Around the World—Solo
Explain your current legal practice.
I travel around the world-hence the business name "The Nomad Lawyer"—while helping other lawyers with their practices. I research memos, draft motions and oppositions, respond to discovery—whatever work can be done and delivered by phone and Internet. It's a way for practicing lawyers to have the benefits of a senior associate without the overhead.
Who are your clients?
Generally, solos and small firm practitioners. There are times when there's too much on the desk, with deadlines looming. That's when attorneys e-mail me. I might be in Malaysia or Macedonia, but I respond rapidly. My clients tend to be located in the United States, so I am usually available to handle "overnight" assignments because it's the beginning or middle of my day.
What role does technology play in the specific needs of having to apply U.S. law and/or interact with clients in a different country from where you work?
My practice and lifestyle are possible only because of technology. I couldn't have done this 10 years ago. Before, I would have had to locate myself in a city with a large law library. Now, most applicable law is available online, and, if there's an obscure decision or statute involved, I can have a colleague in the jurisdiction pull it, scan it, and e-mail it to me.
What is the most surprising difference you have encountered between the laws of the U.S. and the country where you currently practice?
My business makes intuitive sense to lawyers in the United States, who are trained in the billable hour. They pay me half the rate of a senior associate, bill my time out at the full rate, and enjoy a 100 percent profit. The business model is harder to fit into English-derived barrister or solicitor systems in which the advocate is paid a flat fee, a statutory percentage, or a "brief fee" followed by a "refresher."
How did you bridge the cultural differences on the practice of law in the U.S. and in the place where you currently practice?
After graduating from Berkeley Law, I practiced for a decade in Los Angeles and San Francisco-places where you are defined by the size of your firm and the number of hours you bill. In other countries—as with many solos in the States—there's more emphasis on living a balanced life and on contributing to the community. So, on a visceral level, I "connect" with solos, who understand (more so than many big firm lawyers) why a person would prefer to draft motions to dismiss in a lodge near a Chinese forest rather than in a modern office tower.
Based on your personal experience, please share a word of advice to the solo and small firm practitioners in the U.S. on how to better interact with foreign attorneys, both as opposing counsel and as cocounsel.Wherever he is in the world, Paul Karl Lukacs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Identify good people and trust them. The non-U.S. attorneys I deal with are steeped in their legal cultures, which often employ assumptions, logic, and tactics quite different from that used in the U.S. If your Delhi cocounsel is wording her filings in the passive voice and appears to be backing into arguments, there's usually a good reason why she's not employing the in-your-face advocacy used in Manhattan Supreme Court.