Ohio Board of Professional Conduct Releases Opinion on Virtual Law Offices

On Thursday, June 22, the Ohio Supreme Court's Board of Professional Conduct released Advisory Opinion 2007-5 which allows the operation of virtual law offices.  What is a virtual law office? In basic terms, it describes a lawyer or firm without a brick and mortar office, who serves clients mainly through technology, or as the opinion itself describes it "A virtual law office “VLO” typically involves a lawyer communicating with clients almost exclusively through secure Internet portals, emails, or other electronic messaging." In the opinion, the Board allows a lawyer to use a home, shared space, or P.O. Box as the required "office address" for communication with clients and the courts. The opinion does caution attorneys to be careful. It requires that attorneys keep up on changing technology to ensure the safety of client's information. The Board also recommends that attorneys conduct be clear with clients that they operate a virtual office.

How common are virtual law offices? It's hard to tell because the definition varies. According the the 2016 ABA Tech Report, in answer to the question, "Is your firm virtual?" 5% of firms and 9% of solos answered yes. When asked what constituted a virtual practice, 74% percent of solos indicated that a lack of traditional office space constitutes a virtual practice. With rising rents, and continuing developments in technology, it will be interesting to see how if these numbers increase in the coming years. You can read more about the the opinion here.