In our business-focused article this week, ‘How to: run a virtual firm’, James Knight of Keystone Law and Guy Setford of Setfords share their experience of running what they prefer to call ‘dispersed’ or ‘displaced’ law firms.

Deploying lawyers who work ‘remotely’ rather than in massed ranks in a shiny central office does, of course, feel quite different, and as a modus operandi brings its own set of challenges.

But on other fronts, dispersed lawyers practise in much the same way as peers in ‘traditional’ firms and in-house departments. A commercial litigator is as likely to be doing remote work in a foreign arbitration centre with no office to hand, as to be heading to the High Court via their firm’s own reception area.

A general counsel may spend days away from a monolithic corporate HQ hot-desking at the business’s small London office. Lawyers work from construction sites, at home after kids have gone to bed, from hotels, and on skiing holidays. They respond to work emails and calls in parked cars in rural Cornwall, Wales and Scotland.

Strikingly, the dividing line between a ‘virtual’ and ‘traditional’ practice is not stark. Rather there is a sliding scale, with a formally ‘dispersed’ firm at one end, and at the other end a firm reliant on a degree of presenteeism, but which still furnishes practitioners with mobile devices and internet access.

Viewed this way, it is unusual to find a lawyer who does not work in a ‘virtual’ practice.