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Decentralised legal practices for which lawyers work remotely have seen a 38% rise in the numbers of lawyers working at them in the past year.
In late 2020, 1,355 lawyers worked for such virtual firms, a number that has risen to 1,875 by autumn of 2021. In 2019, 1,272 worked for such firms.
Hazlewoods, which carried out the research, said the increase reflected the dramatic shift towards hybrid and flexible working arrangements.
The accountancy/consulting company defined a “virtual” law firm as a decentralised legal practice where lawyers worked remotely and used shared services provided by a central hub. The firms themselves may not self-define as virtual but offer lawyers more flexibility than traditional firms while still providing a central hub with service functions such as compliance, accounting and administration.
According to Hazlewoods, Covid-19 has led to a shift in attitudes towards working arrangements with lawyers now more likely to have experience of an improved work-life balance. Virtual law firms tended to offer lawyers more freedom over the work they took on, while being able to carry out their work remotely, it stated.
Virtual law firms have benefited from the greater acceptance of virtual meetings, enabling clients to manage their legal affairs from anywhere in the world without a loss of service quality.
They also have lower overheads,