Remote working for lawyers wasn’t invented during the pandemic. Of course, the lockdown implemented certainly made it feel as if it was; especially since remote working forced the legal industry at large to embrace the use of legal tech. Yet, like any use of technology, working remote comes with its own risks. What are those risks? What are the pros and cons of working remotely as a lawyer? What can you do to make remote working a better and safer experience for you and for your clients?
Remote Work for Lawyers Is Alive and Well (But It Comes with Risks)
Even prior to the pandemic, remote work for lawyers existed. It just wasn’t quite as common. Now in 2021, some BigLaw firms will not require their lawyers to return to the office. In fact, according to a Bloomberg article from June 1, 2021, around 40% of employees would rather quit their job than return to the office. A survey conducted by Above the Law revealed that to get resistant lawyers to give up remote work and return to the office, they would need a 30% pay increase. Lawyers love the flexibility that they receive from remote work.
However, remote working does come with risks. We all remember the lawyer who had the unfortunate (and hilarious) misfortune of a cat filter left on his Zoom during a court appearance. Yet, wayward virtual court appearances aren’t the only potential concern. As a lawyer, you must also consider:
- Technical competence
- Security of virtual files
- Online privacy of your meetings with clients and even opposing counsel
- Advertising rules in your jurisdiction, especially since you office from home
- Computer security matters, such as backing-up files, anti-virus, and IT matters.
That, of course, is not an inclusive list of the risks that exist for remote working. For example, you may also decide that you wish to outsource or hire an assistant who is also working remotely. This also creates various risks that you must consider.
Related: The Duty of Tech Competence in the Age of COVID-19
Pros and Cons of Working Remotely as a Lawyer
The pros and cons of working remotely as a lawyer depends on your goals and your life. If you work for a law firm, you may have a schedule that you must follow. So, while you would have the comforts of working from home, you would still have some constraints. You may also have to return to the office at some point. If you’re a solo lawyer who decided to work remotely, the pros include setting your own hours, working in your own space, and setting up your office how you’d like. You can likely list some positive attributes associated with working remotely based on your own experience and desires.
There are some cons as well.
- You must choose a virtual address. You certainly don’t want or need prospective or current clients showing up at your home. This may also be required in order for you to comply with the ethics rules in your jurisdiction.
- You may need to decide to rent conference space, depending on your needs, for meetings.
- If you’re extroverted, you may find that working remotely as a lawyer is very difficult because you don’t get the same interaction as you get if you chose to office outside of your home.
- If you have children, spouse, or another person in your home, there’s a risk of noise or the leaking of confidential client information.
Again, this list isn’t inclusive of all of the potential issues that could arise if you decide to work remotely as a lawyer.
How to Work Remotely as a Lawyer: 5 Tips
If you’ve yet to experience working remotely as a lawyer, here are 5 tips to help you feel a bit more comfortable.
- Remember that you must be competent in the technology that you use. This doesn’t mean that you must be an expert.
- Set-up a home office in a way that makes you both comfortable and productive.
- Choose the right legal tech and secure cloud drive to suit your needs.
- Set and stick to a schedule to prevent burnout.
- Read and understand the ethics rules for your jurisdiction.
Want to learn more about how to successfully work remotely as a lawyer and minimize the risk of an ethics complaint? Order Megan’s book The Modern Lawyer: Ethics and Technology in an Evolving World. You’ll learn more about working remotely, hybrid officing, and steps you can take to minimize the risk of receiving an ethics complaint. It’s a must-have for every lawyer!