An increasing number of white-collar jobs can be done remotely. You can meet online and deliver work via the web, and since the pandemic, most clients and colleagues accept this as a legitimate way of working (unlike before the pandemic). But is every job compatible with the fully remote lifestyle of a digital nomad? What about lawyers?


Can Lawyers Work Fully Remotely?

Whether you can work fully remotely as a lawyer depends on the type of law that you practice. If you are a lawyer who must appear in court, act as a legal representative, sign documents, or work with vulnerable people who need in-person attention, fully remote working is unrealistic.

If you talk to remote lawyers on Reddit, what these lawyers do is spend just three months of the year traveling, and don’t schedule any of their in-person activities during this time. But they also agree that post-pandemic, most law firms are no longer offering fully remote roles.

But again, speaking to remote lawyers on Reddit, there are a variety of jobs within the legal profession that can be fully remote. In-house counsel, who advises businesses on legal actions and reviews contracts, can work fully remotely. Similarly, lawyers who provide advice via hotlines can work fully remotely, like one Reddit lawyer who works for an eviction prevention hotline for a legal aid organization.

Many not-for-profit organizations farm out their work to freelance lawyers, and for young lawyers, there are many opportunities to create documentation for busy senior lawyers. Another Reddit lawyer explained that he works as an immigration attorney remotely as their service is managed through an online portal.

One Reddit lawyer works for themselves as a licensed California lawyer, but only meets with clients remotely and maintains a virtual California address. However, they noted that they have to maintain their license in the state of California, which means maintaining legal residence there, despite almost never being there.

So, the verdict is that you can be a digital nomad lawyer, but it does restrict the type of work that you can do. No high-profile criminal trials! Even if the trial is held over Zoom, firms that manage these kinds of cases generally don’t offer fully remote positions. Moreover, you need to maintain your legal license, which is regulated by regional authorities.


Types of Remote Legal Jobs

So, what types of legal jobs lend themselves to fully remote working?

  • Document review and legal research: Reviewing contracts, researching cases, and reviewing intellectual property are all suited for remote work since they require a lot of research, document review, and attention to detail, and don’t tend to require dealing with vulnerable clients.
  • Family law and mediation: While many firms prefer to manage divorce proceedings, child custody suits, and mediation in person, an increasing number are offering this as an online service to resolve the division of property, child support, and so forth.
  • Intellectual property law: This is a growing industry as there is money to be made off IP. It requires a lot of desk research to find trademarks, handle patent applications, and work through copyright registration.
  • Real estate law: Real estate law mostly requires preparing contracts, searching titles, and negotiating, all of which can be done remotely. There are opportunities to work both with property firms and on a freelance basis.
  • Environmental law compliance: This kind of law includes activities such as securing permits to operate a business, most of which is submitted and handled online. Larger companies might look for in-house counsel, that could be remote, and there are freelance opportunities with smaller businesses.
  • Tax law cases: Tax lawyers mostly advise their clients on regulations and requirements and review documents as needed. Video conferencing can be used to handle most client interactions.
  • Stock exchange and security law: This is another area of the law where most people are looking for advice and documentation, and there is little need for in-person meetings.
  • Civil law: Most civil law cases involving issues such as wage disputes, breaches of contract, and defamation are now conducted online through video hearings.
  • Corporate law: In-house attorneys that manage business interests and investments can be fully remote and the area offers an opportunity to develop a strong client base.

In contrast, what are the types of law that may not be compatible with a full-time digital nomad lifestyle? Of course, there are cases that require your physical appearance in court. But even when remote appearances are an option, studies conducted during the pandemic show that remote proceedings can interfere with the attorney-client relationship, affect perceptions of witness credibility, allow people to disengage from the process, and negatively affect the outcome of proceedings. In general, criminal defense, personal injury, and immigration law all require at least part-time in-person presence.


Tips for Managing Remote Legal Work

If you do find an area of legal work that you can do fully remotely, you need to ensure that you have systems and processes in place to ensure that you can still meet client expectations. Consider the following.


Communicate Clearly

While there are roles that you can take that don’t require you to disclose that you are working remotely, such as providing legal advice via hotlines, if you are working with clients with whom you intend to develop long-term relationships, be clear about how you work. It is better to explain exactly how you work and why you can still provide excellent service than get “caught out” at some point in the future and lose client trust.


Always Prioritize Internet

If you are going to be dialing into video conferences and accessing legal documents via security-heavy websites, you need a strong internet connection to ensure that you are always able to do what you need to do when you need to do it. Book accommodation with this in mind, as well as a quiet place for professional online conversations. Invest in a portable Wi-Fi hotspot as a backup in case of emergencies.


Consider Online Security

If you are handling legal documents, you are required to ensure that you are maintaining their privacy and security. If you work for a firm, they probably have a VPN and other security measures in place for this. If you are working for yourself, you need to take responsibility for encrypting your data and securing your devices at all times. Consider the security measures needed to store your legal documents in the cloud for easy access.


Learn Online Communication

Building a relationship and rapport online is a different challenge from doing it in person. It is a skill that can be learned and nurtured. Don’t underestimate the importance of getting this right when you are working remotely, and invest time in learning and perfecting the art.

We’ve already talked how remote psychology is very different to in-person psychology.


Find Inspiration

If you are looking to take your legal career online, look at examples of people who are doing it well. Vanst Law is a women-owned law firm that has been fully remote since 2018. PersanteZuroweste went online when Hurricane Irma struck in 2018 and has never looked back. McDermott Will & Emery has been offering flexible working since 2014 and specializes in finance, intellectual property, and white-collar law.


Finding a Balance

Not every career is an obvious match for the digital nomad lifestyle. If the ability to travel full-time is important to you, it may be necessary to compromise on the type of law that you practice. If your passion is criminal trial law, you may need to restrict travel to certain months of the year to ensure you can be present where needed when necessary.

The digital nomad lifestyle is all about finding a way to best balance your priorities. That will look different for everyone.