Last Sunday’s New York Times had an interesting profile of a Washington, D.C. area six-woman virtual law firm, the Geller Law Group. I recommend you read it in its entirety. I have some thoughts.
The article is framed as primarily about how mothers balance their work with child-rearing, which I suspect is because articles on that topic in the Times tend to be widely clicked on and discussed. However, the potential impact of virtual law practice is broader than just a way to enable female attorneys to attend their children’s school events (which is important!). Of course, fathers too desire flexibility to be around for child-related events, but it’s more than just about parenting. For example, some people may be more productive at odd times of the day – if you maximize your efficiency by working five hours in the morning and then five hours after dinner, as compared to ten straight hours during a regular business day (if the nature of your business permits that), it’s hard to do that while commuting to an outside office. Also, there are plenty of other daytime events besides child-related ones that you may want to have the flexibility to attend, like volunteer commitments.
Also, the article presents the financial aspect of how the firm works as being a less-remunerative tradeoff compared to a traditional law firm job. But that is mostly a function of how much time these particular attorneys want to be spending on work versus other commitments, rather than something inherent in the nature of virtual law firms. I’ll concede that most virtual law firms will need to charge clients lower rates than traditional larger firms to attract clients. But a 10-20% discount (for example) on rates can easily be more than offset by the money saved by not having to pay rent on a permanent physical office and all the related expenses. Accordingly, virtual law firms can be both more reasonably priced for clients and more profitable for the attorney.