Three Reasons Why Digital Nomads Make Great Attorneys

The digital nomad experience accelerates a lawyer's professional growth
Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto

“Japan?” my coworker asked during our 1:1. “Why are you in Japan?”

Fair question. Instead of meeting with my coworker in our company headquarters in Palo Alto, I was working from a Tokyo skyscraper in the middle of the night.

After returning from an extensive journey across Asia, I’m still answering why I chose to moonlight as a digital nomad instead of taking a proper vacation. 

During my latest trip, my travel partner and I traveled to Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan. Each location presented different challenges to digital nomad lawyers and other remote workers.

While overcoming these challenges, I discovered being a digital nomad makes attorneys more resourceful, resilient, and better communicators.

Digital nomads must be resourceful

Although working as a lawyer while traveling at first feels uncomfortable, it also spawns ingenuity

I honed my ingenuity while figuring out how to stay connected abroad. Finding the right strategy involved trial and error.

Coworking and cafes are great – when we can find them. We’ve realized that besides tourist hubs, co-working spaces and cafes are hard to find.

Hotels offer internet – but often prove unreliable. Betting on a hotel’s internet speed can be risky if Zoom meetings are part of your job.

Mobile routers can be a good option, but require the right SIM card to be installed appropriately. I’ve made the mistake of buying incompatible SIM cards before, which prevents the router from working properly.

The best strategy we found is taking an old cell phone with us. When we arrive at the international airport, we purchase a physical SIM card and ask the employee at the phone kiosk to help us install it. Then, as long as we have a cell signal, we can hotspot ourselves. It’s not the best connection, but it works in a pinch.

This iterative process of trial and error can be annoying but forced me to think outside the box, and made returning back to the office, with blazing fast internet, feel like a luxury. Being an attorney, especially an in-house lawyer, requires resourcefulness. Practicing these skills while working as a digital nomad attorney abroad made me more resourceful in all aspects of my job after I returned to the office.

Digital nomads build resilience

Working as a digital nomad lawyer while traveling requires fortitude. Digital nomad attorneys must learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable to continue providing exceptional service abroad.  

While in Taiwan, my work schedule tested my resilience. The time zone sits 15 hours ahead of Pacific Time.  To be effective, I needed to be online during US working hours.

In Taipei, my workday started at midnight and ended at 8 AM (5pm PST). After work, I would venture out for a few hours before heading back to my apartment around 2 PM. I would attempt to get to bed by 4 PM which theortically would result in around 7 hours of sleep before waking up to start my work day again.

Sleep did not always go as planned. Jet-lag, and the noisy street outside my window made it difficult to rest. However, as any new parent can confirm, the human body can cope. I learned to work on less than a full night’s sleep and at odd hours. After a week, my body adapted.

Jumping time zones, although chaotic, enhanced my strength and sharpened my mind. Greater endurance. More stamina,  focus, and efficiency.

Returning home, scheduling conflicts which used to feel taxing became easy. 7 AM meeting? No problem. Call with Indian customer at 9 PM? I’ve done worse.

Digital Nomads understand non-verbal communication

The words we speak only capture a portion of what we communicate.  Inflection, tone, facial expressions, and body language fill the gaps.   

In order to overcome the language barrier in Asia, I had to adapt. My recent trip allowed me to practice understanding gestures, facial expressions, and situational context

In the end, I learned plenty.  Cash or credit? Paper or plastic? Do you want a box for your food?  In Mandarin or Japanese, I began to comprehend by understanding body language and context.

I quickly learned how to navigate grocery stores, restaurants, bars, taxi cabs, and run other errands comfortably.

Remote working environments present similar risks for communication gaps. Applying the lessons learned abroad, such as situational awareness and identifying nonverbal cues, has helped improve my communication skills by leveraging more than words to understand.  

Verdict

Being a digital nomad attorney can super-charge a lawyer’s professional development. Although traditional jobs may provide these growth opportunities without the experience of working while traveling, digital nomad attorneys learn these lessons quicker out of necessity.

So, why do I work while I travel?

It reshapes me, accelerates my learning, enhances my skills, and presents opportunities to grow in unexpected ways. I’ve found working while traveling accelartes this development. The lessons I learned on my latest trip can be equally applied in my professional as in my personal life. Since no two trips are the same, I’ll continue to grow so long as I’m ready for the challenge.

Keep Wandering!

-Tony

Authors

Anthony Shallat

Anthony Shallat

Anthony Shallat is a digital nomad attorney and WanderLawyer co-founder. Anthony believes travel unlocks potential and opens minds. He’s been wandering and lawyering since 2014.