IT & the Lawyer

Virtual solicitors' chambers - the future now?

A Virtual Solicitors' Chamber (VSC) is an attempt to overcome these problems using IT and Internet technology. Groups of independent firms, which can be sole practitioners or smaller firms that share premises, save overheads through economies of scale and gain by cross referral and branding.

By electronically mimicking the bricks and mortar chamber the solicitor enjoys a number of advantages. These include:

  • Freedom to concentrate on legal work. Non-legal work is done at the central chambers;
  • The benefits of being part of a network of solicitors with the advantages of branding and cross referral opportunities;
  • The benefits of using technology and more efficient processes which work;
  • An on-line library;
  • Economies of scale.
Each firm can operate in the way they believe is best for their needs, choosing the size of their real offices and the nature of their virtual offices in the combination of clicks and mortar. This is a solution which has worked since the first VSC was set up in Peterborough in 1991, so it is not a theoretical construct. By providing office accommodation and back-office secretarial and telephone support to sole practitioners for almost the last ten years the overhead/fee income ratios are impressive.

Overheads were cut and what resulted is a model of legal practice which escapes employer/employee and inter-partner difficulties (by the simple approach of having neither employees nor partners). However, this does not mean that the traditional face-to-face solicitor and client relationship has changed. All that has changed is the way the solicitor is enabled to provide his services. The VSC is not a dotcom business, a paperless office, a "one to many" legal service or a move away from the traditional personal relationship between the solicitor and client.

The future is uncertain but the concept of the Virtual Solicitors' Chamber offers a solution which is at the vanguard of the electronic age and best placed to take advantage of it's huge marketing potential.

LAWeb website

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