Virtual offices are an attractive option for anyone starting a business, or working as a solo practitioners, and lawyers are no different. However, the legal industry has a very particular set of rules that must be followed when offering services or practicing, and those rules do have an impact on the viability of virtual office solutions for lawyers. If you are an up-and-coming attorney, or a lawyer with a small practice that could save a lot with a virtual office, here’s what you need to know about virtual office solutions for lawyers:
Don’s Misrepresent Your Practice
Especially if you are just one or two attorneys trying to build a career and/or law firm, it may be tempting to avoid saying that you have a virtual office or that you’re larger than you actually are. Don’t do that, as misrepresenting your legal services online can get you into trouble. For example, if the law firm is just you or just a few people, then be honest about that and be honest of how many offices or locations you have. If you use virtual office solutions in several states, you can get into trouble for saying that your firm is national and has offices in several states. In this case, it’s better to have one location as your office and business address. This rule would also apply to in-state virtual offices. Stick with one, and don’t try to say that you have more offices and branches than you actually have. Virtual offices do not give attorneys the ability to represent themselves and/or their firms as something other than themselves.
Be Aware of the Laws in Your State
In some states, as a practicing attorney, you may not be allowed to have a virtual office or any sort of virtual office solution. This was the case in New Jersey, where the state Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that lawyers practicing in the state can use a New Jersey virtual office as long as they ensure “prompt and reliable communication” with clients, other attorneys and courts, and have identified a place where authorities can inspect their files on short notice. This would also include virtual receptionists and any virtual assistant options that the virtual office solution might offer. According to the New Jersey ruling, a virtual receptionist or assistant does not act on your behalf and is not considered familiar with legal matters. However, the law might be different in other states.
What About Confidentiality?
As stated above, a place to keep files is incredibly important, especially since clients want to work with attorneys who can ensure confidentiality and can ensure that no one will read about their cases. This is difficult to do with a virtual office since most solutions do not offer space to all your own or a place to store documents in a locked file cabinet behind a locked door. However, as long as you have such as place, such as a home office, you should be okay. After all, you still have to meet with clients in person in order to represent them better and to learn about the case, so investing in this for the home is crucial. You could also take this further with a locked briefcase, so that when you are carrying the files with you, there’s additional security to ensure confidentiality.
Lawyers may have to go through a few more hurdles to have a virtual office solution and to have a virtual office that meets their needs and the needs of their clients (without breaking any rules). Knowing these nuances should make it easier and that much more possible to run a virtual law firm.