- virtual law firm/office
My credentials as translator between the high- and low-tech sectors of the Bar? I’ve practiced in a big fancy city with high-powered lawyers, and in a small, poor one alongside the non-Ivy section; I’m over fifty; I learned to”reframe issues” for better communication between mediation clients; and I’ve been an ESL tutor, seeing first hand the difficulties that neologisms, jargon and idioms pose for linguistic outsiders.
“When virtual was first introduced in the computational sense, it applied to things simulated by the computer, like virtual memory—that is, memory that is not actually built into the processor. Over time, though, the adjective has been applied to things that really exist and are created or carried on by means of computers. . . Virtual tends to be used in reference to things that mimic their “real” equivalents. “ [and see this computer industry glossary entry]
“To me, virtual law firm simply means an affiliated group of lawyers connected by technology rather than co-existing in common physical locations.”
“An office that is not a real office environment, such as telecommuters, people working out of the normal office and people working in home offices, presenting an image that is different.”
- Why not use the terminology of “networking,” digital technology and “the digital lawyer” as Richard Granat and M. Ethan Katsh do?
“bow tie” “Disruptive Technology”: Although I hold Jerry Lawson in great esteem, I think this phrase is also a turn-off for the average lawyer. Weblogs and other techologies may meet the criteria for “disruptive technology” set out by Clayton Christiansen in his 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma (HBS Press, 1997). But, the phrase means nothing to the hordes of lawyers unfamiliar with management theory and corporate strategy. Forget necktie analogies, most lawyers still see bowties as disruptive. If your headlines tout a “disruptive technology,” they’ll turn to another page. Instead, pique their interest with an idea that will help shake up the competition — that’s profit-generating, efficiency-enhancing, a proven client magnate..
Razzle-dazzle may work in Silicon Valley and Wall Street. Plain English is virtually always the most effective form of advocacy on Main Street — including when making a sale.
” Kashi suggests that it is a law firm that:
- Has a stable core group of attorneys;
- Has established collaborative relationships with other, specialized law firms that possess expertise that’s occasionally needed;
- Is glued together with appropriate computer and telecommunications technology; and,
- Expands and reduces personnel as needed.
“Sounds like a pretty good working definition.”
Constructing and maintaining such an entity seems like a great way to take advantage of new technologies, bringing efficiencies and synergy that will benefit lawyers and clients. But, as I argue above, it’s not a law firm, and calling it “virtual” is more confusing than explanatory for the non-initiated. It’s a high-tech (“digital”) lawyer network.
Why complicate things by using confusing, definition-bending nomenclature? When you ask Average Lawyer “Is she in your law firm?”, you’re asking a very different question than “Is she part of your lawyer referral network?” I don’t want to have to overhear this conversation:
“Well, she’s not in my firm-firm, but she is in my virtual firm.” “But, didn’t she used to be in your firm-firm?” “Yes, we all liked her at our firm(-firm), and when she left to open her own firm-firm (but stay in our office-office suite), we hoped she’d join our virtual firm.”