New business niches usually require a new approach when it comes to solving legal queries. In recent years, a new type of entrepreneur has emerged; the “digital nomad”. This entrepreneur is defined largely by their nomadic living style, enabled by remote and digital working. These entrepreneurs may be employed, self-employed or freelancing, or may go as far as building and running companies, which are often international by default. Since their inception, these businesses will attract customers, employees, and investments from around the world.
Legal needs of digital nomads
Digital nomads are in a different position to that of a resident entrepreneur working in a more traditional set-up. As a result, digital nomads will have a different list of legal requirements to enable their companies to operate smoothly. Three key needs are:
Legal support that has global coverage
Digital nomads will have to deal with legal matters that emerge from areas of law, which may be handled differently depending on each countries’ laws. Solving legal tasks simultaneously is not a new challenge, but solving multiple issues in different countries–and across borders–is a unique legal need that digital nomads experience.
A legal solution that enables maximum delegation
The needs of a business are complex enough before adding legal tasks to the list. Digital nomads with web3 or startup business projects need to be able to solve the myriad of ever-growing legal tasks. This is only possible by delegating those tasks to a person or team who can take the legal strain, bring the legal expertise on each matter, and ultimately solve all legal questions. A specialist role is needed for this–someone who acts as a single point of contact, takes responsibility for the whole process and exists in a flexible, virtual capacity.
Answers and advice delivered with speed and efficiency
Currently, many digital nomads are left to navigate rigid and opaque traditional legal solutions; law firms that stipulate high fees and operate at a slower pace. At the core of a digital nomad lifestyle is the freedom of choice. Nomads choose where to live, how much to spend on living costs, and how long they’ll stay in one place before moving on. It goes against the digital nomad mentality therefore, to take up legal services that are by nature chained to a single location. Traditional law firms often demand higher costs to maintain expensive offices, administrative staff, and business overheads. A traditional law firm may not be able to bring the speed, efficiency, and cross-border flexibility that digital nomadic entrepreneurs so often need to launch their business.
Are virtual legal solutions better than traditional ones?
Alongside traditional law firms, there are also boutique law firms and the route of “DIY” legal, the latter which even the legal experts themselves avoid for their own personal business matters. Boutique law firms tend to come with more flexible pricing and speedier services than their traditional counterparts, but the digital nomad entrepreneur is still forced to source multiple boutique law firms to serve their different needs.
At the core of a digital nomad lifestyle is the freedom of choice. Nomads choose where to live, how much to spend on living costs, and how long they’ll stay in one place before moving on.
To date, practically none of the existing types of legal providers fully meet the needs of digital nomads. A different legal solution built specifically for this new type of entrepreneur is needed and we’ve developed it; a bespoke legal support system; the Virtual Legal Officer (VLO).
Who are Virtual Legal Officers?
A Virtual Legal Officer is a specialist with legal experience and knowledge of the IT industry who performs the functions of a remote in-house counsel for business. They are individuals who act as a bridge between the business world and legal, tax, and other service providers, specifically to aid digital nomadic entrepreneurs with their business needs.
How does a Virtual Legal Officer help businesses?
VLO is the only point of communication for the entrepreneur in resolving all legal requests, regardless of the country and field of law in which such requests arose. The process is simple:
- An entrepreneur outlines their business needs to their VLO
- The VLO sources and allocates the work
- The VLO manages the service providers’ tasks and reports back to the entrepreneur
- The entrepreneur benefits from a responsive and helpful VLO and gets all their legal tasks solved by a myriad of service providers that they do not have to source and manage themselves.
How does it work at Legal Nodes?
At Legal Nodes, we leverage our VLO service so that entrepreneurs only ever pay for what they need, and we use our own bespoke legal task management platform to support the VLO in managing the service providers.
The process for using a VLO from Legal Nodes is simple:
- A digital nomad entrepreneur (the client) meets with experts from Legal Nodes to introduce their business goals and legal needs
- The client is introduced to their VLO who creates legal requests for each legal need
- The VLO issues requests to service providers who assist with structuring the tasks and providing cost and delivery estimates
- Requests are processed within 24 hours so work can begin without delay
- The VLO manages tasks and stores work docs and data in the client's Data Room
Why you can trust the legal decisions of a Virtual Legal Officer
Since 2019, Legal Nodes has been accumulating the legal cases that VLOs have been working on, analysing them, and collating them into a single knowledge base that comprises a set of best practices. Many accelerators and venture companies validated this knowledge base in the due diligence process for investment deals and M&A. Now our VLOs offer these practices to new clients to resolve their requests.
These best practices include:
- finding the most appropriate jurisdictions for company registration;
- choosing the right models of corporate structures for international business;
- collaborating with proven legal providers from different countries and fields of law, which under the leadership of the VLO, help deliver the best work at founder-friendly prices
Importantly, the VLO does not provide legal services on their own. All legal services are provided by licensed legal partners (we call them our service providers) of Legal Nodes, which have been through rigorous vetting processes. The role of the VLO in this process is to help the client correctly identify the legal needs of their business, project, or startup first, and then meet those needs by assembling and managing a team of the most suitable lawyers and other experts.
How do you pay for the Virtual Legal Officer's services?
A VLO is an important piece of a virtual legal solution, be it in the form of a virtual legal department or virtual legal network of experts. Without the VLO, founders must source and manage tasks themselves. Some businesses may choose to absorb the cost of the VLO into the overall costs for the legal services they provide. We prefer to keep things transparent and separate, enabling users of our services to only ever pay for what they need when they need it.
We divide all payments that arise in the process of resolving legal requests into two types:
- payment for the VLO services (typically charged at an hourly rate);
- payment for the services of legal providers (charged on a task-by-task basis and in accordance with fair rates for each legal service provider)
We’ve tested subscription models and whilst they are suitable for some of our clients, it seems that the easiest way to deliver our services is using a pay-as-you-go model. This model does not have pre-payments or subscriptions, which gives founders maximum flexibility in deciding how they want to use their business budgets for legal work. The VLO organizes the work on the principle of "pay when you have legal requests".
We also make a point of specifying prices up front. So when it comes to payment, the prices have already been specified by the VLO in advance and agreed between the client and the service providers. We’ve also made things a little easier by agreeing on fixed prices for most legal services. This significantly speeds up the process of giving clients costs for their legal tasks, so work can start quicker and legal costs are made a little bit more predictable.
We prefer to keep things transparent and separate, enabling users of our services to only ever pay for what they need when they need it.
Are Virtual Legal Officers more affordable than in-house counsel?
Yes! We’ve done the maths, and it turns out that using a VLO and paying for your service providers is a more affordable solution. As business grows to the point where daily legal support is needed, the pressure to take on in-house counsel grows too. Digital nomad entrepreneurs face the same pressure, but often in an even more complex way; entrepreneurs who are co-founders of several projects will have to find a solution that enables each project to get adequate legal support whilst maintaining some degree of input from the entrepreneur.
To prevent the entrepreneur's working day from turning into a full-time job of solving one legal issue after another, they will need a legal specialist, sometimes in the form of a manager, an assistant, or lawyer, to manage and delegate all the legal tasks.
It's in these instances where a VLO offers a more practical and affordable solution compared to hiring an in-house team.
- a VLO does not require regular salaries or other monthly payments. There’s simply no need to pay the VLO if there are no new legal tasks to be managed;
- a VLO does not need training or supervision by the client. Instead Legal Nodes provides regular training and support to all VLOs, and gives them access to a legal knowledge base, an expansive network of experts, and supervises their work;
- a VLO doesn't need insurance, a dedicated workplace, or any other attributes of an employee. Instead, they work entirely remotely and are not on the payroll of the company. Using this model, one working hour of VLO is at least one and a half times cheaper than a single working hour of an in-house lawyer.
Why a Virtual Legal Officer is more efficient than a global big law firm
When an entrepreneur needs to solve legal tasks simultaneously in several countries and fields of law, one of the solutions may be to use the services of a big global law firm with offices and lawyers spread across different countries. However, the services of such law firms are often costly, and the hierarchy of their structure significantly slows down communication.
A VLO helps address these types of requests by leveraging a global network of legal partners, including boutique law firms and freelance lawyers, who are, in most cases, ex-employees of big law firms. These specialists have strong expertise in working with local legislation and can offer a more competitive price and faster work process. Thus, the solution offered by Legal Nodes on how to resolve cross-jurisdictional requests is 2-3 times more efficient than global big law firms.
How a Virtual Legal Officer can help an existing in-house legal team
A VLO can be a good solution for an entrepreneur at any stage of business, and not only when a founder is looking for in-house counsel. The company may already have an in-house legal team, but there may be times when additional projects appear, and they become difficult for the existing in-house team to manage.
The VLO can be a reinforcement for the in-house legal team in situations of increased workload or where specialisms or “foreign” legal knowledge is difficult to source. Thus, entrepreneurs do not need to search for and hire additional lawyers in the staff (especially in case of seasonal or temporary workloads) but can absorb a VLO service into their existing legal team and thus increase work capacity.
Get a Virtual Legal Officer for your startup
Getting started with a VLO is easy. Before any work is started or any agreements are signed, we offer Legal Strategy Sessions with the Chief Legal Officer of Legal Nodes. Each session is run for 1 hour, and additional sessions are offered only where more information is needed. During these sessions, the Chief Legal Officer informs the entrepreneur about the best practices for creating international legal structures depending on the client’s business type (SaaS, eCommerce, Web3, Service Agency, etc.). Then, the Chief Legal Officer helps the entrepreneur choose the most appropriate jurisdictions for company registration. The Chief Legal Officer introduces the VLO and together they structure a work plan in the form of a Legal Roadmap.
Next, the Virtual Legal Officer uses the Legal Roadmap to devise a list of legal projects and legal tasks, specifying timing, costs, and service providers for each one. At any point, the entrepreneur can monitor the status of each legal task of the Legal Roadmap in their account with Legal Nodes.
Disclaimer: the information in this article is provided for informational purposes only. You should not construe any such information as legal, tax, investment, trading, financial, or other advice.