WHAT IS A VIRTUAL LAW OFFICE (VLO)?
The practice of law has traditionally been confined to the brick and mortar establishments of firms and legal service organizations throughout the country. But we are living in an exciting age where law and technology can merge together to create a more accessible portal for people to learn more about their legal rights and how to enforce them.
The Virtual Law Office is a new legal model that may allow the attorney/client relationship to exist from virtually anywhere. This allows for: increased client affordability due to reduced overhead expenses, a more scalable way to reach more clients who are in need of legal help, and client convenience—particularly for those who live in rural areas or have other limiting circumstances.
Here are a couple of resources that discuss VLOs at length:
WHY IS ATTORNEY ON THE MOVE OPENING A VIRTUAL LAW OFFICE (VLO)?
After providing pro bono legal services in different parts of the country, several recurrent themes appeared:
1. Many people often don't know where to begin with a legal concern. And they don't know who to turn to. Common client questions include: Do I even have a legal issue or claim? What kind of lawyer do I need to see about this issue? Where can I go for help? How much is this going to cost—especially if I am on a tight budget?
2. Very rural areas often have a lack of any attorneys whatsoever—this may lead to clients not being able to pursue a legitimate legal claim (and therefore forfeiting due process rights). Often times, a client with a legal issue may have to drive several hours to get to the closest attorney. As a result, many legal issues and claims can fall through the cracks.
3. Even when clients represented themselves, they could have benefited from an attorney to consult with for a stronger case. For example in immigration law, clients are often wiling to represent themselves to save money, but run into bureaucratic hurdles of not knowing exactly what paperwork to file when—which can jeopardize the entire application. A lawyer to quickly consult with and ensure that everything is in order would aid a self-represented client tremendously.
So, I've learned that clients who represent themselves in legal matters can save a considerable amount of money and still receive quality legal assistance under a limited scope relationship with a trusted attorney. And I recognize that there are areas of federal law that can be practiced from multiple jurisdictions. Finally, I've also learned that many times, clients also need a local attorney referral so they know they are working with someone they trust.
With all of these key learnings and realizations, the initial idea for converting Attorney on the Move to a longer-term Virtual Law Office (VLO) was born.
WHAT TYPES OF SERVICES WILL THE VIRTUAL LAW OFFICE PROVIDE?
During the scope of my travels, I noticed that I had the ability to leverage several situational opportunities in service of the VLO. These are the initial services/offerings the VLO will provide:
- Immigration law/detention work. I will continue to serve in a pro bono capacity at different detention facilities throughout the country through the end of 2016. I will also take on immigration-based cases through my VLO. (Since immigration law is federal, an attorney can have a bar license from any state and be able to practice anywhere.)
- Trademarks for Nonprofit/Social Justice Organizations & Entrepreneurs. I am fiercely committed to helping other social justice advocates succeed. I will be offering assistance to those who wish to start their own business and will help ensure that the developing entity is legally protected. (Trademarks also fall under federal law practice.)
- Massachusetts-Based Casework. I am currently licensed in Massachusetts and can therefore work with clients living in the state of MA in a variety of different legal issues (with the exception of cases that may require in-court appearances due to my present situation). Working in a couple different rural offices has made me very familiarized with the necessity of being a jack-of-all-trades lawyer. I will be listing my specific offerings for Massachusetts residents soon.
- Social justice/legal aid attorney referral network. During my travels, I've begun to lay down the infrastructure for a network of social justice attorneys across the country (I am thrilled & humbled that there are so many more to meet!). The initial idea is that no matter where a potential client may be located, if it is a case that requires more local jurisdictional representation, I may appropriately refer a potential client to a local badass social justice/legal aid lawyer who can quickly move forward on a potential legal claim.
In short, I am passionate about continuing to provide in-person pro bono services to different communities throughout America—and—building a scalable model for helping as many other people as possible who want to access & enforce their legal rights.
I am SO excited for this next step of Attorney on the Move, and what will eventually be the longer-term conversion into a Virtual Law Office that will help more of us and our friends—no matter where we are living throughout the United States.
I cannot wait to get started—or rather, continue on! Let's do this!
HELPING VLO CLIENTS WHO ARE REPRESENTING THEMSELVES ("PRO SE")
By the end of 2015, I will have completed my certification as a Certified Professional Coach (CPC). Earlier this calendar year, I piloted a legal coaching program during my post-bar fellowship at Bayview/Hunter's Point Community Legal (which has amazingly just won a Google Impact grant!). This legal coaching program helped clients take control and organize their legal claims—and receive coaching on how to manage their lives during an understandably chaotic time.
My professional coach training will also be utilized in VLO operations. When working with clients who are representing themselves, I will be using my coaching skills to help ensure that self-represented clients are managing their legal claims feeling a deeply rooted sense of agency—in being able to advocate on their own behalf. And I will maximize the limited scope attorney/client relationship and coaching/client relationship to ensure that clients receive the tools they need to move forward.