Person on a zoom call

Adapt and Innovate: Tips for Operating a Virtual Law Practice During the Pandemic

July 8, 2020 | Lori Tripoli, JD

Lawyers working remotely who have managed to get anything done during the coronavirus pandemic—especially those with kids at home—deserve a gold star. Running a virtual law practice isn’t easy, even without juggling homeschooling, cleaning, and all of life’s responsibilities, while simultaneously worrying about COVID-19.

Despite its seriousness, the pandemic has provided some lighthearted moments, mostly through multiparty video conferences. Participants on any given day may have been treated to images of toddlers tossing toys and giggling or the sight of a spouse crouching down in the background after being caught getting a snack on camera. What the stay-at-home orders have taught lawyers working virtually is that having a dedicated space for an at-home legal practice is high on the list of must-haves, even if that space is just a walk-in closet with an electrical outlet and an overhead light.

Winning Cases or Business: Step Up Your Video Game

Those sometimes hilarious video calls actually offered a teachable moment for attorneys who now plan to practice virtual law on a continuing basis: appearances matter. Get some good lighting, figure out the best angle at which to tilt your camera, and construct an office vignette that conveys the image you want to project. Make sure to select flattering clothing suitable for the subject matter, assess your own body language, and rehearse your on-camera performance beforehand.

Are some of these considerations a bit superficial? Of course. At the same time, lawyers working virtually need to project professionalism, confidence, and attentiveness.

Marketing: Stay on Clients’ and Prospects’ Radar

Referrals from satisfied clients or colleagues may well have been sufficient to sustain a virtual law practice when the economy was humming. But an unemployment rate that remains above 11% as of June 2020 and an economy that has seen all but essential services shut down for a significant amount of time mean that now is not the moment to be lackadaisical about bringing in business.

At the same time, it can feel strange and even unseemly to market as usual. Should you be writing newsletters, emails, or blog posts that focus on the bright world we knew just a few months ago? No. Acknowledge the changed circumstances and figure out how your current or prospective clients may need help now. Small businesses might need guidance when revising their arrangements with suppliers. Others might need some meaningful assistance in negotiating with their landlords.

Consider focusing marketing communications not so much on what you can do for your clients, but on suggestions for how they themselves might make their way through a changed business and legal landscape. An initial marketing goal may be merely to keep your name in front of someone. With so many people sitting out the pandemic at home, they may well have more time and inclination to click on compelling content. Give your newsletter a zippy headline that will inspire a prospective client to open and learn more (and, of course, always operate within the parameters of professional conduct rules).

Adaptation: Consider Pivoting Your Practice

Lawyers who were on their way toward a lucrative year just a few months ago may now find that demand for their niche has dried up as clients focus less on expansion and growth and more on survival and performance. Everyone is adapting to changed circumstances, and even lawyers who have worked remotely for some time may now find themselves in need of a revised business plan as they contemplate the next few years.

A vastly changed legal market, a client roster that suddenly is challenged to pay its legal bills, and deals that are not getting done because so many workplaces are closed mean that the focus of a virtual law practice may need to shift. What new legal problems are already surfacing? How can you adapt your practice to respond to clients’ shifting needs? How might you revise your own billing practices to generate sufficient revenue during this trying time?

Now may be the time to explore ways to innovate. Taking some continuing legal education, attending virtual conferences, and enrolling in online courses can provide the necessary foundation to make a change, while simultaneously offering viable networking opportunities.

Contemplating your own career path while under some measure of duress isn’t easy. But neither is the alternative: closing up shop.

Practicing Virtually Now

Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic has had some devastating consequences. But it also may be generating a greater appreciation for laws and a functioning legal system. It has also provided lawyers practicing virtually with an opportunity to make meaningful change as they adapt to their clients’ new needs.

If you would like to learn more about developing a virtual law practice and building a client base, consider taking Purdue Global Law School’s Virtual Law Practice course, which is offered as a standalone online course for nondegree seekers. For more information, explore Online Single Law Courses at Purdue Global Law School.

About The Author

Lori Tripoli, JD

Lori Tripoli is an adjunct professor at Purdue Global Law School (formerly Concord Law School), the nation’s first fully online law school, and the author of Contemporary Law Office Management. She has been working remotely for most of her career. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of Purdue Global Law School.