There are a host of reasons why an attorney may want to have a remote practice – you may have moved from your jurisdiction into another where you would have to take a bar exam to practice law or some other circumstance. My personal experience is that I started my law career in Oklahoma and later moved to Minnesota. While I did get licensed in Minnesota and do practice law there, the best use of my Oklahoma license is to practice remotely. If you find yourself in a similar situation, these tips may be helpful to you. Even if you are not trying to have a remote law practice, you may find these tips to be helpful for elawyering within your own jurisdiction.
Tips for having a remote law practice:
1) Have a local number for your clients to call. Your clients still want to work with you, and at the same time they want to feel like you are readily available to them. A number that is local to your clientele will make them feel like you are still accessible, whereas having to call long distance will remind them that you are far away.
2) Have a network of attorneys and assistants who can take your place in a pinch. As every attorney knows, situations can unfold quickly from time to time and you may not be able to drop what you are doing to travel and handle it. Even if it is a hearing that has been on the calendar for some time, some circumstance like a hazardous travel conditions may prevent you from appearing, or it may not be cost effective for you to travel for that appearance. That is when it is invaluable to have a network of attorneys who can appear in your stead and assistants who can handle document filing, working with process servers, and such.
3) Keep accurate records. If you are working in more than one jurisdiction, you will want to keep separate income and expense accounts for each of those jurisdictions for state tax income purposes. Not all states treat income earned in other states the same way, so ask your CPA to find out what rules apply to you.
4) Have someone regularly let you know what mail you have received. As you may have experienced, many times receipt of mail begins a timeline to respond, sometimes with very short deadlines. If you wait for your mail to be forwarded to your remote location, you may miss an important deadline or you may leave yourself with too little time to handle the situation effectively. It is best to have someone letting you know on a daily basis what you have received and faxing or scanning /emailing important items to you immediately.
5) When you travel for court or depositions, it is best to keep flexible travel plans. It is not always practicable to leave when intended, and changing airline tickets at the last minute is costly in many circumstances. I have found that traveling by car or flying with an open ended ticket works better most of the time.
6) On a related note, it is sometimes difficult to take everything you need for court when traveling by air. You have your laptop, your case file, your court clothes, and your casual clothes at a minimum. Your case file is likely rather heavy and may make your suitcase heavier than the airline’s weight limit. I much prefer traveling by car in those circumstances. An alternate solution is to ship your documents in advance of your trip. If you do this, you will want to send them by some means where the shipment is guaranteed and tracked; you do not want to have your sensitive and confidential client information falling into the wrong hands. As a precaution, I would scan every document being shipped and have the electronic version on my laptop just in case the shipment did not arrive when expected.
7) Make sure your technology works seamlessly. As a remote attorney you may be meeting with clients by videoconference, or you may be using an electronic drop box in the cloud to exchange documents, or you may be counting on call forwarding to connect your local clients to you. If any part of your technology is not working you will be losing credibility, clients, and money. It is critical that you test that your technology is performing as expected.
MoreLaw Minneapolis is a great resource for a Minnesota lawyer looking to work remotely. While we can’t help you with your travel arrangements, we can help you stay connected to your clients with a local phone number and reliable call forwarding, we can help you with a network of attorneys and assistants to help you in a pinch, we can keep you informed of the contents of your mailbox, and we can help you to have your technology work seamlessly.
by Kimberly Hanlon
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