If you are a subscriber to the Hull & Hull LLP Toronto Estate Law Blog, you know that I am a relative newcomer to the blogging world. What you couldn’t know is that I’m also a late convert to all things wireless and virtual.
My life is, for the most part, hard-wired. I still have a land line. I’m ashamed to admit that my printer is connected to my laptop by a cable. I insist on sending old-fashioned ‘snail-mail’ letters to friends and family, and when I’m throwing a party, I send a paper invitation!
I could go on ad nauseum, but you get my point: my life is not really organized by way of wireless technologies and virtual realities.
However, I’m intrigued by the idea of organizing my life, at least my work life, virtually. I was, therefore, drawn to the article in the September 3, 2010 issue of Lawyers Weekly with the above-captioned title.
The article was written by Luigi Benetton and he suggested that adding a virtual office to the physical office can, potentially, expand the market of a firm. According to the American Bar Association eLawyering Task Force, a virtual firm is “characterized by access by the firm’s clients to a password protected and secure web space where both the attorney and the client may interact and legal services are consumed by the client.” This type of lawyering, where the traditionally face-to-face meeting is not always necessary, certainly does create an additional medium for firms to connect with clients.
Hull & Hull LLP joined this virtual world in June 2008 when it launched an e-office on Second Life, a popular internet based virtual world created entirely by its residents. The office is used as an alternative medium to provide useful information for those seeking our firm’s expertise.
While there are benefits of elawyering in terms of client service, there are pitfalls that make the virtual office a difficult reality. Our managing partner, Suzana Popovic-Montag, noted in the above-captioned article that elawyering is not well suited for every area of law and, by way of explanation, she noted that elawyering is “more difficult when you have litigation matters. There’ll still be examinations for discovery and court appearances, plus law society requirements to prove that clients are who they say they are.”
In the end, it seems that my hard-wired life style is not at risk of becoming obsolete any time soon. Rather, virtual mediums are proving to provide our firm with an additional platform for clients to connect with us and access important legal services.
Thanks for reading!
Kathryn Pilkington – Click here for more information on Kathryn Pilkington.
I’m sure there are a few people who are holding out and refuse to join facebook, or some other virtual world. Yet for the majority, checking online accounts is merely part of an everyday routine. What happens when you are no longer around to check these accounts? This may seem like a trivial factor when dealing with the loss of a loved one, but seeing posts on a facebook wall belonging to a recently deceased family member can be extremely painful.
In a recent episode of The National, our own Ian Hull articulated that an online presence is something which we increasingly need to consider when dealing with Estates. This presence can cause difficulties for Estate Trustees. Online accounts generally require passwords; passwords which are not necessarily shared with anyone. In fact, recently, I signed up for an online account and was specifically instructed not to share my password. Then the dreaded words appeared on the screen: ‘Please pick a question which will be provided to you in the event that we need to verify your identity.’ I had to pick and answer a question three times before my password could be set. I’m not sure if the people closest to me would know the answers to those questions. How could they, it took me a while to think of questions I was certain I would remember the answers to. What would happen if my family had to access my accounts and I wasn’t there to help them?
This issue was explored in a recent article in the New York Times. The article suggests naming a digital executor to get around the problem of passwords. I’ve yet to explore this personally, but it is certainly intriguing. This concept is new and how it will play out in estate planning, administration and litigation is yet to be seen. I’m not sure I’m willing to give my passwords to a complete stranger at yet another website, but at the very least, I’ve reconsidered sharing some of my more obscure passwords with my family. Something to think about.
Nadia M. Harasymowycz – Click here for more information Nadia Harasymowycz.