On this week’s episode of the Wealthy Woman Lawyer Podcast, we speak with attorney Brooke Moore, Co-Founder of MyVirtual.Lawyer. MyVirtual.Lawyer provides legal solutions for clients and helps attorneys learn to practice virtual law. Their aim is to make quality legal help available to everyone everywhere, and this is done by bridging the gap between DIY and conventional legal service.
“It really was a combination of trying to find something that fit my lifestyle, but also kind of throwing it out there as a let’s see if this works. It ended up being very beneficial for clients and I felt like I was actually doing something meaningful and making sure that clients had access to at least some legal services that they may not otherwise be able to have access to,” said Brooke about starting a virtual practice.
We chat about Brooke’s journey, as well as:
- Limited scope representation
- Running a virtual practice and a day in the life of a virtual lawyer
- Communicating with and setting thorough expectations for virtual clients
- Drawbacks to working virtually
- And more
Mentioned in this episode:
Davina Frederick: Hello and welcome to the Wealthy Woman Lawyer Podcast. Our mission is to provide thought-provoking, powerful and practical information to help you in creating your own sustainable wealth-generating law firm without overwork or overwhelm so you can live your best life. I’m your host, Davina Frederick, and I’m here today with attorney Brooke Moore, co-founder of myvirtual.lawyer.
Myvirtual.lawyer provides legal solutions for clients and helps attorneys learn to practice virtual law. Their mission is to help make quality legal help available and affordable for everyone everywhere. And they do that by bridging the gap between do it yourself and conventional legal services. So welcome, Brooke. I’m so happy to have you on the Wealthy Woman Lawyer Podcast.
Brooke Moore: Thanks so much. I’m happy to be here.
Davina: Great. So why don’t you start out by telling us a little bit about yourself and your journey to becoming a lawyer and kind of a little background on your legal career and what led you to My Virtual Lawyer?
The Inception of My Virtual Lawyer
Brooke: Sure, absolutely. So we actually, well, I have been an attorney for almost a decade now. And I started out working for a solo. Decided I, you know, definitely had the entrepreneurial spirit, I wanted to be on my own. So he really was a mentor. Went out, hung my shingle, took whatever walked in the door, had a bunch of contracts, really became overwhelmed, burnt out really, really fast. And then I decided I needed to find other things to do because at the time, I, my ex-husband’s military and so his career was very demanding. I had three small children at the time.
And a traditional legal career just was not, even though I was self-employed, it was not, you know, really conducive for my lifestyle. And so I had tried a few other things. I did some remote virtual Medicaid appeal work. I went in-house for a little bit, did some dependency neglect parent council work representing parents. And I actually had gotten to the point that the court was kind of inefficient.
So they would be running late and my husband was traveling all the time. And so I was having anxiety attacks that I would get to daycare and time to pick up my kids. And they would call DHS on me while I was representing these people who had their kids taken away. So it was just, I couldn’t find my place in the legal, you know, profession. And I thought, you know, maybe this isn’t the career for me. You know, maybe I need to be doing nonprofit, maybe I need to be doing something else.
And so, I had gotten to the point that I had been hospitalized three times for stroke level blood pressure. I’d gained quite a bit of weight. I was really depressed. I was just overall, you know, miserable and I wasn’t able to, you know, enjoy my kids’ lives or my life. And so I stepped away for a little bit, spent a little bit of time with my kids. And I thought, well, you know, I’m gonna figure out what I’m going to do. And during that time, I ended up volunteering with Arkansas Access to Justice. And at the time, they were pushing a limited scope representation initiative.
And so the rules here in Arkansas at the time, were really just, you can do limited scope unbundled practice and provide those services to clients. But there weren’t really any rules or scope of what that look like. And so I became very interested in that. And so I decided that I wanted to provide limited scope representation services exclusively because I felt like that was a way for me to stay meaningfully involved in the profession, but it would also be fulfilling from a personal life as well and I’d be able to, you know, have more balance in what I was doing.
And so I did a lot of research, I decided, you know, I’m going to have probably a lower price point so I need a bigger volume. So what does that look like? Well, I need to be able to reach, you know, people across the state. And so to keep my overhead down, I started doing a little bit of research which there wasn’t a lot out there at the time and decided that I was going to create this virtual practice. And so we are a virtual limited scope practice.
And we, I started the firm in January of 2015. So we’re just a little bit over five years old. And so it really was a combination of, you know, trying to find something that fit my lifestyle, but also, you know, kind of throwing it out there as a let’s see if this works. It ended up being very beneficial for clients. And I felt like I was actually doing something meaningful and making sure that clients had access to at least some legal services that they may not otherwise be able to have access to.
Davina: Gotcha. Gotcha. And you have a co-founder. When did, did you bring her in the beginning or did she come later into the process?
Brooke: Yeah, Laura O’Brien. In, I met Laura in 2017, I believe and kind of became her mentor a little bit. When she got back into the practice of law, she’s actually been practicing for almost two decades, but did some legal sales work in between. And, you know, she not just built a relationship.
She had worked with someone who was doing more of a really low bono practice, understood what I was doing in the limited scope practice. And I’m really kind of more of an ideas person and she’s the implementer. So we’re always, you know, joke that we’re yin and yang. And in December of 2017, she had decided to close her domestic violence family law practice and she joined me. So we’ve been co-owners of the law firm since then, and she actually is a co-founder of our attorney component.
Davina: Right, okay. Okay. So, let’s talk a little bit more about a virtual law firm as the way that you define it and how you work when you say limited scope and unbundle services. Your, for you, the issue came in needing to be in court and litigation and all that. And that was problematic for you because you had young children and a husband who wasn’t always around. So you needed to limit that. And so that’s, the way you’re practicing now, it minimizes court appearances or you don’t have court appearances at all. Tell me about that.
Perks of a Virtual Law Practice
Brooke: Sure, yes. So the way that we operate, everything is virtual. And so you were asking, you know, how I kind of define virtual. So, for us, a virtual law firm is really in your interactions with clients. So like heavily utilizing technology and in the way that you are providing those services on the client-facing side is not just necessarily having the ability to work from home or, you know, using technology or being remote. It’s really the holistic experience from the client’s perspective. So that’s kind of how we define it.
But the limited scope for those who don’t know, limited scope representation, sometimes it’s referred to as unbundled. It’s really where the attorney assists with parts of the matter, but not necessarily all of it. So we handle the legal work and delegate the administrative tasks to our clients.
So what that looks like for us, we provide family estate and business law services for our law firm here in Arkansas. And for business and estate planning, it doesn’t look all that much different because it’s transactional work that we do. And so, you know, people are accustomed to coming to an attorney, even in a traditional setting, for a will or coming to an attorney to have a contract drafted and it’s kind of a one and done all in cart situation. Where it really looks different and where limited scope is, you know, really comes into play is on our family law side.
And family law is a litigation-based legal service. And so, essentially what we do is pro se legal assistance. So obviously, we vet people pretty heavily upfront to make sure that they’re a good fit and, you know, manage their expectations, but we handle the legal work. So a lot of times people will come to us for a divorce. And, you know, divorce does not always necessarily have to be heavily contested, but we are able to provide them with the documents to help them get started.
And as long as it remains uncontested, then they get their documents start to finish. We don’t do the filing for them. We don’t go to court for them, but we provide them step by step instructions on what they need to do, where they need to go, what steps to take and things like that. So they’re able to represent themselves kind of at a fraction of the cost, but also having access to quality legal assistance to make sure that they’re, you know, informed, educated, knowledgeable and have the appropriate documentation for their case.
Davina: Now, what you guys are doing right now estates and family law. Are there other areas that you’re covering right now? Or are there other areas you anticipate covering in the future that you would like to see unto?
Brooke: We both are kind of like we don’t necessarily want to learn a new practice area. There are different things that are probably conducive. We do the other attorneys that we work with, they don’t all necessarily do the exact same things as we do. So when we’re talking to them, we’re, you know, trying to figure out if what they want to do is something that can limit the scope of representation.
For me, when I started, I went with these three practice areas because these were the practice areas that I most enjoyed, but also the ones that I had experience with. And so I feel like it’s very difficult if you do not have experience to be able to provide a limited scope service assistance to a client because you can’t necessarily, you know, if you haven’t gone to court for a divorce, or if you haven’t done a specific area of law, you don’t necessarily have that expertise. Yes, you can learn it, but there are just certain nuances that it’s hard for you to, you know,
Davina: If you’re the client, right?
Brooke: Right. So, you know, we’re not really, if an opportunity presents itself, you know, we might bring someone else in and hire them in the firm to do that practice area. I don’t think, we’ve kind of whittled it down to I’m doing business law, she’s doing family and estate law and kind of fell into our own about a year and a half ago. But there’s definitely other areas that can be unbundled and we do work with our other attorneys to help them figure out what that might look like for them.
Davina: Well, that segues nicely into my next question, which is are, is this something that you have created with the intention of being a home base, a virtual home base for other lawyers who want to have a virtual practice, but maybe don’t want to go start their own virtual practice? Are you looking to expand or grow in that way? Or is it something where, you know, this is the two of you and, you know, maybe you’ll hire a couple people kind of thing?
Mylawer.virtual Growth Plans
Brooke: Right. So the way we’re set up, we actually have a secondary company set up for our attorney services. And so we are actually kind of, we’re in two other states, currently in Texas and Alabama and we call this a partner firm, but we’re essentially kind of a collaborative, a collection of independent law firms where we actually help them get a license our brand, so they’re able to use our brand for that recognition.
But they also have other things that they get with us like our answering service and our resources and things like that, they have one on one calls with us every month, but we help them essentially create that and kind of jump over all the steps and missteps that I took, you know, money I wasted early on trying to figure out how to make this work.
So, you know, essentially, we’re trying to help them jump that piece and really get started and be that community and be that assistance for them in creating and running their virtual law firm, but also being part of our bigger community where we’re all collaborating with one another, but they have their own independent freedom in their firms.
And they’re, you know, running their own individual practices to where they can figure out if it’s more of a hybrid practice where it’s partially virtual or partially unbundled and what service areas they want to provide. And they have a lot of autonomy in the kind of software that they use. Obviously, we have, you know, team software that we all use, but they’re able to pick that out and we’re able to kind of evaluate some of that based on our experiences, make recommendations and help them figure out their workflows and processes so they’re able to kind of expedite launching their firms.
Davina: Okay. So give me a sense of what it’s like to be a virtual lawyer. Like what are your days look like?
Brooke: Right. Yeah, I mean, no two days are really alike. It’s kind of a combination. I’ve got to where I time block a little bit better. Especially with you know, COVID and with everything else right now that’s going on. I had my kids home for a little bit homeschooling. So that was a nice little adjustment, too. But for me, it’s, you know, in part, an average day would be, you know, doing some client consultations, talking to legal, you know, technology vendors to determine, you know, learn more about their products to determine if, you know, we want to create some kind of relationship there that might provide value for the attorneys that we work with.
Working with our other, you know, we have regular meetings, we have a social media team, we have an automation person. And so Laura and I, our days with quite a bit different. I spend a lot more time and we just kind of fell in these roles a little bit, but I spent a lot more time on the attorney side. So I spend a lot more time serving as a resource locally, serving as a resource nationally, talking to people.
And Laura does that too but she also manages kind of the firm side of things. So she is over there reaching out to the vendors we’re going to specifically use to implement things in our practice. She manages our automation team, she oversees our marketing folks. So in our CPA, so she really is in the day to day of the law firm and I’m, you know, more working toward building relationships and, you know, the PR side of the firm partially on the client-side, but also really working to develop our, we have a how to build a virtual law firm course that we’re running right now.
And, you know, we’re adding on to our course library. So building that stuff out, you know, finding ways to pivot and be creative. I spend a lot of my day kind of in creative mode and some business law consultations in there because I’m the only person in the front that does business law.
But she’s, you know, pretty heavily doing family law, but the great thing about it is, you know, I can do it, yeah, I was able to sit down with all three of my kids and work out a schedule around their schedule when they were homeschooling and to be able to, you know, have certain times where I’m actually getting up early maybe and having calls and then the rest of my day is more administrative stuff so I can stop and help them and I minimize interruptions. And so, you know, there’s a lot of flexibility in that. There’s a lot of flexibility, Laura is a night person. She, I mean she will work crazy night hours because she prefers to work at night.
And so, we do have a lot of flexibility in where we work, where we work. I actually took a trip down to the beach, you know, safely isolating, but, you know, with a friend who also had some work to do, and I was able to record a workshop that we were doing from there. I did an interview from there. So you know, you’re able to take it with you, do some client work, so it really gives you a lot of flexibility. I mean, you have to structure your time but it gives you a lot of flexibility.
Davina: Right, right. I imagine you and you mentioned your partner having being, a night owl kind of person. I’m not, but I know that there are people out there, a lot of people out there like that.
And I’m thinking that that has to be a real advantage for her family law clients especially, or even estate planning clients because, you know, other people are working too and so sometimes, they may need to put kids down before they can get on a Zoom call or, you know, wait till they’re in the times we were working in office, wait till they’re off work, you know, as opposed to taking time off from work during the day to meet with their attorney. So that’s probably one of the advantages you guys have found is that your clients probably like that flexibility.
Brooke: Yeah, Laura has later hours. I mean, most of my business clients can take, you know, they want to and they take calls during the day because they’re calling me for that. So that works really well with my schedule, with the kids having activities after work. But yeah, with Laura, she offers extended hours, some weekend hours, she can go back and forth at night. But it is really convenient. We communicate with our clients through a client portal, which I think is like the key to a virtual law practice.
But, you know, that’s how we interact with our clients. And, you know, she’s accessible to them when it’s convenient for them because like you said, I mean, that’s a huge problem. We work the same hours as a lot of our clients. I can’t necessarily take off work to, you know, trek down to an office or to get on a phone call. And, you know, sometimes they’ll get a call scheduled during our lunch break or early in the morning. And so it is really accommodating to the clients as well.
Davina: Right, right. When you say key, a real key to virtual practice is this communicating with clients through a client portal. Tell me about your initial meeting with clients and your, you know, your subsequent meeting with clients. Probably if you’re communicating through a portal, you’re probably doing a lot more messaging back and forth. But do you have times where you’re meeting, you know, where clients want to see your face and hear your voice and have, meet you in person or have a virtual call? Tell me how you handle that.
Brooke: So initially, our clients come to us one of two ways, and I actually even when I was bootstrapping it in the early days, I was like, I want control of my schedule and I do not want to have to take incoming calls. And so I have outsourced since day one to an answering service. So we push clients really to come into our website and they sign up on our online calendar for a consultation call with us. And that’s our initial call. But they could come in that way, or if they want to talk to the person, they can call the answering service and I’ll schedule them for them.
And so once they get on our schedule, they have the option of either a phone call or a video call. Nobody ever chooses video. You know, we do a pretty good job if people are familiar with this at all, on social media, trying to at least get our personalities, our faces out there, provide some valuable information and then, you know, show a bit of a personality on our website. Sometimes people already feel like they know us by the time they get there. But most of the time, surprisingly, people opt for a phone call. And so we’ll have our initial phone consultation with them. And really, that is, in part, you know, normal attorney stuff.
We are vetting the call to see if it’s, you know, if the client has a case, what the matter is, what we can do if it’s a good fit, but specifically, if it’s a good fit for limited scope representation and if this person is competent enough to communicate and work with us virtually. And so we do all of that in our initial phone call. And then we also set out a lot of expectations. We manage expectations there, we’re very clear on the front like, this is how we’re going to communicate, this is how we operate, this is what it looks like, here is our timeline. We’re all flat fee and we do payment plans so we, you know, can give them the price upfront.
So they know all that stuff upfront and then once they convert to a client, from there on out unless they add on, you know, a call, which is an additional fee or unless there’s something, you know, some extenuating circumstances or something unique in their case that they need to discuss, we don’t have a further, you know, phone or video contact with them. Everything is in the portal. But we actually, because we set out those expectations and manage them so well and are very clear to communicate step 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
This is how many days, this is what you’re going to hear from us, this is what’s going to happen, we actually are not just, you know, inundated with messages. You know, occasionally you’ll have someone that messages frequently. But, you know, the great thing about the portal is they can be freaking out about a custody exchange at 10 o’clock on a Friday night, vetted all out to you so they’ve gotten it out in messenger and then you can pick it up Monday morning and have a conversation back to them so they feel like they’ve at least been able to contact the person that they’re working with.
And so it’s not really been abused because we’re so thorough in explaining the process and what’s going to happen with our clients being that it is a limited scope relationship, they’re really involved in the process with us. So they have some ownership and power in the situation as well.
Davina: Good. So the second key is really making sure that you’re setting those clear expectations right from the beginning and explaining to them the process because its a new way of lawyering still. You know, there’s still there are a number of virtual attorneys popping up out there, but it’s still a new way of lawyering. So I’m sure that’s really important to go through and explain this is the process.
And actually, because you do work this way, it’s probably caused you to be a lot more clear and systematic in setting those expectations, you probably do a much better job in setting those expectations than you would say if you were a solo meeting with people in-person where you might be able to have a more, you know, fluid conversation or might be able to read body language or whatever it is, because you thought this out and made it such a process-oriented firm. You’ve probably done a lot of that systems kind of thinking.
Brooke: Right. Yeah, we’ve done that. And we really haven’t, I get asked a lot if we get clients pushback and we really don’t. I really appreciate it. And one thing, you know, it is new as far as educating people that this is actually an option. You know, there are people frequently to go online to try to look for online services, but they don’t necessarily always think that there’s actually a real attorney on the other side to offer those services to them. But we really, I always say, a lot of clients have never had an interaction with an attorney. And this may be their first, you know, case.
They’re not doing it frequently if they’ve had any other interaction. So other than TV, which is unrealistic, even in a traditional lawyering setting, people really don’t know what to expect. So we teach them how to interact with us and, you know, it’s been very much appreciated. I have more appreciative clients now than I did when I was in a more traditional setting and it’s because there’s so much transparency in managing of expectations and really regular communication.
Davina: Yeah, it sounds like more of a partnership in the process too. You’re really setting them up to say, we’re here to be your guide, you know, through this process. And so they are more involved in their case, as opposed to sitting back and going, what’s my lawyer doing on my case? So why do you think, you know, obviously, since the pandemic started, we know why a lot of virtual firms are on the rise, but prior to that, why do you think, why did you think this is gonna be a really successful way to go with my business?
Why Remote is the Way Forward
Brooke: Well, like I said, At first, it was just, this makes sense for me, but also as a consumer, you know, and I, a lot of times, we’ll call them legal consumers as opposed to clients because that’s really what they are. But as a consumer, I really try to look at it from that perspective. I like the convenience of being able to, you know, go into a portal with my physician or, you know, I mean, clients are used to, you know, DIY society.
They’re also used to conducting business online. And so for me, it only made sense. So that was the next natural step. And one of the things that always cracks me up when I’m speaking places, there’s always, you know, at least one attorney that says, Well, you know, people want to sit down, look in the eye and shake your hand and, you know, that is so impersonal. And they can’t trust a lawyer if they, you know, only meeting them virtually. And then to that, my response is people meet and marry people off dating sites online all the time.
Davina: That’s true.
Brooke: And then they’re like, Oh, well, okay. But I mean, it’s just, this is where society is going. And sometimes as a profession, I feel like we really stand in our own way, you know, of innovation. And we have these, you know, people who are being very creative and coming up with legal technology and alternative services that are not regulated, spurred by some of the regulations we have.
And so it is, it’s happening and we see consumers, you know, going online and buying these services and searching, and we’re not meeting that demand. And part of that is because, you know, we’re fearful of our ethical obligations, or we are just stuck in the mindset of this is the way it’s always been done. This is the way we’re supposed to do it. And so I think now with everything that’s going on, we’re being forced at a rapid pace to challenge a lot of those things.
And people are starting to see that, well, hey, this can be done this way. And we can adopt it. There is a better way and they’re starting to enjoy that. Laura and I joke all the time, like, uh oh, we’re legit now. People would be like, is this a hobby? I’m like, Yes, I start virtual law firms as a hobby. But it Yeah, it really is a legit thing and I think people are realizing that at this point.
Davina: Yeah. Well, and I think that, I think if lawyers don’t start, you know, it’s incumbent upon lawyers to really step, get with the times and, you know, law firms have been traditionally have been very slow to move and to make changes. And I think what’s exciting is you’re seeing a lot of younger lawyers, a lot of women lawyers, a lot of women lawyers of color, that are really sort of forging a new path using innovative tools.
And the traditional law, venerable law firm, you know, that was downtown on Main Street on the brick road, you know, they’re gonna get left behind because we’re seeing a lot of thinking about things differently and innovating. And yours is certainly one of those models, you know, so it makes, if lawyers don’t do it, like you said, they’re going to be other service providers who step up and find ways to do it without lawyers. And I think that’s harmful to the consumer, ultimately, you know?
Brooke: It is. And consumers don’t, they don’t understand necessarily the difference. And so I think that a little bit, you know, we think everybody understands the value that we bring to the table. I mean, we know some of the pitfalls and things that happen and the horror stories when, you know, people don’t have things properly drafted or haven’t, you know, been educated on whatever matter and, you know, just walk in.
When I first started, especially, I remember people would go online and do their own things and then they would come to me and be like, the judge wouldn’t take this and it’s like, maybe they walked in with a parenting plan, but it’s like, well, you have these other five documents that go with that. That’s just incorporated into it. So people did not understand that and, but they don’t know what they don’t know.
They don’t do this all the time, but they’re also, you know, they’re looking for convenience. And also affordability. You know, we have to be able to balance that and we can do that if we are embracing technology. You can still have a lower price point, have more freedom and make more money. So, you know, it’s just changing like you, you know, you touched on, you’ve got to change your mindset. It’s a mindset shift into what we’re supposed to be doing and what, you know, representation looks like in general.
Davina: You did say that, so one of the obvious ways of sort of making more money even though you’re working, you know, maybe at a lower price point is it lowers your overhead, so there’s that. Although you are paying for the virtual tools, you’re not paying, you know, like to release that you have to personally guarantee. and, but, you know, what kind of volume do you think that you need to create, you know, a million-dollar practice out of something like this?
Is this something where you need a bigger team? Or you need to, you know, have you thought about that? What sort of volume do you need? Do you need to make, to have three times the number of clients that you would need to have if you’re working in person? Or what’s your idea about that?
Brooke: Well, I mean, actually here in Arkansas, so by that same, I say it’s lower. I think sometimes, especially with limited scope services, not necessarily just virtual, people think, okay, cheap. And so I’ve played with my prices and change them three times. But, you know, we are actually pretty comparable for the work that we do to what like an attorney would charge. You know, maybe not a partner level at a midsize firm here, but in our state for what they would charge for what we actually do.
I think the difference is the way we present it. So say a divorce with, an uncontested divorce with kids start to finish with our firm is flat fee of 1500 dollars that doesn’t include a filing fee. And so, you know, we offer again, like those payment plans and we’re able to do that. So are our clients actually, which is crazy for me going from a more traditional practice and billing by the hour and chasing people like a bill collector to, you know, getting a retainer and hoping I got more money.
The difference that I’ve seen in practicing this way, I could be charging the same thing I would be charging for a retainer, but it’s start to finish. I’m limited in my representation and in the over five years we’ve been doing this we have had zero outstanding bills. Everyone has paid in full, whether that is a payment plan, whether that is outright, we have never had anyone not pay in full because we really customize those plans.
So, and also, we’re in here, automating things. So, you know, if you are charging that and you’re having to manually go in as a solo, I used to have to mainly go in and I would have a document that I used all the time for like a complaint. And I would manually go in and do that, make sure that I didn’t have any errors. And it’s been a whole bunch of times doing those things. But for us, we’ve automated all that to the extent that we can pretty much for a lot of things, just do a final review at the end to make sure everything is there.
And by automate, I mean, we actually delegate intake to the client. So they’re putting their information in there. So it’s, you know, less chance of being inaccurate, automating all our documents, reviewing them at the end. And so, you know, we may spend, you know, I don’t know, three hours in that, you know, talking to the client, preparing, you know, intake and then preparing them and then maybe some back and forth and providing their instructions that we’ve already created.
And we’re making 1500 dollars. So, you know, we actually make way more money doing this than, even at what people might consider a lower price point than I was before billing by the hour. And so I don’t know that you, it really needs to be a whole lot different when we are talking to our attorneys and kind of helping them figure out how to set these and figure out what they need to have to sustain, it’s more of what practice areas, you know, are you providing.
And then once they spent a little bit of time in that, we can go back and look, and we’ve cut stuff out over time, too. But what are our biggest, you know, cases? You know, what do we need to bring in, well this is how much we want to make sure that we are making every month or every year, you know, whatever that number is. And then this is how many divorces we need to make. This is you know, how many partnership agreements and so we really,
Davina: You’re starting with the end goal in mind and working backwards and saying, okay, what you want, and then how are we going to get it?
Brooke: Right yeah, and I mean that, you know, varies. We have some people that just kind of want to dip their toe in the water, maybe they’re at a place where they’re only wanting to do this part-time because they have young children and they’re, you know, wanting to kind of build it up gradually. And so for them, that number may look different.
And so that’s kind of what we talked to them about. But, you know, coming up with value your time just because you have, you know, not necessarily researched every single thing every single time you’re doing it, you spent time building those templates, you’ve spent time automating those templates, you spent money on your software, you are valuable in the resources you give. So I find with women, especially because mostly, it’s all women that we work with.
And, you know, women tend to undervalue themselves or do a lot of stuff low bono, pro bono, and that’s great. But you also have to make a living because then you can’t help people if you’re not. So, you know, it’s really getting in that mindset that, you know, yeah, you may not be doing x, y, z every single time that you’ve done that work. So when you’re trying to figure out how much you’re going to charge somebody, you need to consider what that looks like. And you consider your value, the value that you bring to the table.
Caveats of a Virtual Law Practice
Davina: Right, right. Makes complete sense. So have you discovered any drawbacks to working virtually? What, I mean, any challenges have come up that maybe you’ve had to overcome?
Brooke: Yeah. You know, especially early on, I feel like it’s becoming a little bit more widely accepted. Early on, it was a little bit confusing, like I said, for clients, sometimes we would get, and we don’t get this anymore, but they would be confused. like, Okay, well, are you an attorney? It’s just because it didn’t make sense to them for you to be online. That, I feel like that’s kind of just become more acceptable and so we don’t really get that as much anymore.
You know, we like I said, we don’t get a lot of pushback from clients. Obviously, sometimes we have tech malfunctions. We use our law firm here in Arkansas, kind of as a playground to test out the new technology before we recommend things to other people. And so, you know, we’ve worked with some really great people who have let us kind of be, you know, tests for some of the stuff that they’re building which is great because it’s kind of more customized for us.
But, you know, sometimes there are hiccups and, you know, hopefully that doesn’t impact the client. Sometimes we have to go back and say, Okay, sorry, we were working through the software and, you know, we’ll get this fixed whatever if we have a little glitch. But, you know, generally speaking, once we have everything up, you know, tech is usually running smoothly.
I’ve been going a little bit insane right now during everything being quarantined because my entire life is now online. So I love it when I’m working online and then I cut out and I’ll go have a drink with a friend or whatever. Real life happens outside of it. Now everything is there. I’m having happy hours there and I’m having coffee with friends and I’m having all the work stuff. So I’m just like I just need to shut my computer and stop looking at it.
Davina: Right, I get that.
Brooke: And you just have to get really good at setting those boundaries. I think that was real hard for me, especially before Laura came on, because I was wearing all the hats and doing a lot of the stuff that I didn’t like doing because I had to, you know, it just was hard for me to turn work off. And I remember one time my daughter drew this little picture of me like, with my computer just sitting there. Like, that’s how she saw me.
I was like ahh, broke my heart. Like, I gotta do better. But, you know, it just setting those boundaries, it’s hard, but, you know, you set them and, you know, you stick to them. And, you know, that’s how we’ve kind of ended up in our roles. We’re doing the stuff that we want to do. We’re outsourcing the stuff we don’t want to do. And we’re really focusing on, I think a lot of people spin their wheel testing things and doing things and that’s great.
And we do that to a certain extent, but our focus is on using our time in doing revenue-generating activities. And so that kind of shifts our mindset, shifts our focus a little bit to where we’re able to hold those boundaries a little firm, that we don’t let one little boundary that we have in place is we don’t allow anybody on our calendar unless you book more than 24 hours in advance. There’s no such thing as a limited scope of urgency. So that’s what we always say.
So you can wait. But, you know, generally, you know, we’re going to be available. But we do that so that way we can really time block and prioritize our day. And so you just need to, there may be somebody well, I want to pay with cash. Well, if that’s all they can do, then, you know, we do it all remotely. We don’t take cash. So, you know, you have to be willing to say, you’re not the client for me, you know, and keep focusing on the clients you’re trying to attract, which is probably one of the hardest things to do is turn down money. But
Davina: Oh yeah. Especially when you’re starting out with it, you know?
Brooke: Right. Right. But it has served us well to hold those boundaries, and we’ve attracted more of the clients that we want because we have been very intentional in sticking to that.
Davina: Right. Right. Makes a lot of sense. So what is your growth goal from here? Do you anticipate adding other lawyers and expanding maybe in other states? Or is this something where you think you’re going to keep it small, keep it all? Or the way you’re expanding is by reaching out and maybe licensing the brand?
Brooke: Yes. So, here in Arkansas, end goal really is to, you know, step away from the actual day to day legal work and have attorneys here that work for us. But again, technology really helps us to be able to, you know, do a lot more with fewer people. But our real goal as far as the brand is to be able to, you know, expand these virtual limited scope services into other jurisdictions and, like you said, it’s through our licensing.
So licensing our brand to grow as a big collaborative community of independent law firms. Like our law firm here in Arkansas, for example, is a licensee of our brand company. And just like our other, you know, partner firms in Alabama and Texas. And so our goal is to be able to grow that network and be able to, you know, help support other mostly female attorneys. We don’t say no dudes, but we just, we’re kind of a girls club over here. That’s just who we attract and, you know what we do. But we’re all about empowering women. So, and making, you know, women are leaving the profession in droves.
And we want to make sure that they can stay meaningfully involved in the profession and have some fulfillment in their life as well. And so, but we do want to do that through our licensing program. And then, you know, that we’re really working to build up our attorney offerings so that way if they’re not necessarily a good fit for licensing with us and becoming part of that community, that we can bring them in through our course so that we can, you know, consult with them and help them and at that level, just so that way, we’re able to reach those people and not turn them away.
And even if they’re not a good fit, they may still need some guidance. So we’re trying to build that and create that and see what that looks like. But our, you know, our long term goal really is to, you know, expand into other, you know, not necessarily our individual Arkansas law firm, but to expand our brand and services, you know, to jurisdictions throughout.
Davina: So what kind of advice would you have for attorneys who, women law firm owners, who really maybe because of COVID-19, or because of their lifestyle or dissatisfaction with the current solo practice, they’re considering taking their law practice completely virtual? What advice, where should they start? What advice would you have for them?
Brooke: I mean, one, it’s good if they’re already thinking about it because they’re already kind of, we call it, we have our live show, we call it loitering outside of the lines. And that’s essentially what it is thinking of different innovative models and different ways to practice. But, you know, I would say, you know, first just kind of shake that suppose to. You don’t, I think people get hung up on, you know, ethics rules.
And obviously, we pay attention to that. We care, But we are very much of the mindset with innovation that, you know, if there is not somewhere that explicitly says we can’t do it, we’re going to do it, and we’re going to explain why we did it. So if we have any issues, and so far, that fared well. So I think it’s just, you know, taking that leap. Start small. You do not have to, I mean, obviously, we’ve kind of grown into more robust operations, but we’ve been around for a while. And so, you know, there’s not really a one size fits all solution for virtual law firms out there.
But, you know, there are certain things that you can start out with that are not going to be, I mean, you could start out for less than $100 with the key pieces that you need for virtual law firm a month and be able to successfully provide services virtually. So, you know, kind of get out of your own way in your mind the way you’re supposed to be doing it first. And then, you know, just start with the basics. And it may be, I started and it’s almost kind of embarrassing, but when I started, I would send out my client agreements and I would send them, I did have a client portal, but there was not an E signature solution that integrated at the time.
And so I would send out these client contracts, and be like, if you could please print this out, sign it, upload it back, or fax it over to me, you know, like, I’m a virtual firm and here you go. So, you know, there are things that you have to do when you start out, but, you know, you’ll grow and you can build on that. And so, you know, seek mentors. There’s a huge community, especially for females. There’s a lot of female innovators and whether they’re attorneys in the legal tech sphere that are happy to talk to you. Just reach out and, you know, Hey, can I get 30 minutes of your time and ask questions?
You know, read books, do, you know, of course, do research and, you know, once you do that, you can figure out what works for you, but you don’t, you know, you can kind of create something else. You don’t need to wait necessarily for someone else to tell you it’s okay to do it for us to get to the point in a profession where everything is perfectly lined up, which I don’t know, that will ever happen. You know, x, y, z, you could do all these things. There’s, you know, we’re made, we’re made for a reason.
And so the rules aren’t always clear cut and so it’s just, you know, be smart about it, be cautious, but also, you know, be a little bold and step out and, you know, put yourself out there and create something. Because you can essentially effectuate those changes. I was, when I was working and, you know, volunteering with access justice, like I said earlier here in Arkansas, I was able to actually contribute to a lot of the language I was using and, you know, give testimonies to clients and the way I was doing things and almost kind of structure some of the rule changes that went into place.
So we can actually, you know, be very powerful and effectuate those changes. So you don’t have to wait, you know, for somebody else to tell you it’s okay. And, you know, a lot of people want to kind of tiptoe out of it. You know, for financial reasons sometimes you may need to tiptoe from your big corporate job, you know, into it or, you know, moonlight with it. But if you, you know, have the ability to kind of go all in, I think it’s definitely better to just jump all in with it.
Davina: Right, right. I think, you said something very powerful there, which is that you don’t need to ask anybody’s permission. I know when I started practicing law, that a few years ago now, and at the time, we didn’t have the resources for a virtual practice, but I, a few years into it, I said I was going to practice virtually, not really, you know, not really with a lot of the tools that we have now. I’m just thinking I’m going to do everything through email and, you know, meet with my clients on the phone and basic things like that, right?
And I had an attorney, older man, tell me, your clients aren’t gonna like that. Clients aren’t gonna like that. And he just completely shut me down, you know? Clients aren’t going to like that. Of course, he had an agenda. He wanted me to rent office space in his very extensive office building because he had some empty offices. And it was ridiculously expensive. Yeah, agenda there. And I guess he thought I just fell off the turnip truck.
But I proceeded with my harebrained idea and actually did it quite well and practiced estate planning. And, you know, it worked out just fine. And my clients actually liked it and I was able to serve clients outside of my immediate county and immediate area. I had clients, you know, who were on the coast and, you know, I had a lot of elderly clients who didn’t like to drive, you know, around here. It’s, I’m in the Orlando area and traffic around here, it can be really awful. And so, you know, I had elderly clients who said, You know, I don’t want to try that far. And it worked out great.
And it’s amazing because you could still develop a relationship with people through email and the phone. You know, I had one client in particular, remember, it was a man in his 80s who loves to just, you know, talk to me, email me stuff, right? You know, he sent me thank you cards and, you know, all kinds of things. So it was really nice. So I do, you know, I think it’s very powerful to say you don’t need permission, you can practice the way you want to practice. I’ve had numerous attorneys through the years, you know, my young, when I first started practicing, would say things about the way I was going to do something and that it wasn’t, you know, done.
And why not? Why not? If your client I mean, really the only people you need to be concerned about. One of the most empowering statements I ever heard is, you know, the people, if you’re not paying your bills, you don’t get a vote, you know? Like, I appreciate your opinion, but your opinion doesn’t pay my bills. So I’m going to do things, you know, the way it works for me and paying clients.
Brooke: Right. Yeah, I mean, it’s client-focused, for sure. And that’s, you know, our attitude about it, too. Like, if you don’t get it, that’s bad for you. I’m sorry that you don’t understand what we’re doing. Our clients like it and our clients are paying us. So, but yes, people, definitely attorneys like to share their opinions of you.
And I think part of it is, you know, maybe it’s a little bit of intimidation because they don’t necessarily understand it. I’ve had attorneys say, You’re stealing our clients. And I’m like, I could set up shop right next door to you, do the same thing in person and still be taking your like, we’re both licensed, and it’s the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard. I’m like, What clients am I stealing from you?
I’m like, I would get those clients anyway, like you don’t, you know, so it’s just so crazy. And to your point, some of that pushback is, specifically I hear it for elderly folks. And, you know, there are certain people that you may not be able to serve this way. But, you know, most people have, you know, a mobile phone. So if you make your stuff accessible on a mobile phone, you can reach those people. Obviously, I mean, Arkansas is a really rural state.
So here, there are areas where that may be a little bit more difficult because, just go to the library, people are very resourceful when they need to be. That very first client when I started doing this, virtually was a 72-year-old man, and his grandson came and hooked all his stuff up and showed him what to do. So, you know, and he was very happy to be there. So, you know, you can make it work. And like I said earlier, not every client is going to be your client. You just have to be comfortable being able to, you know, let those go.
Davina: Right, right. And I think it is surprising, you know, a lot of people think oh, well, this is the way millennials deals are going to interact, but it’s not way traditional clients are going to interact. And I think that is actually not accurate. It’s surprising, you will have a variety of people who will love the opportunity to work this way.
And especially, you know, like you mentioned with flat fees, I know a lot of attorneys are using flat fees now. And it’s, a lot of attorneys do, you know, because it’s easy. It’s easier or accounting, time tracking. I mean, think of all the time you get back from tracking your time. But also, it is a great selling point. Really, it’s a great selling point for clients, because what other, you know, business do you go into where you can’t predict how much something that’s going to cost unless it’s the medical profession?
Brooke: That’s a whole different thing.
Davina: Yeah, that’s a whole different podcast. So, you know, I think there’s definitely some things advantages to that. I can see one of the challenges as it is for any new lawyer or solo lawyer, even some who’ve been practicing long time is that making sure that you are charging enough for your services and really thinking that through. You can do this and still make good money without giving away the farm, you know?
Brooke: Right. Exactly. Yeah, and it’s, time and time again, almost every single female that we have worked with, has had that block. I feel like that’s something kind of that we all share is really we undervalue ourselves. And I think you just have to, you know, put it out there and value yourself and value your time.
Davina: Yeah, yeah. I mean, that’s a mindset thing. I mean, I do a lot of work with my clients, the mindset work, and that is definitely something that we come up against all the time. And one of the very first things that we start working on changing because if you want to increase, if you want to make a certain amount of revenue, you know, you really have to take a look at what how you’re valuing your services and getting those stories out of your head about, you know, people won’t pay for this.
You know, taking your money stories, whatever those stories are and projecting them to clients. And I think it’s the same thing with using virtual services, just like we talked about. There are plenty of people out there who love virtual services, and they may be elderly people as well as millennials as well as, you know, boomers, Gen Xers, right?
You’re projecting your money story on them. If you say, No, people won’t like this, and people won’t use it. So I appreciate you being here and sharing with us. I think this is an exciting time to be a lawyer and we have amazing tools available to us that weren’t even available, you know, 12 years ago when I, 13 years ago when I started my practice. So it’s exciting to be able to do some of these things. Tell us how we can find out more about you, how we can connect with you and find out about myvirtual.lawyer.
Brooke: Yeah, so you can go to our website, which is just myvirtual.lawyer. We have two kind of paths that you can take. One is, you know, for clients, you can kind of see what that looks like. We have our different firms listed there and you can see how we have set up our services. We have another side that is for attorneys that talks about our licensing program that talks about our courses and talks about the things that we do there.
Or also, at myvirtual.lawyer, so virtual.lawyer on Facebook and Instagram. And then if you just want to tweet at me, I’m at Virtual Law Girl. Laura’s actually at Virtual Law Lady so we’re both available there as well. Or my email is Brooke, [email protected] if anyone wants to reach out.
Davina: Good, great. Thank you so much I really enjoyed our conversation and I think our audience will really benefit a lot from what you’ve shared today. So thank you so much for being here, Brooke.
Brooke: I appreciate you. Thanks so much for inviting me.