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<<But has technology brought us to the point where even attorneys can telecommute? Below is a discussion of how the prospects are shaping up and what the future might hold for future lawyers and law staff who hate the idea of being tied to an office.
Is telecommuting being done in law offices right now?
The answer is yes. Although there is no hard data on how many firms are already offering this option to their attorneys, anecdotal evidence on the Internet suggests that the practice is widespread and growing. Of course, there are also many lawyers in private practice and in a freelance capacity who have been telecommuting for some time now.
The reality is that with the technology already available and becoming even more available in the coming years, telecommuting will be an option most attorneys may have a chance to consider at some point in their careers.
What kind of legal work can you do?
Most of the legal work done by attorneys can be done outside of a law office. For example, if you need to do research on precedents for a case, one of the best ways to do such research is through the Internet. In fact, many attorneys have always taken their work home with them. The only difference is now is that they don't have to spend part of the day trapped in the office.
Any writing that needs to be done can also be done using a laptop. It can then be transmitted via email or fax just as easily and quickly as if it were prepared in the office.
Even meetings can be held via telecommunication thanks to technology. A number of programs exist that can connect people all around the globe via a single portal. All of the participants can join a teleconference and participate while the presenter shares information via the Internet through visuals and over the phone. Unlike an in-person meeting, everyone can be comfortable and is more likely to pay attention because the presentation is more interactive.
Meeting clients is also not a problem. Although some clients may feel more comfortable meeting you at an office, others may be just as comfortable with having their attorney come by their home, meet them at a coffee shop, or stop by their place of business. A telecommuting attorney may even have more time to spend with clients because he or she is going to be on the road and traveling more than ever before.
Is telecommuting only for paralegals?
The answer: absolutely not. Attorneys are the ones who are most likely to be given the option to telecommute in most firms, especially if they have proven themselves in the past to be reliable and self-motivated. Paralegals are sometimes required to stick closer to the office so that they can be more accessible to the attorneys when they are needed.
Attorneys who telecommute are typically going to be those who have more experience, however. Most firms recognize that working in a law firm is part of an attorney's continuing education and is not something that can be understood fully by working from a laptop at home. Accordingly, some firms do have experience requirements before allowing attorneys to telecommute.
Will a telecommuting attorney be one who is less committed to the job?
Again, the answer is no. The misconception about attorneys (and any business professional) who prefer telecommuting is that they have less motivation, less drive, and less commitment to their work. However, that's not the case.
Working in the office is not what determines the character and passion of an attorney. He or she demonstrates that through interactions with clients, attention to detail, and overall professionalism. Even attorneys who work in law firms sometimes fail on all of these counts.
Generally, attorneys who telecommute are simply looking for a little more freedom and a better way to balance the strain of their career with the pleasures of their personal life.
<<What about the pay?
When you work for a law firm that offers this option, you won't have to worry about a difference in pay. You'll generally earn the same as you normally would. In some cases, however, newly hired legal staff may be paid less because of the benefits offered by the telecommuting option.
What types of legal work are best for the online law firm?
Almost any kind of legal work can be done using this method. Generally, if you're going to be working with clients who are more traditional in their view of how attorneys should operate, you'll have and want fewer telecommuting opportunities. Otherwise, almost any field is open to this type of option.
Some fields are more lucrative for freelance attorneys who telecommute. Patient law, for example, is something companies may need representation for on occasion but would not need to keep a full-time professional on staff for.
What about Axiom?
Axiom could best described as an online law firm. They do not have a traditional office environment for their attorneys. Instead, they work via laptops which are connected to an extranet connection in Manhattan. However, the attorneys do work directly and in-person with their corporate clients. Although they may still do much of their work and communication via the Internet, email, Blackberry, and mobile phone, Axiom attorneys typically bridge the two worlds between traditional and non-traditional legal professionals.
One of the benefits for online law firms is that they don't have to rent a large office space for staff. Instead, those funds can be used to recruit the best and the brightest legal minds while also offering greater flexibility to attorneys.