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The Continued Rise of 'Virtual' Law Firms

The Continued Rise of 'Virtual' Law Firms

written by David Krist

The legal industry is continuing to undergo a significant transformation with virtual law firms leading the way in redefining the traditional practice of law. According to data from Atlas by CODEXEDGE, a staggering 463 lawyers made the leap to virtual firms in 2023, signalling an ever-growing shift toward this innovative model.

What is a Virtual Law Firm?

A virtual law firm can leverage technology to facilitate remote work, allowing lawyers to provide legal services from anywhere in the world. This model emphasizes flexibility, reduces overhead costs, and gives focus on client service without the physical limitations of a conventional office setup.

Main Players in the Virtual Law Firm Space

The virtual law firm landscape is populated by established players and exciting new entrants. Firms like Setfords, Taylor Rose, Keystone Law, Gunnercooke, and Spencer West have set high standards in the field, demonstrating the viability and success of the virtual model. Meanwhile, up-and-coming firms such as Punter Southall, Mezzle, and Bexley Beaumont are rapidly gaining traction, bringing fresh perspectives and innovative approaches to the legal market.

How Does the Fee-Sharing Model Work?

One of the core elements of virtual law firms is the fee-sharing model, which is a significant draw for many lawyers. This model typically offers lawyers a split of their billings, ranging from 50% to 90%, depending on the firm's structure and the lawyer's arrangement. This is markedly different from the traditional law firm salary models and provides lawyers with direct rewards for their efforts and the business they bring in. Some firms offer a hybrid model, or even a guarantee to help lawyers make the jump to this model.

Other advantages of Virtual Law Firms

The rise of virtual law firms can be attributed to several compelling advantages they offer over traditional firms:

  • Increased Flexibility: Lawyers can work from anywhere, allowing them to structure their work around their lives rather than the other way around. This flexibility is highly attractive to legal professionals seeking a better work-life balance.

  • Higher Percentage of Billings: Lawyers take home a larger portion of what they bill, which can significantly increase their earnings compared to traditional pay structures where much of the revenue goes toward maintaining physical office spaces and administrative staff.

  • Reduced Overhead and Time Waste: Virtual firms operate with minimal physical infrastructure, cutting down on the time and money spent on commuting, office maintenance, and other managerial tasks. This streamlined approach allows lawyers to focus more on their clients, and less on administrative duties.

  • Internal Market and Fee Sharing: Many virtual firms foster a collaborative environment despite the physical distance between members. Lawyers can share fees with other consultants within the firm, which encourages collaboration and helps expand service offerings to clients without the need for formal partnerships or associations.

  • Prime to Adopt AI Technology: Virtual law firms, with their inherently technology-forward approach, are ideally positioned to embrace and capitalise on the potential of artificial intelligence in the legal industry.

Potential Downsides

Despite their many benefits, virtual law firms are not without their challenges:

  • Client Relationships: Lawyers must be adept at building and maintaining strong client relationships independently. Without the frequent face-to-face interactions that traditional offices provide, virtual lawyers need to be proactive and deliberate in their communication and client engagement strategies.

  • Lack of Colleague Engagement: Unlike traditional firms, where colleagues interact daily, virtual firms often lack the collaboration and camaraderie that can arise from in-person interactions.

  • Loss of Traditional Employment Benefits: Moving to a virtual law firm often means giving up certain benefits associated with traditional employment, such as paid leave, health insurance, and retirement plans. Lawyers must weigh these factors and seek alternative solutions to manage these needs.

In conclusion

The evolution toward virtual law firms represents a significant shift in the legal landscape, driven by technological advancements and changing professional priorities. While this model offers numerous advantages in terms of flexibility, earnings potential, and operational efficiency, it also requires lawyers to adapt to new ways of working and managing their professional lives.

If you would like to see a full copy of the Atlas by CODEXEDGE report, or would like to discuss what life may look like at a virtual # firm, please reach out to David on