Bold Business Logo

The Virtual Law Practice

For years, several industries have experience digital disruption. This began in technology-focused sectors first, but then spread rapidly to other areas. Media and entertainment giants were among the first to make the shift. This was then followed by retail and real estate sectors. Today, even healthcare organizations and networks are embracing remote health technologies to deliver their services. (Read more about how remote technologies have reshaped freelance healthcare staffing in this Bold story!)   But one industry has been slow to adopt such practices…until now. Thanks to the pandemic and changes in customer attitudes, virtual law firms are finally emerging. And the advantages of using these firms’ remote lawyers is noteworthy.

Law firms that have enabled attorneys to work independently and remotely didn’t just appear. Some have been present since the turn of the century. But what has changed is the way both attorneys and clients perceive such services. In the past, virtual law firms were considered lower in quality or lacking the potential of brick-and-mortar firms. This all changed during pandemic lockdowns, however, and today, remote lawyers are flourishing. Not only are the legal services just as professional, but they are often less expensive for clients. For these reasons, many believe virtual law firms are indeed the way of the future.

“The fact that the virtual model has worked well for lawyers and traditional law firms will certainly increase the interest from lawyers in joining a distributed model or beginning their own.” – Lisa Smith, Legal Consultant, Fairfax Associates

Different Options for Remote Lawyers

When it comes to the various options for remote lawyers, a few different models exist. Naturally, an attorney could go it alone and establish his own virtual law office. But in these situations, there’s no one to share overhead costs, and attracting clients can be difficult. Instead, remote lawyers often choose to either go with a law firm that’s either distributed or virtual in nature. This simply means that remote lawyers can work from home or wherever they choose over a virtual network. But typical expenses are shared by a community of other attorneys who prefer to be independent and remote themselves.

In both instances, attorneys get to enjoy some notable advantages. Like traditional law firms, remote lawyers can reduce their expenses by distributing them across the entire community of remote attorneys. But unlike traditional law firms, their ability to charge less and keep a higher percentage of the profits increases. Because virtual services tend to have fewer overhead costs (like physical real estate), operating expenses are reduced. Not only is this favorable for lawyers who prefer this type of remote work arrangement. It’s also beneficial to their customers who often pay less for the same services. This is why virtual law firms have such an appeal.

“People are working remotely and companies are looking for talent, so it is an all-out talent war with the best people getting the best offers.” – Raad Ahmed, Founder and CEO, Lawtrades

Virtual Law Firms – A Distributed Model

While law firms that offer remote work generally share many similarities, different approaches do exist. One approach, often referred to as a distributed model, pursues virtual law services in a more traditional manner. In other words, member attorneys fall under one firm despite its virtual nature. Common expenses to the firm like insurance, accounting, software, and marketing are shared by all remote lawyers. But individual expenses (and revenues) are assigned to the attorney themselves, and business processes improved. The biggest cost savings in this type of model involves the lack of real estate costs. Plus, this model also feels more familiar to attorneys and clients alike.

(Dive deeper into the improvement of business processes the smart way in this Bold story.)

One notable company that has taken this virtual law firms approach is FisherBroyles. Founded in 2002, the firm was way ahead of the curve. By stripping down overhead and eliminating physical offices, FisherBroyles operates on about 20 percent of gross revenues only. That means remote lawyers can keep roughly 80 percent of their billings. In addition, these same member attorneys enjoy a network of colleagues with whom they can collaborate. FisherBroyles currently has nearly 300 member attorneys with annual revenues at $136 million. And in addition, legal services tend to cost about two-thirds the price of traditional legal services.

“As working from home continues to be accepted in the marketplace, we expect more and more growth.” – James Fisher, Founder and Managing Partner, FisherBroyles

Virtual Law Firms – A Marketplace Model

Because distributed models utilize remote digital services, they are certainly considered virtual law firms. However, many now conceptualize true virtual legal services as being more grounded in digital platforms and operations. Understanding this, another approach to virtual legal services involves an online marketplace. Here, clients wanting legal services can locate, select, and work with remote lawyers to meet their specific needs. These types of marketplace law firms provide attorney profiles, matching algorithms, project tracking, and even payment systems. In essence, this is more of the “eBay” approach to virtual legal services.

A judge's gavel around a bunch of digital icons
Virtual law firms and remote lawyers? What’s next–billable hours paid in cryptocurrency?

There are some notable companies currently in this type of space as well. Lawtrades launched in 2016 with this type of law services platform for remote lawyers. Since that time, the company has grown significantly, and it has gained quite a following. There are more than 1,000 remote lawyers and legal professionals with profiles on their site. Likewise, Lawtrades has over 80 regular clients of whom many are major companies like Doordash and Pinterest. Like the distributed model, the marketplace approach also enjoys lower overhead and boasts lower pricing. But it also allows clients the ability to target the precise legal services they need more quickly. In the last year, Lawtrades has seen 200 percent growth as a result.

Better Late Than Never

It’s evident that the legal industry certainly wasn’t the first to embrace a virtual model of practice. In fact, it may be among the very last. But that doesn’t mean the industry won’t flourish now that they have decided to go digital. Virtual law firms offer major advantages to clients and remote lawyers alike. It took a pandemic and global lockdowns to help stakeholders to realizes this. But now that they have, it’s quite likely this trend will continue to expand throughout the legal environment.

 

Want to leverage offshore capabilities for business process outsourcing? Bold Business has you covered.

Leading the Way to a Renewable Energy Future – Introducing Form Energy

When it comes to global energy needs, there are some notable concerns for the future. For example, carbon-based energy sources pose serious threats to the survival of the planet and humanity. Use of coal, ethanol and even natural gas are unsustainable as energy sources long-term. This has naturally led to investments in alternative energy sources, including solar, wind and hydropower. But while these offer renewable energy solutions, they too have limitations with the most notable one related to energy storage. Existing battery and energy storage systems are inadequate for a full-term conversion to these sources. And as a result, innovative strategies are desperately needed.

Fortunately, one such company appreciates these issues and is actively pursuing long-term answers. Form Energy, led by Mateo Jaramillo, has been aggressively pursuing iron-air battery solutions to address global energy storage needs. The Form Energy’s CEO has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the area with high hopes for our future. In fact, he predicts a state of energy abundance in future decades as a transition to renewable energy occurs.  Given the work he has done to date with iron-air battery systems, he can certainly back up these statements. And hopefully his company can help lead such a transition sooner rather than later.

“Because renewable electricity has made such huge gains in the last 15 to 20 years, we’re now at penetration levels where we do have to think very hard about the last 30% or 40% of the electric system and exactly how we’re going to provide a level of reliability and cost using a renewable or generator like what we have.” – Mateo Jaramillo, Form Energy’s CEO

The Origins of Form Energy

Form Energy was started in 2016 as an offshoot of an MIT project known as The Engine. This happened to be the same time that current Form Energy’s CEO decided it was time to leave Tesla. As head of Tesla’s Energy Storage Group, Jaramillo had gained tremendous insight and knowledge regarding energy systems. And he brought these assets to Form Energy in its effort to design a better renewable energy storage system. Since that time, Form Energy has invested heavily in iron-air battery systems as a potential energy storage solution. And many high-profile investors have supported the cause. In fact, Form Energy to date has raised over $360 million in funding.

A proud battery in a sea of batteries
The development of the iron air battery can hopefully help combat the ever-evolving energy crisis.

Under Jaramillo’s leadership, Form Energy has progressively expanded with the company now having roughly 200 employees. But according to the Form Energy’s CEO, talent is not enough when you’re trying to create highly complex energy solutions. In addition to having passion and ambition, Jaramillo seeks out those who can constructively disagree. Innovation demands such conflicts so that a variety of ideas can be considered. (Read more on how infrastructural needs can breed innovation in this Bold story!) This is certainly the case when it comes to designing the next-level energy storage systems. And thus far, Jaramillo has had significant success in recruiting the right personnel. In his own words, organizational culture plays a large role in the future success of the company.

“What we’ve done at Form Energy — and we’re now about 200 people — is create a culture where we are all extremely passionate and devoted and mission oriented, and we also are able to sustain things like a family life. And those two things are not in opposition.” – Mateo Jaramillo, Form Energy’s CEO

The Rationale Behind an Iron-Air Battery

While Jaramillo worked with Tesla, he was intimately involved in advancing lithium ion battery technology. The Form Energy’s CEO was part of the team that developed Tesla’s Powerwall. As a result of this technology, each of us enjoy the use of various devices powered by lithium ion batteries. But unfortunately, this technology is insufficient when we transition to 100% renewable energy sources. Solar energy and wind are not continuously available, which requires any energy storage system to hold tremendous amounts of energy. Likewise, such a storage system must be much cheaper to construct and maintain. Both of these requirements is what led Form Energy to explore iron-air battery systems.

(Dive deeper into the world of lithium ion batteries in this Bold article!)

Compared to lithium ion batteries, iron-air battery systems costs about a tenth of the price. Because iron has been studied and sought after for centuries, it is in abundance and continues to be used for steel production. As a result, the industry is already scaled to a tremendous capacity, making it readily available for iron-air battery production. In addition, iron-air battery systems can store huge amounts of energy and release them slowly over time. In essence, iron is oxidized when it comes in contact with oxygen, which is how it stores energy. Then when de-oxidized (de-rusted), energy is released. This basic concept of the iron-air battery is what Form Energy is perfecting. And it has the potential to meet all our future global energy storage needs as a result.

“If we’re going to have an electric system that is not only 100% renewables driven — by wind, water and solar — then we do need to think about these periods of intermittence that are longer than just a few hours at a time. And that means it also has to be a lot cheaper than what lithium-ion can do.” – Mateo Jaramillo, Form Energy’s CEO

Form Energy’s Underlying Mission

One of the most intriguing things about Form Energy’s CEO is his educational background. In addition to a degree in economics, Jaramillo also has a Master’s degree in theology. Though he planned to pursue the ministry, he realized he did not have the personality for it. Therefore, he examined other career pursuits where he could care for humanity in a powerful way. This as well as a passion for environmental justice is what led him to iron-air battery research. He believes that the transition to completely renewable, recyclable, and sustainable energy systems is inevitable. Therefore, he has made the pursuit these solutions his life’s work. And similarly, this same focus underlies the mission for Form Energy.

At the current time, Form Energy continues to raise millions of dollars from high-profile investors to continue its work. According to Jaramillo, the iron-air battery concept works. And he expects Form Energy’s solution to be a big piece of the energy transition puzzle. How this will take place as far as its incorporation into the grid is not known. But the Form Energy’s CEO is highly optimistic about the world’s energy future. It’s also the reason why Form Energy has easily received the support it needs to advance its iron-air battery systems. From the outside looking in, it seems Form Energy not only has an admirable mission, it is also pursuing it in a highly valued way.

 

Want to leverage offshore capabilities for business process outsourcing? Bold Business has you covered.

A Different Kind of Metaverse – Introducing Augmented Reality for Animals

Not long ago, Facebook decided to change its name to Meta. The move was to highlight the company’s commitment to the virtual world or worlds of the future. This is not surprising. In fact, most major technology companies expect virtual reality and augmented reality to grow significantly in the coming years. But what they may have not anticipated was the use of augmented reality for animals. Believe it or not, VR headsets for animals are being used for a variety of reasons. But it remains unclear if such pursuits are really worthwhile.

In the last few years, media reports have highlighted several VR headsets for animals being used. Some have applied then to dogs and cats, while others have tried them on chickens. Farmers are now using augmented reality for animals in cows in an effort to increase milk production. At first thought, such applications seem silly despite being somewhat comical. But perhaps the use of VR headsets for animals may actually be feasible in some instances. It might just be that we have now entered into the era of the “Mootrix.”

The Latest in VR Headsets for Animals

At the RusMoloko farm near Moscow, Russian farmers have tried for years to enhance milk production from their cows. Initial attempts used classical music, which seemed to have some positive effects. However, the results were not that impressive. That’s when they decided to pursue a different route and employ augmented reality for animals on their cattle. Collaborating with veterinarians and IT specialists, they were able to create a VR headset for animals to fit their cows. And based on their reports, the experiment using the technology was quite a success.

According to the Russian farmers, cows that wore the VR headset for animals increased their milk production by 22-27 liters a day. That’s pretty impressive, having a much greater impact than classical music. The assumption was that the cows were less stressed and happier, which in turn, resulted in higher quantities of milk. The augmented reality for animals provided the cows with images of a meadow. The simulation was thus more pleasing, especially when compared to their confinements. Though many have their doubts about the reported results, Russian farmers plan on ordering more VR headsets immediately.

Other Uses of Augmented Reality for Animals

VR headsets for animals have been applied to other species besides cattle over the last several years. Interestingly, the U.S. Army Laboratory has conducted experiments on dogs using augmented reality for animals. The headsets were developed by Command Sight to assist dog handlers with dogs involved with hazardous materials detection. The augmented reality allows dog handlers to give commands and signals to the animals while being out of harm’s way. Through this type of training, the dogs will hopefully be better prepared to conduct real-life hazmat missions. But to date, the training has not yet been put to the test.

A cow wearing VR goggles like a nerd
Augmented reality for animals means happier animals… maybe?

While the use of augmented reality for animals sounds reasonable for hazmat detection dogs, that’s not necessarily the case otherwise. Believe it or not, some have attempted to place VR headsets for animals on chickens. The idea is to use the technology to make caged chickens on poultry farms believe they’re actually free-range. The virtual imagery contains grass, bugs, and other chickens with whom to socialize. It also contains food trays that are lined up with actual reality chicken-feeding trays. Presumably, by thinking they are “free,” the chickens will lay more eggs. But here too, the jury is out on whether these strategies are effective.

The Problem with Augmented Reality for Animals

Without question, many experts in animal research are highly suspicious of the use of augmented reality in animals. For most animal species, visual perceptions are not the same as human ones. For example, dogs have about half the peripheral vision that humans have. Plus, they have a duller sense of color vision, seeing only a few muted colors. The same is actually true for cows as well. When the VR headset for animals was designed for cows, IT specialists had to adjust the color palette. Cows only see some low shades of yellows and blues, so the appearance of the meadows had to be adjusted. These issues as well as a design that best fits an animals head are common obstacles when using augmented reality for animals.

The other challenges associated with augmented reality for animals is more conceptual in nature. Humans are more advanced and have the capacity to better appreciate symbolic imagery and complex environments. Likewise, virtual and augmented reality can readily be used for educational and entertainment purposes in humans. (Read more on the intersection of virtual reality and social interactions in this Bold story.) But it’s not necessarily true that animals, particularly non-primates, can grasp these alternative realities very well. A VR headset for animals can be designed and placed on an animal’s head. Many experts simply believe its capacity to have a significant effect on the animal is nearly non-existent.

A Metaverse with a Limited Future

While these stories about the use of a VR headset for animals is amusing, that’s likely the extent of its utility. Even if augmented reality for animals boosts milk or egg production, it’s probably not worth the investment. Designing and donning VR headsets on all your livestock requires not just money but time as well. And the yield from its use isn’t likely to make these investments worthwhile. More importantly, it’s even less clear that an augmented reality has any major effect on these animals. As a result, a simulated metaverse for animals is probably not something that has much merit. Unlike the Matrix with all its sequels, the Mootrix is more likely to be a one-hit wonder.

 

Read up on Bold’s deep dive into the Metaverse in this story!