When Rebecca Long Okura, managing attorney of her own firm, met her soul mate, Sterling, he was self-employed as a freelance writer and used to the freedom of working anywhere. However, Rebecca's work wasn't as flexible: it was paper intensive and required frequent face-to-face interaction. By working with Sterling, she was able find a way to break free. As a result, for the past couple of years she works remotely for weeks at a time -- regularly visiting family in Hawaii and soon vacationing in Germany.
With a bit of creativity any attorney can find a way to work remotely. Below are Rebecca's tips on how she was able to break free from her office:
1. Fire your boss
Rebecca left her job to start her own firm. This step is not necessary in all situations. There are books and resources available on how to convince your boss that you are more productive when not working on-site in the office. Tim Ferriss' Four Hour Work Week is a good place to start. For those of you who don't want to bother with bosses, going self-employed is a great option.
2. Leverage Technology
The right technology should feel like magic. It should simplify tasks and make life easier.
- Get online accounting software - Rebecca finds that QuickBooks Online is a handy way to keep track of her firm's finances, especially while traveling. It also gives her peace of mind knowing that if anything happens to her laptop, her data is both online and backed up daily on secure servers. Her office manager now has access to QuickBooks Online and does such a great job of running things that Rebecca rarely has to look at her books. But it's always there if she needs it.
- Find the right law firm management software -- Rebecca researched law firm management software and chose one. It gives Rebecca a solution for digitally managing all of her client files.
- Lease a photocopier with a scanner -- The next step was reducing paperwork. She started with a small scanner and a sheet feeder, but it frequently jammed. Eventually she upgraded her photocopier lease to include one with a network scanner. Now her paralegals can quickly scan all incoming letters and documents and associate them to the proper file.
- Set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) -- To work remotely, she needed a VPN solution that would allow her to access her server from anywhere. She selected Hamachi, a zero-configuration VPN solution, which doesn't require any hardware or access to routers.
- Use a wireless Internet card -- When she first started traveling, she connected to her husband's tiny travel wireless router to share his broadband connection. Since then she has her own wireless internet card.
After testing and working through any issues of remote access from home, Rebecca and David were able to start traveling and working from other places.
3. Develop Strategic Relationships
When Rebecca first started her firm, it was just her and a secretary. She developed relationships with other sole-practitioners so they could cover for each other in court as needed.
Rebecca was soon able to hire several associate attorneys. Now she has lawyers who can not only cover for her in court, but also meet with existing clients and sign-up new ones.
One of the most valuable employees is Rebecca's office manager. She keeps everything running, manages the accounting on QuickBooks Online, and handles initial communications with clients. This allows Rebecca to only deal with critical issues while away from the office.
4. One Step at a Time
Rebecca has been running her own law firm for three years now. The steps listed above didn't happen overnight.
Don't worry if you are not immediately able to quit your job or hire reliable employees. Start planning things out and take one step at a time. You'll be amazed at what is possible when you combine desire, planning, and creativity.