pay legal bills online.
http://www.directlaw.com/whatisvirtuallawyering.asp

  • Although there is a considerable amount of debate regarding the definition of a VLO, one commonly agreed upon definition can be found at Wikipedia, where Stephanie Kimbro, this month’s featured Xemplar, is cited as the source.
http://thexemplar.com/blog/xemplar/2011/01/04/stephanie-kimbro-standing-tall-among-giants/related/wheres-the-next-law-office-virtually-anywhere/