Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Can a lawyer go digital?

This is part of a series responding to Christine at Almost Fearless' series 30 Ways in 30 Days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World. 

Day 3

The third post in the series is all about turning your job digital. Unfortunately, I don't think what I do can be turned into a location independent job - I have to show up for hearings. Even if I decided to not be the one to show up to the hearings (which would jeopardize my usefulness to my boss) what I do on the computer, while technically possible to do anywhere, would require a major operational change in how my boss does his work. Since he plans on retiring in the next five years or so, this does not seem like something he is willing to do.

Additionally, a large component of small law firm work is customer service. If you're drafting someone's will, or handling the estate of their deceased relative, people want to talk to you in person. Maybe this preference will change when my generation starts getting older, but the demographic who is in need of those services right now tend to be old fashioned and want a face to face meeting.

There do seem to be some legal tasks in big law which allow for location independent work. Actually, there is plenty of big law document review work that could be done remotely, but every document review project I have heard of requires you to go into an office to do so. BUT! Document reviewers fluent in other languages and legal translators seem to have more bargaining power - almost every legal translation of foreign language document review project I have seen is via telecommuting.

That is something I could do. That is something I would like to do. But that is something I need additional training for before I can do. My Japanese isn't good enough right now - and I am not capable of getting to a fluency level without immersion training.

While that idea doesn't get me to Japan any faster, it does give me a possible income for after. That's pretty significant.


  1. What about working more as a briefing attorney? There seem to be a fair number of people who do that remotely, appellate work or just plain motion practice -- could be a good balance if there's someone who likes to argue the motions and if you're a good writer.

  2. Well the problem with briefing and motion practice is that eventually that brief or motion needs to be argued. Technically it IS possible - many firms have a lawyer who writes the technical briefs and another who argues it, but you still have to find a firm willing to have one person work remotely.

    There is such a glut of lawyers right now, I'm not sure many places would be willing to work with someone who wants to go digital as opposed to saying screw it and hiring someone else. I suppose it's possible if I get really good, but I'm going to have to find some sort of mentor to help me get better - there's not really anyone in place at my current firm to help me improve.