Do you love the idea of practicing law from home or anywhere but can’t imagine exactly how you would pull it off? More and more lawyers are considering a different kind of law firm model that allows them to practice virtually or just be more flexible in their schedule.
Running a virtual law firm can take many different forms. You might decide to do your “office” work at home and conduct client meetings in a shared office space or you might use Zoom for client meetings and just make an occasional court appearance. If your practice area is transactional and you don’t litigate, you may choose to build an entirely virtual law practice.
Typically, in the legal profession, our personal lives are dictated by our work obligations and schedules. If you’re thinking about hanging your own shingle to be more flexible for your family and other personal priorities, you’ll need to make sure that your vision for your law firm is aligned with your practice area(s).
Whether you are already in a practice area that could easily translate into a mostly virtual, flexible practice or you need to change practice areas entirely, if you are willing to make some adjustments you can take control of your legal career and fit it around your other important priorities in life, instead of bending your whole life to the demands of your career.
Let’s dig into an overview of some of the practice areas you might consider focusing on and why they are suitable for a flexible, mostly virtual law practice.
It’s easy to see how contract drafting and review, along with counseling clients on business entity choice and forming their entities with the state, are services that are easy to perform virtually.
In fact, let’s say you had a traditional law practice with a brick and mortar office on Main Street. If you are offering contract and business formation services, there’s a good chance that many of your clients are busy business owners who consult you over the phone and/or by email, you send over contracts by email, and you set up and register their business entities online.
This type of practice would not have had much trouble shifting to the virtual world during the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides shifting some in person meetings to Zoom calls and telephone calls, there was likely no other difference.
With more and more individuals starting their own businesses and moving into the online business world, you are also more likely to find small businesses you like to do business this way, are accustomed to a mostly-virtual business, and are seeking to work with other service providers, including you, that resonate with their own brands and the way that they do business.
Estate planning is another great option for a flexible practice model. In most cases, estate planning discussions and meetings can happen virtually through Zoom or comparable software.
Nearly all people need estate planning services at some point in their lives, so there is a lot of opportunity here. Without strict court deadlines or filing deadlines, you can meet your clients needs on a more flexible schedule. If you’re planning a 4-day weekend for a family trip to the lake, it’s probably not going to interfere with your client work. You can set your availability for consultations to just one or two days of the week, leaving other work days for client work, and even more days for personal and family time.
There are so many continuing legal education and learning resources available in this field of law that even if it’s not an area you’ve practiced in before, you can invest time into developing the skills and knowledge you need to transition into estate planning.
Under the umbrella of intellectual property (IP) law, there are three different types of federal practices that easily lend themselves to a flexible, virtual law firm. Trademark law, copyright law, and patent law are three practice areas that allow you to build a firm that fits around your lifestyle and personal priorities.
Of course, patent law is its whole own world. If you have a science background to qualify for the patent bar, you’ve probably considered this. Patent law is an extremely lucrative practice area that allows you to work with many interesting startups and entrepreneurs. If you don’t have the science background to sit for the patent bar, this is likely not a practice area that is going to be work considering unless you plan on going back to school!
I’m going to group trademark and copyright law together, the so-called “soft IP” areas because they are similar in the way they lend themselves to a virtual, flexible practice, and they are also very complimentary practice areas, as many of your trademark clients may also need copyright law services and visa vera.
Trademark searches and registration applications are all done virtually. If you are in good standing with the bar of any U.S. state, you can represent clients before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This is also true of registration applications through the U.S. Copyright Office.
Even if you haven’t practiced trademark law before, you can build your knowledge and skills by carving out time to get up to speed with CLE courses and finding a good mentor.
Only some states require the services of a lawyer for real estate sales; however, for those states that have this legal requirement, real estate law is a very flexible practice area with a lot of demand. Even if your state does not have this requirement, advising on issues like easements, titles issues, mineral rights, covenants, etc. can all be done virtually. In some states that allow for electronic notarization, virtual closings are now possible, making this an even more flexible practice area.
One very effective way to build and scale a real estate law practice is to network with real estate agents. Having a strong relationship with a few high performing real estate agents may bring in all the referrals you need. Without referral fees of course!
With the large shift in nearly every industry to online business comes many opportunities to consult with startups about data protection laws and how to protect their own businesses, as well as their visitors’, customers’, and clients’ data in the cyber world. This is a very niche area, which can also make it very lucrative.
Helping individuals, families, and businesses with their business immigration matters are something you can do through a nearly all virtual practice. Because this is a federal practice, you can also be licensed in one state and represent clients worldwide who are seeking temporary or permanent visas for business purposes.
If you’ve practiced immigration law before in Immigration court, but perhaps did not handle business immigration matters, this is an excellent way to transition from a career that requires you to be in court constantly to a flexible, virtual practice.
With e-filings and virtual client meetings, you can finally set your own schedule and not be married to the court docket.
Intrigued about the idea of going solo or virtual? If you’re looking for flexibility, then choosing a flexible practice area is key, but it’s not the only important factor. Dive into the rest of my 5 essentials for building a virtual law firm that fits your lifestyle in this free video training.
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