Tuesday, December 18, 2007

KLS Virtual Law Office Fall Update

This fall I’ve connected with several other attorneys across the nation who have similar goals of using the most current technology to better serve clients and facilitate collaboration between attorneys. Roger Glovsky (The Virtual Lawyer) has a great website, Lexpertise, with the goal of linking attorneys nationwide. Grant Griffiths is an attorney who also runs a home based law practice and is the author of two blogs: Home Office Warrior and Home Office Lawyer. Both of these websites have a wealth of information for anyone wanting to find better ways to strike a better work/life balance.

With a virtual law office, I sometimes have people who reside in states other than North Carolina who will contact me asking for referrals to attorneys who are licensed to practice law in their state. So, these networks are an important way of serving people who visit my website. Over the past year or so, I've built up a decent referral bank for visitors to my website whom I am not able to assist and I'm hoping that will continue to grow.

As many others have written, the legal profession is quickly changing thanks to the available technology. The most successful practices of the future will be those that have embraced these changes and kept up with the technology. An attorney doesn't have to be a software programmer or computer expert anymore in order to use and maintain software applications that make his or her law practice run more efficiently.

I am anxious to introduce the vlotech software to the legal profession. It will not happen overnight, but expect it to happen and expect an impact. The public is ready for something different than prepaid legal plans or fill-in-the form legal document websites like legalzoom. (And for the hundredth time, the virtual law office is not anything like legalzoom or nololaw or prepaid legal. It is my law office with all the administrative, management, accounting, etc. functions right there for me and my clients. All online. No lack of parking spaces, no secretary, no appointments necessary. It sometimes baffles me that the public gets this more easily than some attorneys. Give it less than five years and it will be a different story.)

As for professional development, I attended the annual Estate Planning and Probate Practice CLE in Greensboro this past October so I feel up to date in this area of the law. I was hoping one of the speakers would go into more details about the recent N.C. law changes to the statutory form Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will. From what I have learned from speaking with other estate planning practitioners, many of their offices are still using the older versions of the documents because they feel that the newer versions are too complicated and wordy for their clients. Many want to wait and see the application of the changes in practice before switching over. Personally, I find the new Living Will statute to be clearer than the old. It would be interesting to know what medical practitioners think about the application of both revised documents.

Aside from the home based, online practice, I've been asked to speak to several mothers' groups locally about estate planning. I am also posting an educational thread about estate planning on an online forum for mothers. The material and dialogue online between myself and the other women will be the same as my in-person talks, but the forum will most likely reach a larger number of people and be more accessible for many of them. I'm grateful to have these opportunities.

What strikes me the most after these talks and the question/answer sessions that follow is that a lot of people do not have any estate planning in place for their young families and many do not understand how it can be important to them at this stage in their lives. Yet, most of them have insurance policies in place for the "what ifs" in life. There is still this strongly held presumption among people in their 30s and 40s that estate planning is only for individuals at the end of their lives and only if they have sizable fortunes. I enjoy sharing what I have learned with these groups, and if nothing else, hopefully it helps them start a productive dialogue with their families.

Also interesting to report, some skeptical people suggested to me that I would only be able to attract clients to the vlo who were in their 20s and 30s because that demographic is most comfortable with obtaining services online. I'm happy to report that I see a wide mix of clients in their 40s and 50s who use their vlo homepages, download and upload drafts and documents for review and pay me online. I even have had a couple clients in their late 60s this past year. This should say something for the ease of the website. That, and North Carolina has a large number of people who retire down here and need their estate planning updated from another state.

Adding to the content of my virtual law office and this blog are on the top of my priority list for the upcoming new year so please check back. I'm looking forward to a productive and prosperous new year. I wish anyone reading this the same.

Virtual Law Office Receives National Press

In October, the national publication, Lawyers USA, ran a feature article on my virtual law office. The article also discussed the development of the software that Virtual Law Office Technology, LLC (VLOTech) plans to release to a select group of attorney clients next year. My law office runs on the proof of concept version of the software and I'm looking forward to being upgraded to the full bells and whistles version of the vlo.