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Interview | Principal of virtual law firm Kuehn Law, Cliff Kuehn

Interview | Principal of virtual law firm Kuehn Law, Cliff Kuehn

Cliff Kuehn is a California-licensed attorney and registered European Trade Mark Attorney. He is the director of Kuehn Law, a virtual law firm based in California, and provides branding, media, internet and intellectual property law assistance in the U.S. and EU, especially for web or mobile-focused companies.

Cliff has shared his experience relating to starting up and successfully operating Kuehn Law whilst living in Berlin.

What has been your experience in setting up a digital law practice and what has been the most rewarding aspect of this process?

My experience is one I accidentally fell into, but can be reproduced by anyone intentionally. In a nutshell, the challenge in setting up a digital law practice is sorting through the massive amounts of information available on the subject. Whether it’s selecting an email service, digital signature SAAS, or learning about data security, there’s a mountain of information to sift through before arriving at a conclusion. Like the practice of law, knowing how to filter information and make decisions was key, because it’s impossible to review all the helpful information. Know what you want to achieve in a practice first, and that helps you know which tools fit your practice best.

That being said, there are wonderful digital tools available to anyone wanting to start a digital law practice, which I define as a law practice independent of a fixed office location.

Are there any disadvantages with operating a digital law practice?

I think communications are difficult if your practice area tends to benefit from human contact. To illustrate, I focus on trademark law and serve business clients, 50% of which are at the startup stage. My clients tend to like a “light touch” relationship when it comes to communication, meaning efficient phone calls or sometimes managing the relationship completely by email. Of course some clients like to be more involved in the process, and I like working closely with clients too, so I have face-to-face meetings at times but generally it’s not crucial.

On the other hand, if you work in criminal or family law, the quality of interpersonal communication more significantly affects the outcome of sales, negotiation strategy, trust, and trial results. In these types of practice areas, I assume attorneys benefit from more direct communication in a traditional office setting.

The recent and rapid increase in digital technologies has created dynamic legal issues – have you faced any issues with digitalised legal practice?

Personally no. There are some jurisdictions (both states in the U.S. and other countries) which require attorneys to have a fixed, brick and mortar location. I don’t see the necessity of this and am fortunate to be able to operate from California, a jurisdiction that doesn’t have this requirement. I can foresee that as my practice grows, data security/encryption measures which exceed normal standards will be demanded by larger clients (this seems to be the case for larger patent clients).

Does social media have a role in the application of justice?

Social media is a fantastic tool for drawing attention to issues which might not have gotten as much attention a decade, whether it’s the calorie count of a celebrity’s breakfast or a more serious issue such as corruption of government leadership. I personally credit social media for activating a whirlwind of awareness in the United States among members of all political stripes regarding use of force among police officers. Social media can bring attention to issues of justice, and further activate people to become engaged in the legislative process.

Should Law Schools focus on future-proofing legal skills with an increased focus on information technology skills?

Absolutely. Our daily lives are becoming more soaked with information technology and attorneys need to understand technology as they understand human nature itself. Imagine trying to prosecute a case with evidence gained by using a fake social media account to befriend the defendant and subsequently extract a confession. Is this evidence acceptable? What if the police demand a social media company to release location data for communications made by the defendant?

What would be the one piece of advice you would give to a law student commencing their first year of law school in 2017?

Dive into an area of the law that interests you (instead of the area calculated to be “safe” or “profitable”). If you want to get ahead, start thinking about the technologies that will change the world in the upcoming years: self-driving cars, virtual reality, limitless speed and bandwidth for wireless data, etc. Imagine if you were a law student in 1999 and dove into internet issues and the law; where would you be now and how interesting would your work be? Technology is fast. Law is slow. Take advantage of that.

Cliff can be contacted at cliff@kuehnlawip.com