Guest blog post by Matt Spiegel

It used to be that lawyers had no choice but to practice law from a brick and mortar office. Opening up a solo practice or small law firm required heavy up front investment in office space, office furniture, office supplies and premise-based computer systems and servers. 

That was then. This is now. 

These days, all a lawyer needs to start practicing law is a laptop, an internet connection, and a smartphone. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that every law practice is sustainable using just these tools–transactional practices are much more amenable to practicing law with a virtual law office. And even then, an attorney with a thriving transactional law practice may eventually need–or want–to expand into brick and mortar office.

But lawyers can launch a successful law practice in the absence of a brick and mortar office. The key is to use the right tools and technologies–and to do so ethically.  

First, don’t be afraid to outsource. Take advantage of virtual receptionist and answering services like Ruby Receptionists. And, use legal assistants, whether paralegals or contract attorneys. 

Next, make use of all of the cost-effective 21st century technologies now available that are revolutionizing the way that business is being done. The key is to invest in flexible, reliable technologies, including computers, scanners, printers, smart phones and tablets, and more. Research your options and choose wisely. Resources like Lawyerist’s Legal Technology Buyer’s Guide can help.

Once you’ve acquired equipment appropriate for your needs, the next step is to consider online services that effectively replace the costly, clunky tools of yesteryear. So instead of buying a fax machine, use an online fax service. In lieu of a scanner or for scanning on the go, download a scanning app to your smart phone or tablet. Use your smartphone’s built-in phone system or download an app for conference calls. Test drive Google Voice or use an app such as YouMail to manage incoming messages.

Another important step–make the move to the cloud in order to increase your mobility and flexibility while reducing your overhead and IT costs. Take advantage of cloud-based law practice management software to run your law practice no matter where you are. Streamline your law practice and save money on postage by communicating with your clients and contacts using your cloud-based law practice management system. Manage and store your law firm’s documents in the cloud so that you’ll always be able to access and share documents from any location. 

And last but not least, make sure your technology choices are in line with the ethical requirements of your jurisdiction. As a starting point, you can learn about ethical obligations and different technologies by reading blogs such as Legalethics.com. The ABA also offers this very helpful chart that lists the ethics decisions from across the country that have been issued regarding the use of cloud computing by lawyers.  

So what are you waiting for? Your 21st century modern law firm awaits you! Grab the reigns, research your options, and take advantage of the new world order!

Matt Spiegel is the Vice President and GM of MyCase, a cloud-based law practice management system. He is an attorney in San Diego, California and started his criminal defense law practice in 2009 after working for four years with one of San Diego’s largest consumer law firms. As a practicing attorney and one of the founders of MyCase, he often speaks at legal conferences regarding the in and outs of running a law practice and how cloud computing technologies can benefit the legal profession. He can be reached at matt@mycase.com.