Are you in need of a lawyer to help with your disability claim? Are you wondering whether you should hire a law firm online or meet with someone locally? Do you want to learn more about the benefits as well as the common problems with hiring a lawyer online? If you answered yes to any of these questions, keep reading.
Once you’ve decided to hire a lawyer, you’ll need to find the best fit for you. And to find the best fit, you’ll need to narrow down your options.
Maybe the best disability lawyer in your town is a 45-minute commute both ways; maybe the best disability lawyer in the country is available at the click of a button. Or, your ideal lawyer is a mix of these: you’d like to meet in person to sign documents but prefer to receive case updates over the phone.
In this article, which is part of our Ultimate Guide to Disability Lawyers in Ontario, I compare the two opposite ends of the spectrum:
Hiring a lawyer or firm locally versus hiring an online lawyer or firm.
Regular Legal Service Model
This is the legal service model that everyone is familiar with. You sit across the desk from a lawyer in a room lined with bookshelves. The two of you sign paper documents with ink, and you drive home when your appointment ends.
You might like the regular service model better if you are someone who:
- Prefers to meet in person to get a better sense of the lawyer you’ll be working with.
There’s a lot that face-to-face communication and body language tell you about a person that you could miss out on if you’re dealing with your lawyers online. If you value this type of contact, you should hire a lawyer you can meet in person.
- Struggles with technology or doesn’t use or own the technology required.
If you don’t have an email account, a computer to use, or a reliable internet connection, you’ll obviously need to make a choice that makes sense for your own situation.
- Wants to keep legal business and home life separate (or as separate as possible).
The lawyer’s office can be an intimidating and stressful place to spend time. It’s totally understandable if you want to keep that energy separate from your life at home. And physically stepping in and out of a building might help your brain make that distinction.
- Just prefers the old-fashioned way.
Hey, there’s no harm in that! This is an important decision; sometimes, you have to trust your gut. There’s no use in stepping out of your comfort zone and going through the stress of adjusting on top of everything you’re already dealing with.
Online Legal Service Model
An online legal service model is a newer, higher-tech option. You sit on your couch and fill out a form on a website to receive a legal consultation; you sign documents with software and pixels; your lawyer travels for your hearing; this is the first time the two of you have been in the same room.
You might like the online service model better if you are someone who:
- Physically struggles to leave the house.
This is especially relevant for disability claims like the ones we handle here at Resolute Legal. Many disabilities make it difficult or impossible to leave the home regularly.
- Doesn’t want to leave the house.
You might not want to schedule appointments with a lawyer and factor in travel time between all the other things you have going on. You also might prefer to do it all from the comfort of your own home.
- Lives far from an office or travel is inconvenient.
If you live in a small town, you could be driving for hours to get to your closest lawyer. Maybe you live in a big city, but your lawyer is downtown or across the city. Either way, you’ll be stuck in traffic. If you choose to hire an online law firm, travelling is as avoidable as it is inconvenient.
- Likes to keep records and have things written down and/or recorded for reference (emails, calls, etc).
With online law firms, your case information and communications are typically pretty accessible to you. No need to call the lawyer to clarify details of what they said or which form you need to sign. All of this is available to you.
- Needs help from a family member or friend to communicate or handle your case.
An online legal model makes it simpler for everyone to stay involved. Reviewing the case and completing tasks remotely may be easier than coordinating schedules.
Benefits of Hiring an Online Lawyer
Now that you know what model works best for you let’s discuss some benefits of hiring an online law firm.
You don’t need to leave the comfort of your home
This is a big one. Most of the time, individuals dealing with disability claims have a hard time getting around. Not having to commute to an office on a regular basis removes disruptions to the client that can cause flare-ups or financial hardships.
Living in remote locations no longer limits you
Living in a small town can sometimes hinder your ability to find the right representation. However, with online law firms, you now have access to some of the best disability lawyers in the country. Furthermore, disability lawyers aren’t as common as you think. Aside from large cities, most places don’t have a disability lawyer down the road. So, online firms really increase your options.
If you select a traditional, in-person law firm, expect to wait a lot. Wait for mail, wait for signatures, wait for meetings. But with online firms, wait times are reduced because they use online secure client software. This allows them to upload documents for you instantly and vice versa. The quicker you can send documents back and forth means less waiting time for you and the firm. This means your lawyer will have more time to work on your case instead of waiting for packages to arrive.
Another benefit of hiring an online firm is there are fewer mailing costs. As you may know, mailing packages can cost a pretty penny — especially if you are doing it on a regular basis. So, eliminating paper documents altogether will mean fewer costs for you and the firm you’re working with.
Sign important documents immediately
Gone are the days of waiting for that one signature. With online forms, documents that require your signature can be signed immediately through online secure signing software.
Things to Consider Before you Hire
Here at Resolute Legal — an almost entirely online law firm — we are a little biased towards the online model. However, we acknowledge that it is not everyone. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before you pull the trigger and hire a law firm that operates online.
Are you comfortable with a computer?
You need to be comfortable with a computer — or have someone who can help you use one regular basis. Online law firms heavily rely on communications and sending of documents via online secure software, so you will need to be willing and able to use the necessary technology.
Are you okay with little to no face-to-face interaction?
You need to be comfortable not meeting face-to-face or interacting with your representation in person. You might never meet them in person or see their face at all throughout your entire claim; other times, you might not meet in person until it’s required for mediations or trials.
Are you able to keep an open line of communication?
You need to be comfortable with emailing, submitting documents online, and taking telephone calls on a regular basis to stay up to date with your representatives.
3 Common Problems with Hiring a Lawyer Online
Based on my experience, I can pinpoint three common problems that might arise when individuals hire a lawyer online. These issues can also occur if you are hiring someone in a traditional setting. So, this will be helpful to read regardless of the method of hiring or operation of the firm you choose.
1. Expectations and Biases
The first problem with hiring a lawyer online has to do with your own limitation factors. What I mean by that is that your expectations may make hiring an online lawyer the wrong decision for you.
One of the biggest factors to consider is if you are comfortable using a computer to communicate and send documents to your representatives. If you have no knowledge of that kind of technology, perhaps this is not the right hiring choice for you. However, if you have some computer knowledge or have help from a trusted companion, submitting documents online doesn’t have to be a problem. A good online firm will be willing to guide you or help you with any difficulties you may encounter while uploading your documents or using their software. You should ask if this is something they are willing to do before making your final decision.
2. Communication Problems
The second problem with hiring a lawyer online is that it may not match your communication style. How effective are the online law firm’s communications and operation systems? If you decide to hire online, you will want to make sure that your chosen firm is set up to deal with distance representation.
Let’s be honest — many law firms still operate the same way they did 20 years ago. They might use computers instead of typewriters and choose to communicate through email. But did you know that there are many more modern improvements? When a firm is built to operate remotely, there are systems that can be put in place to speed up processing times and virtual communications.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies — including law firms — had to switch to remote operations — without much planning. However, when these things are rushed, there are higher chances of operations and communication systems not being able to handle this type of representation.
Helpful questions for you to ask
Here are some questions you can ask to know if the firm is able to handle online, distance representation with a high standard of communication and operations:
- How quickly can they process your claim?
- Do they have a secure online portal or client system that you can access?
- Will you upload documents through the portal, or do they use another secure online document system? This allows them to cut out mailing documents back and forth, which cuts down on wait time and speeds up many steps along the way.
- Do they have the ability to do video conference calls? This will allow them to have meetings with you — “face-to-face.” You can also attend hearings like this if permitted.
- How many people will work on your file?
- How often will you hear from them?
I know first-hand that it takes years to build and perfect these systems. Having an online practice requires continuous operational changes and adjustments to meet demand and provide the best experience for our clients. If a firm is just rushing to meet demand and hasn’t done the hard work getting the foundations set up to run the practice efficiently, your claim will suffer. Ultimately you will be the one paying the price by choosing the wrong team to help you with your claim.
3. Not Doing Enough Research Before you Hire a Lawyer Online
The third and very common problem with hiring a lawyer online is not doing enough research on the firm.
I highly recommend that you verify the firm and/or the lawyer you are thinking about hiring is indeed credible. Many people can build a professional-looking website in less than a day. You will want to confirm they are legitimate, qualified, and experienced. You can do this using several methods.
Check their website
I would suggest taking a deep dive into their website — it can tell you a lot. Does it give you more information on the firm, the lawyer, their processes, and their specialty? One huge factor I would suggest checking is the lawyers’ educational information. This way, you can gain confidence that they know what they’re talking about before even booking a consultation.
You can also look up the firm and read their Google reviews. Google reviews are a good sign because Google would need to vet if they are, in fact, a real company.
Additionally, you can always verify that they are a real lawyer or firm through the law society website. You should also ask during the vetting process — or verify online — that the lawyer has experience in the area of your claim. Generally, you will have much greater success if your representation has experience in the field of your claim. If you choose a lawyer who practices general representation, they will need to do a ton of research to even begin to understand how to represent your case. You do not want someone who only learns the process when you hire them. You always want someone in your corner who knows the basics and has the experience.
Lastly, it is also very important to make sure that they are licensed to practice in your province. While there’s a mobility agreement across most provinces that allows lawyers to work a small amount in other provinces, it is very limited. You wouldn’t want to hire someone who will be limited in how much time they can spend on your case.
What Happens When I Hire a Lawyer Online? How the Process Works
Now you know some common issues with hiring a lawyer online, let’s move on to what happens after you make the decision. There are a few things that generally have to take place.
Typically, the process goes as follows:
Step 1: Request
The first step is to request to speak to them through their consultation platform — typically, this is via telephone. Sometimes the law firm will need to review some of your documents to better understand your situation and determine if they can be of assistance with your specific claim. They should let you know what they need and how to send them.
Don’t delay contacting your chosen law firm so you have time to get them the information they need to confirm if they can represent you in your claim. You’ll also want to give yourself time to assess if you think they will be a good team to work with and time to ensure you do not miss any important information or deadlines that could potentially damage your claim.
Step 2: Consultation
The next step is the consultation itself. The advocate will inform you what you need to do and advise you on how they believe you should proceed. If the firm is able to represent you, they will tell you at this point. You should also have the opportunity to ask follow-up questions about the advice they have given you or how representation would work moving forward.
If they say they can represent you, they should review the typical outline of what their representation contract looks like and the associated costs. You will be able to review the contract and ask any questions you may have about the information within it before signing. Once you confirm you have no further questions and are in agreement, you should be sent the final contract to sign.
Step 3: Contract
We use secure online secure signing software such as HelloSign for our contracts. You will have signed off on representation to hire the firm as soon as you receive the contract and use the software to sign it.
Step 4: Onboarding
Typically, onboarding a client will take anywhere from 24-48 hours (1-2 business days) after the contract has been completed and signed. You will have a file opened within the firm’s client software and receive an email with detailed instructions on the next steps.
Within a week, the firm will gather information from you and set up phone calls to introduce themselves and explain the rest of the process. Once everything is completed, and documents are received, the firm will have a game plan. Your lawyer and case manager will provide you with those updates as they are confirmed.
Now that you have a team working with you, you are that much closer to having an approved claim!
Some Interesting Statistics
Feel free to scroll past this section if you don’t like numbers or graphs. But I think this is pretty interesting.
According to Clio’s 2018 Legal Trends Report:
“Client perceptions of technology are changing. Those who have experienced a legal issue in the past two years—who are more familiar with modern practices and newer technologies—show more openness to working with virtual lawyers, working with lawyers remotely, and using tools such as artificial intelligence and chatbots to handle their legal issues.
Those who prefer not to hire lawyers are even more open to these alternative formats, suggesting that there are those who may be looking for a different type of legal experience entirely.”
Expectations for face-to-face meetings and phone conversations
These next two graphs show client preferences between face-to-face meetings and phone calls in different situations. They also show lawyers’ answers to what they think their clients prefer. There is as much as a 63% difference in some cases. Wow!
“We can see that lawyers often miss the mark on understanding how their clients want to communicate.
Clients want to speak with lawyers in person when learning about the legal aspects of a case (55%), telling their lawyer the details of a matter (70%), and signing, viewing, sharing, or delivering documents (64%).
While 43% of lawyers recognize that clients want to handle documents in person, only 3% expect clients to tell them the facts of their matter in person, and 2% expect to discuss the legal aspects of the case in person.”
“Clients have high expectations for communicating by phone when making appointments (59%), getting quick questions answered (46%), and getting status updates on a case (37%).
These are also areas where email is a strong preference (15%, 29%, and 35% respectively).”
These service models have their strengths and weaknesses. But, it’s important to note that many law firms are somewhere in between the two extremes. Realistically, even if you hire a lawyer that is local and easy for you to access, there will be some communications that take place on the phone, through email, or on a client portal.
Resolute Legal is a disability law firm that sits nearly all the way on the far-online side of the spectrum.
Start making better decisions today. Click on the image below to download our 7-step guide to hiring a lawyer.