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Jax Daily Record Friday, Sep. 18, 200912:00 PM EST

Breaking down the walls of the law office model

by: Joe Wilhelm Jr.

by Joe Wilhelm Jr.

Staff Writer

Co-counsel offered through virtual law firm

It’s a move beyond the bricks and mortar model of what a law firm should be. A local attorney has developed a way to provide co-counsel services with the help of the latest technology.

Attorney Michael Whalen, admitted to the bar in 1978, has developed a “Virtual Law Office” in order to contract co-counsel services to the legal community.

“I went back to the Bedell Firm in an ‘of counsel’ position in 2001,” said Whalen. “They needed a senior attorney to handle a case when they had more work then they could handle, and I was familiar with the case. That turned into a seven-year of counsel position.”

Whalen noticed that the weakness of that relationship was that he could be “of counsel” for just one firm.

“The need for you comes and goes,” said Whalen. “The co-counsel idea allows me to work with more than one firm.”

His office can be any place that has Internet access, but the physical address of his office is the same as his home on Cedar Point Road in Northeast Jacksonville. Today’s technology allows attorneys to work from anywhere, so they are not bound to the office because of its libraries and hard bound case law.

Whalen researched “Virtual Law Offices” in New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco before launching his own site. He admits to being a “six on a scale of 1-10” for proficiency in working with computers, but he doesn’t have to know everything about computers to be successful.

“Having a good IT guy helps and I have that,” said Whalen.

He is working with that same IT guy to develop an encrypted file sharing system for the Web site.

“It would allow me to share files with firms, eliminating the need for so many e-mails to make changes,” said Whalen. “They could write and edit the document right on the computer with an encrypted system.”

The technology and service offered by Whalen was developed to give himself and law firms flexibility.

“They get a senior attorney when they need one and one less person on staff when they don’t,” said Whalen.

This new business venture is also aided by Whalen’s history in the Jacksonville legal community. He has been in practice for 31 years and an AV-rated trial attorney by Martindale-Hubbell for 25 of those years.

“To have someone who is as well qualified and has such a good reputation in the community is invaluable,” said attorney Frank Cole of Eraclides Johns. “Mike has always been forward thinking, and it doesn’t surprise me that he was able to latch on to this concept.

I intend to utilize him in upcoming cases.”

From 1980-1997 Whalen practiced with the Bedell Firm, where he was a member of its board of directors from 1983-97. He left in 1997 to chair the litigation department at Martin Ade. Shortly before that firm disbanded, Whalen returned to the Bedell Firm in an “of counsel” role for seven years.

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