37% of U.S. workers telecommuted in 2015, according to a recent Gallup poll – the highest level yet. And working virtually is only likely to increase. A survey conducted by Wrike project management software found that 66% believe their company will go fully virtual within the next 5 years.
We live in times where all kinds of people are making their jobs fit their lifestyle instead of the other way around. Why shouldn’t it be the same for lawyers?
By nature, lawyers use the past to dictate the present. Legal precedence is used to win current cases, and law firm precedence is used to model new law firms. In fact, law firms have been following the same traditional work model for decades. But in this day and age, it feels a bit outdated and unnecessary.
For attorneys just starting out – or lawyers who are ready for a change – the concept of a virtual office is appealing. A virtual office space provides a professional front for your law firm, while adopting a cloud-based service provides excellent access and security. It’s exciting to know that you can still be a successful attorney without having to put on a suit every day, commute to and from your office, and log your requisite number of hours.
If you’ve been thinking about going virtual, here are the top five reasons why you should finally dump your office and step into the 21st century.
1. Lower costs. This one is obvious, right? The cost of renting and maintaining a law office is expensive. It can be one of a firm’s biggest expenses. If you want to keep overhead low and save money, a virtual office can be a huge boon. Working from home means you don’t have to pay high rent on an office building or the cost of maintaining your office infrastructure and personnel. A virtual office allows you to save money while still being professional.
Also, if you don’t have to pay for an office, you can pass those savings on to your clients. With more and more low-cost legal services being offered by non-lawyer providers, such as Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer, keeping your rates competitive is more important than ever.
2. Improve security and compliance. The definition of “reasonable” standards for security in the industry is changing all the time. If firms don’t meet the new baseline for industry standards, it is easier to argue that they are being negligent in protecting client data since affordable solutions exist to provide those additional protections.
Also, starting in 2016, HIPAA will go beyond medical files to cover more electronic records with sensitive data.As a result of this change and also due to the HITECH Act, more law firms with traditional IT departments are at risk of facing severe penalties and fines this year.
Unfortunately, many firms are unaware that they do not meet the current security and compliance standards. After all, they may have upgraded their IT infrastructure very recently. Unfortunately, they may still fail to measure up because of the speed at which things change.
Some firms are sinking large amounts of money into upgrading their IT infrastructure – only to fall behind the curve again. But most firms simply do not havethe budget, resources, or in-house expertise to stay on top of technological advances.
Cloud IT solutions are simply a better and less expensive way to stay aligned with – or ahead of – new security standards. Many industries – both regulated and unregulated – have increased their adoption of cloud services in the past year.
Regulated industries show 39 percent adopting cloud services, up from 15 percent in 2014. Unregulated industries increased cloud adoption from 26 percent to 50 percent. These rates of cloud adoption show that cloud-based services are providing the necessary solutions to run businesses smoothly and securely.
While you can certainly maintain a physical office while using a cloud IT solution, it’s just another reason to cut the cord completely.
3. Impress clients. Many lawyers are wary of getting rid of their physical office space because they won’t have anywhere to meet clients. Where would they go? A dinky home office? A coffee shop? Hardly the impression necessary to land new business.
But with the increasing popularity of telecommuting, you may be surprised by the breadth of options now available – from simple co-working spaces to high-end office suites.
In fact, in most major metropolitan areas, you can rent out a full-service “faux” office – complete with receptionist, mail service, conference rooms, multiple office rooms, and even your name on the downstairs directory.
To clients, it will appear as though these are your full-time offices. And you’ll be able to afford a much nicer looking space since you only pay for a monthly package or rent by the hour.
4. Cover a wider geographic area. The average time people are willing to travel to a local business is 17 minutes, so those with physical office spaces are generally limited to this radius around their location. While a lawyer may be willing to travel to clients who are farther away, they may not even get the chance to tell them so. Clients will move on to a lawyer with an office closer to them.
But if you are working virtually, you can list the addresses of multiple office spaces where you can meet clients – throughout the area where you are willing to travel. This can significantly broaden your potential client base and help grow your business.
5. Work-life balance. Depending on where your office is, you may be spending a lot of time commuting, which can take a toll on your off-work time. Working from home can eliminate the stress of commuting, while also allowing you a bit more personal time away from work.
Having a virtual office and working from home allows for flexibility. You can set your own schedule. You can choose the days and hours you want to work to better fit your lifestyle. You can also make appointments better fit your work and personal schedule.
It’s also a powerful benefit to be able to offer employees: 90% of home-based workers report that they are happier with their work-life balance – despite the fact that they tend to work harder and longer, according to a study by Telework Research Network.
6. Greater productivity. Study after study shows that employees are more effective when given greater flexibility.
Best Buy’s flexible work program increased average productivity by 35%. British Telecom’s telecommuting program increased productivity by 20%. Alpine Access’s home-based agents achieve a 30% increase in sales and 90% reduction in customer complaints. And American Express’s telecommuting program saw their agents handling 26% more calls and producing 43% more business than those working in traditional offices.
Imagine how much your law firm could benefit from a similar jump in productivity?
Getting rid of your office may seem like an unconventional move, but lawyers and law firms are moving away from conventions and thinking outside the box. You’re still a lawyer – no matter where you work. Why not have the best of both worlds?
If you would like a better work-life balance, more flexibility, and greater mobility – along with saving money – a virtual office may be just what you need.