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How to Make a Virtual Office Work for You

Harness the potential of an increasingly popular business model.

Emerging technology, vanishing jobs, budget-conscious clients and new ways of doing business have enabled the virtual law firm worker. By 2016, research firm Forrester predicts that 63 million U.S. employees will work virtually at least part time. Here are some strategies for maximizing the potential of the virtual law practice.

Recruit Globally

Since virtual workers don't need to commute to a traditional office, you can hire the best and brightest employees no matter where they are located. Combining a virtual office with flexible schedules will allow you to expand your recruiting reach and partner with other lawyers. One unique virtual law office brings together contract lawyers who offer unbundled divorce law services.

Expand Client Geographies

Having a virtual firm allows you to market to clients located anywhere. It also allows you to market your services to a niche that would not otherwise make sense if you were limited by geography. For example, one law firm was able to build a business focused on women entrepreneurs located throughout the U.S.

Save on Fixed Costs

Save money on rent by downsizing or even eliminating office space. However, you'll likely want to retain an official-sounding company mailing address and access to conference rooms to conduct client meetings. Consider a virtual office space that you use on an as-needed basis. Many virtual office providers offer a selection of offices at prestigious addresses throughout the U.S. and even internationally.

Set a Policy

Even if your employees work at home, establish guidelines such as having a dedicated workspace and a separate phone line for business calls. Establish core business hours to handle client meetings. Set minimum technology requirements including type of Internet connectivity, as well as security guidelines to protect company-owned intelligence.

Utilize New Technology

There are plenty of technologies that, although they can't replace the impromptu chat at the proverbial watercooler, can provide face-to-face and real-time chatting. Check out GoToMeeting or Cisco's WebEx audio and video tools for meetings. Use an instant messenger (IM) to communicate quickly and for simple yes/no questions.

Collaborate and Share

Collaboration between lawyers and clients is essential. Software such as Lotus Notes and Novell GroupWise make it easy to collaborate on files and documents. You'll likely need someone designated to maintain the system, perform backups and administer security. Tools such as Dropbox allow you to share documents that don?t need much updating. An internal wiki can be a place to share knowledge and experiences.


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