What is an online lawyer?

Author: Emma Shipp
What is an online lawyer?

More DIY resources are available than ever before and many people spend time searching for answers on Google. Choosing to use an online service - either doing the work yourself or using templates and forms available to all - can be a viable option for some. 

Before you decide to tackle things on your own you need to ask yourself a number of questions. First, you need to be sure of the amount at stake and the realistic cost of time to the business. Second, you need to understand the increased risk of this approach. The risk is bound to be higher because, even if you are no more likely to make a mistake than a regulated lawyer, if a lawyer’s error costs you money, you are likely to be compensated. 

If you’ve considered all of this however, there may be occasions when doing it yourself makes sense. If it doesn't require steps to be taken in a particular way for compliance, or if the way you complete a form cannot conceivably cost the business money, incurring legal fees for a customised document or to run a very small claim may not be justified.

There are other options to consider if you want a wholly online service but feel you need some bespoke legal expertise.  Flexible legal expertise (often delivered online) is accessible through what’s known as a ‘dispersed law firm’ or a ‘virtual law firm’. 

Let’s explain. A ‘dispersed’ firm is one where the lawyers operate as individuals, rather than employees, working remotely or from any office. They’ll be supported by a centralised administrative and accounting function as well as centralised regulatory cover. These lawyers are likely to be senior individuals who acquired their expertise working in one of the large or global law firms. But, like so many, they may have moved to this way of working to have greater autonomy, control over their lifestyle or to build their own practice, rather than being part of a larger organisation.

There are pros and cons to this approach, for you as a client. 

A dispersed firm is not designed to provide the economic benefits of going to a larger ‘team’. It isn’t set up that way. Lawyers rarely work in teams and this means you are unlikely to get the financial benefit of their being able to delegate work to a more junior lawyer to reduce the cost to you. As a result you may end up paying more because your only option is to get a senior lawyer to do work more traditionally done by a junior lawyer.  However, if the matter you need advice on requires mostly senior level work then you may find this is offered at a discount to the fees charged by more traditional firms who have greater overheads.

Going to a dispersed law firm is usually most attractive if you already have a relationship with a lawyer from their previous firm and want to follow them. It is likely that, once they’ve moved, their rates will be provided at a significantly lower rate than when it was controlled by their large firm and had to take into account all the overheads.

Want to find the right lawyer for your business? Book your free 30-minute consultation with one of our advisors by clicking here. We’ll talk through the options and suggest at least two law firms that we think are a good fit for your business. We aren’t paid any commission and you won’t be under any pressure to work with any law firms we put forward.