ABA Ethics Commission 20/20

slipperhangingAI and Robotics

Nov 14, 2013 (4 years and 8 months ago)


ABA Ethics Commission 20/20

Presentation by Stephanie Kimbro, Esq.,
Owner of Kimbro Legal Services, LLC and Co
Founder of Virtual Law Office Technology, LLC

Contact Info:


Twitter: @StephKimbro

Blog: www.virtuallawpractice.org

What is virtual law practice?

A virtual law office is a professional law
practice that is located online through a
secure portal and is accessible to both the
client and the attorney anywhere the
parties may access the Internet.

Other terminology: VLO, virtual law firm,
based law practice or online law

What virtual law practice is not

Virtual law practice is not :

an online website that sells legal documents without attorney review,
such as LegalZoom and other web
based companies selling online
legal forms

a law firm website with an email “contact us for a free quote” form for
prospective clients

communication by email even if sent through a law firm’s website

a rented physical office that may be shared with other professionals
along with a receptionist service

VPNs, extranets and other services, such as GoToPC and LogMeIn

a conglomeration of attorneys in remote locations pooling resources
and communicating over the Internet

a law practice based in a virtual reality world, such as Second Life

Not all legal SaaS products providing web
based practice management
tools create virtual law offices.

How Attorneys Use Virtual Law Offices

Completely Web

Unbundled or limited legal services

Integrated into a traditional law office

Unbundled and full

As a transition method to allow them to continue
to practice law while meeting other personal and
professional needs:

To raise families

To care for ill spouses or aging parents

To ease into retirement

After layoffs, to start a solo practice or work while
searching for another legal job

Why is Virtual Law Practice Important?

For the Public

Greater access to justice

Affordable and accessible legal services for lower and moderate income

se litigants

Pro bono opportunities

For the Legal Profession

Better quality of life through work/life balance and flexibility

Technology streamlines and automates much of the routine work
allowing the attorney to focus on practicing law

Technology may help prevent malpractice through automated checks
and processes

Lower overhead, less office waste, eco

Expanded client base, increased competition

What are the concerns?

Many of these risks are similar to the ethics and malpractice risks
seen in a traditional law practice. However, here the risks may be
decreased through the use of the checks and processes built into
the technology.

Some concerns unique to VLOs include:


In other jurisdictions

By non
licensed professionals


Establishment of the Attorney/Client Relationship

Defining Scope of Representation Online


Protecting client confidentiality


What should the response be to those concerns?

It should be the responsibility of the
individual attorney

to do the following:

Make the determination on a case by case basis: Can I competently
handle this legal matter online or does it require in

Understand the technology and the security risks

Thoroughly question the prospective SaaS provider on the following

Data Return and Retention Policies


end encryption

Confidentiality and non
disclosure statements

Privacy policy

who has access to the law office data

Customer support

Other terms of the license or service agreement

Is the software designed for attorneys or the general public?

Is sharing or security the primary focus?

To avoid a chilling effect on future innovation in the delivery of legal
services, any regulations on virtual law practice should be kept broad and
easily adaptable to advancements in technology.

How Can We Support Virtual Law Practice?


Committee for the Delivery of Legal Services

Unbundled Legal Services

Malpractice Insurance Carriers

State Bars

Law Practice and Ethics Advisors

Broad, updated guidelines

For technology and security

Emphasis on access to justice

Encourage providing legal services online to lower and moderate
income individuals

Pro bono opportunities

Looking Ahead

Features of a virtual law practice will continue to expand beyond
what currently may be imagined.

The core function of a virtual law practice should remain the

the ability to securely deliver legal services and work
with clients and other legal professionals online through an
online portal.

The growth of online legal services is largely consumer

The legal profession should step up to meet this need or the
public will continue to use methods that are not safe or in
their best interest to acquire online legal services.

Legal professionals are seeking guidance from the ABA and their
state bars about how to safely and responsibility operate a virtual
law practice. Well
informed and regularly updated guidance is