Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Definition of a "virtual lawyer"

Why did I pick "The Virtual Lawyer" as the title for this blog? It just seemed to fit my ideal notion of the future practice of law. I liked the idea of being able to work any where at any time by having access to people, information, and tools. Computers and the Internet make that possible.

But what do the words "virtual lawyer" mean? Since I adopted the name, I felt obligated to look up the definition. I was happy to see that when I googled the definition, this blog came to the top of the list (how often does that happen!). The other references on the first couple of pages used the term, but did not try to define it. Therefore, I feel comfortable defining it on my own.

First, I looked up the definition of "virtual". There were several definitions, but the one I liked best was from The Free Dictionary: "Computer Science. Created, simulated, or carried on by means of a computer or computer network." There are several other definitions like the one from Geekgirls.com that suggested the word meant "not real," but I don't buy that. Don't tell me the Internet is not real.

I am comfortable with the definition of "lawyer" offered by Princeton as "a professional authorized to practice law." So then the question becomes what does it mean to be a "virtual lawyer?"

I decided that I should look at definitions of other "virtual" things. Here is what I came up with:

Virtual call center is "a call center in which the organization's representatives are geographically dispersed, rather than being situated at work stations in a building operated by the organization. Virtual call center employees may be situated in groups in a number of smaller centers, but most often they work from their own homes."

Virtual reality is" an artificial environment created with computer hardware and software and presented to the user in such a way that it appears and feels like a real environment."

Virtual machine is "a number of discrete identical execution environments on a single computer, each of which runs an operating system. This can allow applications written for one OS to be executed on a machine which runs a different OS, or provide execution "sandboxes" which provide a greater level of isolation between processes than is achieved when running multiple processes on the same instance of an OS."

Based on the first two definitions (I threw out the last one), I came up with the following:

A "virtual lawyer" is a professional authorized to practice law, who works with people all geographically dispersed, and whose law practice is carried on by means of a computer or computer network in such a way that it appears and feels like a physical law office, yet provides greater responsiveness, higher efficiency and better quality work product.

This is just my first attempt at defining the term "virtual lawyer" and the definition is likely to change or evolve over time.

What do you think? How would you define "Virtual Lawyer?"

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