I believe buying legal services online is the way of the future, but you can run into problems with hiring a lawyer online if you don’t do your homework first. If you have the same expectations as you would with a traditional hiring process, you may be unpleasantly surprised.
For full disclosure, Resolute Legal uses an online services model and clients have hired us exclusively online for the past 6 years. As Resolute Legal’s operations manager during that time, I have overseen hundreds of people hiring us online.
Based on my experience I can pinpoint 3 common problems that might arise when individuals look to hire a lawyer online. These issues can certainly 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.
This article is part of our Ultimate Guide to Disability Lawyers in Ontario.
Expectations and biases
The first problem has to do with your own limitation factors. What I mean by that is your own abilities and 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.
Additionally, you can’t just show up at the office for meetings or document drop-offs with online representation. If that is something you are looking for and you’re not willing to give that up, an online firm will not be a good fit.
Communication is key
The second factor is how effective the online law firm’s communications and operation systems are. If you choose 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 they may choose to communicate through email — but did you know that there are many more modern improvements? There are systems that can be put in place that allow you to have sped up processing times and virtual communications with the firm if they have built their practice to operate remotely.
In current times facing COVID-19, many companies — including law firms — have tried to switch to remote operations quicker than they were prepared to. When these things are rushed, there are higher chances of operations and communication systems not being able to handle this type of representation.
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:
- 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 will allow 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 do hearings that are permitted in this manner.
- How quickly can they process your claim?
- 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.
Research before you hire a lawyer online
The third and very common pitfall is just not doing enough research on the firm or lawyer.
I highly recommend that you verify the firm and/or the lawyer you are thinking about hiring is indeed a credible company/professional. 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.
I would suggest taking a deep dive on their website — it can tell you a lot. Does it give you more information on the firm, the lawyer, their processes, 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 to speak to them.
You can also look up the firm and read their Google reviews; 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 and knowledge 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 tons of research to learn how to best represent your claim. 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, before you sign off on any paperwork for representation, 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, this is very limited. You wouldn’t want to hire someone remotely that will be limited on how much time and work they can put into your case.
These three problems are ones I suggest everyone think about before signing any dotted lines. Make sure to take these into consideration when thinking about hiring a lawyer in any case, but especially online.
Doing your homework is not only allowed — it is absolutely necessary. Why take a chance in trusting the wrong firm when that can end in your claim getting mishandled or denied? You have the right to know who you are hiring, how they will treat the claim, their level of knowledge and experience, and what they will do as a firm if you choose to hire them.
You have the right to feel confident in your decision, so don’t skip steps along the way. This will heighten your chances to catch red flags so you can feel good about your final hiring decision in the end.
If you have a claim that you’ve been thinking about hiring a team for, you can contact us so we can better understand your situation and see if we can help you along your journey. Feel free to call us toll-free at 888-732-0470 or click here to request a free consultation.
Otherwise — happy hiring!