Telecommuting is a way for an attorney to work from home and fax or modem work to the office. Telecommuting may not cut down on the number of billable hours, but it can provide other benefits for lawyers. Increased flexibility and greater access to family members, for instance. Reduced stress, no commute, and a relaxed wardrobe are other benefits. And, believe it or not, it has been done by lawyers!
Moonlighting: Dual-Career Lawyers
Some lawyers decide to permanently mix the practice of law with a long-term hobby or interest. They have decided not to leave the practice of law, whether for financial reasons or because they like practicing. So they practice law by day, and are writers, dancers, musicians, and actors by night. Some, like Debevoise & Plimpton's Louis Begely, a well-known writer, end up working a twenty-hour day. Others find less time-consuming day jobs. A clinical professor at a New-York-area law school, for example, teaches by day, and has another career as an actor in television, commercials, and off-Broadway. These lawyers have reconciled law practice and their creative interests by managing to do both.
Many law firms have formal part-time work policies, but in actuality, few of their attorneys have utilized them. In the world of law firms, part-time work can mean a forty- to fifty-hour work week. However, as alternative work arrangements have become a part of the workforce, law firms have adapted to some extent. Part-timers have adapted as well. "The key is to have some flexibility," said one. "You have to be able to take calls from the client on your day off or stay late for a court arraignment," she said.
Temping As a Lawyer
In the 1990s, the formerly stuffy, conservative practice of law became revolutionized. Temporary, or "Temp" lawyers are not only accepted as a viable alternative to associates, but they are very much in demand. Lesley Friedman (profiled in this book), who started one of the first temp agencies for lawyers, saw her business mushroom in the nine years that she owned it, which spanned the mid-80s to the mid 90s. Now, temporary agencies for lawyers are popping up all over the country. Cost has been a major factor in this development- law firms have found it very cost effective to hire temps to handle overflow work, allowing firms to conservatively monitor permanent hiring.
What does this mean for you? Well, it can open up your options. If you have the credentials temp agencies for lawyers are looking for-good academic standing in law school, large law-firm experience, and experience in a "hot" practice area, such as patent law-you will be in demand for temp work. So, if you want to have more time and flexibility, temping may be for you. It's a great way to see if you really want to pursue another line of work, and the money is often quite good.
Even though your hours during temporary projects may be long, you can space out your assignments over the year. You will also be relieved of the pressure of rainmaking or struggling to stay on partnership track. This will give you some space to explore, and perhaps start a new career, while still being able to pay your bills. Or, you might find that the lifestyle of "permanently" temping really suits you. See the classified ads under "Attorney" or "Law" for names of temporary agencies for attorneys in your area.
- See How to Have a Professional Attorney Image When You Work from Home for more information.