What is a Virtual Law Office?
A Virtual Law Office (VLO) is a website by which a licensed attorney or law firm delivers limited scope legal services (often called unbundled services) for a reduced fee. A VLO is not simply an online forms company operated by non-lawyers. A VLO is also not a legal services plan that offers a short, free consultation with a lawyer for a flat monthly fee. Rather, a VLO can offer a range of legal documents and services with no help, some help, or a great deal of help from a knowledgeable lawyer licensed in your state.
A VLO offers lawyer-drafted documents and services, with all transactions conducted online through secure, encrypted communications. Because the client does not travel to see a lawyer, and the lawyer does not have to maintain a physical office with support staff, services offered through a VLO can be delivered at lower costs to the client.
The advantage of a VLO is that its attorneys can provide cost-effective and efficient, limited-scope legal services through the Internet. Because websites operate 24-7, clients can ask questions, obtain legal advice or purchase a document before or after normal law office hours, when it is convenient for the client. Convenience is one of the greatest advantages of using a VLO.
Equally important, VLOs can save the client money. You, the client, can request particular legal forms or a limited scope of legal services, thereby controlling your fees and costs. Many clients then purchase and complete for themselves the blank legal forms crafted by a licensed attorney to meet the particular needs or requests made by the client. After trying to complete a form or file documents with a governmental agency, many clients find that they need more help and want to talk to a lawyer. Through a VLO, a client can add more services as needed without paying large fees or a big retainer to a law firm that then controls the client’s case. By using a VLO, the client retains control.
A VLO is not for everyone. Some clients need or want the opportunity to retain a firm for more traditional legal help. Through a VLO, a client may ask and receive a fixed price quote to receive legal advice or other legal services from a licensed attorney. A law firm offering services through a VLO will tell you upfront what particular services will cost.
Why use a VLO? A VLO might be right for you for several reasons:
- You want to control your legal costs.
- You expect the speed and convenience of online transactions to fit your busy lifestyle.
- You want to limit the scope of work your attorney performs for you, or, you intend to complete certain tasks yourself.
- You need lawyer-prepared and lawyer-reviewed documents without additional services.
- A VLO should include adherence to guidelines passed by the American Bar Association, including safeguards to maintain confidentiality and security.