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August 30, 2022 Article

A Quick Guide to Landing a Remote Attorney Position

If you want a fully remote opportunity, study the market to see what’s achievable in your practice area at your level, pursue suitable opportunities, and recognize there will be career trade-offs.

By Randi Lewis
As the world adjusts to living with COVID, willingness to hire remote lawyers may wane, but firms and businesses recognize the need to be flexible.

As the world adjusts to living with COVID, willingness to hire remote lawyers may wane, but firms and businesses recognize the need to be flexible.

Pexels | Anna Shvets

The transition from office to remote work at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the legal profession. Within days of the shutdown, leaders in law firms, businesses, and government quickly implemented and refined processes and procedures that enabled their colleagues to work seamlessly from home. In the “short term,” firms, businesses, and government legal departments were interviewing, hiring, and onboarding lawyers virtually, and the attorneys were working fully remotely. Now, more than two years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are recognizing the importance of finding a balance between in-person collaboration and the reluctance of many lawyers to return to the office full-time—or at all. Flexible policies on remote and hybrid work remain a necessity to attract and retain top talent in what continues to be a highly competitive job market.

In the post-vaccine era, business activity sharply increased, courts reopened, and law firm business was booming, causing a need for lawyers at many levels. By the end of spring 2021, the war for legal talent was in full bloom. Big Law salaries and signing bonuses ballooned. At the same time, law firms began hiring lawyers who lived outside their geographic footprint for fully remote arrangements. Likewise, once unwilling to hire lawyers who did not work in the office, many in-house legal departments began hiring remote lawyers to compete for talent. In 2021, businesses that were willing to hire lawyers for fully remote or flexible hybrid positions were able to find top talent to fill niche needs, leaving behind those companies that required lawyers to work in the office full-time.

Now, many lawyers who were hired to work remotely tend to prefer to continue working remotely. Firms have demonstrated a willingness to permit fully remote lawyers to remain remote and to continue remote hiring to fill skills in high demand, and but only one Big Law firm, Quinn Emanuel, has committed to a fully remote workforce with its “work from anywhere” policy, even for first-year associates. Other firms have implemented hybrid work policies designed to reengage colleagues to collaborate in person. As the legal world becomes accustomed to living with COVID-19, the willingness to hire fully remote lawyers routinely may wane, but law firms and businesses recognize the need to be flexible and are still hiring lawyers to work remotely.

How to Look for a Fully Remote Attorney Position

Searching for remote attorney positions takes time and patience. You will need to check every listing to determine if the position is truly remote because some positions listed as remote are actually hybrid opportunities requiring that you live close enough to the physical office to appear in the office a few days per week or as otherwise specified. Below are some suggestions to help you jumpstart your search for a remote attorney position:

  1. LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a popular resource for job seekers. Try searching for remote attorney positions, and narrow it down to your practice area.
  2. Targeted firm and company websites. Research law firms and companies that interest you. Look at their career sites. They will list jobs for which they will consider remote candidates. If you are searching for in-house positions, websites like those of the Association of Corporate Counsel and GOINHOUSE prominently identify remote positions.
  3. Government positions. If you are interested in federal government positions, USAJOBS allows you to search for remote federal jobs.
  4. Law school alumni career services. Reach out to your law school career service professionals who work with alumni. If you are not already on an email subscription list for job postings, request that your name be added to that list.
  5. Fully remote law firms. Even before the pandemic, there were law firms headquartered in different states where lawyers work from home. Although not listed here, those firms typically hire lawyers with fully portable practices and more senior associates to fill a particular need. Those firms often advertise or will hire recruiters to search for a particular need.
  6. Recruiters. Recruiting companies like mine, Major, Lindsey & Africa, work with law firms and businesses that may be open to remote lawyers. Review the opportunities on those websites for remote positions, and reach out to recruiters you know and respect to ask for their advice.

Considerations Regarding Fully Remote or Hybrid Positions

  1. Do your circumstances require fully remote work? If your personal circumstances require that you work from home, then focus your search only on remote positions. Be up front with recruiters and human resources professionals about your needs. If firms or businesses are not willing to let you be totally remote, don’t waste your time or theirs trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
  2. Are you able to work in a hybrid work environment? If you have searched for a remote position but haven’t been able to find a suitable job, consider hybrid positions—ones that will permit you to work from home part of each week or ones that will require you to travel to the office once a month or so.
  3. Are there limitations to remote work? Some lawyers have worked remotely for years with little or no impact on their advancement. Others have chosen remote work understanding that it will be a trade-off. Recognize the implications of each remote opportunity you pursue. Working remotely may hamper your ability to develop your legal skills on track with your peers. It may limit your ability to advance in your career. It may impact your ability to attract business. It may affect your compensation. And it will change the way you engage with your colleagues.

Midway through 2022, fully remote attorney positions are still available, primarily for lawyers with experience, and on a case-by-case basis. Entry-level or junior associates, who are less likely to have the leverage to insist on remote work, should be prepared to work on a hybrid basis—in the office two to four days per week. If you are a lawyer seeking a fully remote opportunity, study the market to determine whether it’s reasonably achievable in your practice area at your level, pursue suitable opportunities, and recognize there will be a career trade-off.

Randi Lewis is a managing director with Major, Lindsey & Africa in Baltimore, Maryland, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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