Remote possibilities

February 20, 2014

Remote working is all the rage. But where should, and shouldn’t, you go?

Image: Shutterstock


Flexible working is becoming the norm these days. But litigation firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan (QE) has taken the concept of working remotely to a whole new level.

On January 31, QE sent an email out to its lawyers informing them that, because this is a particularly miserable time of year, it would be offering them $2k to go and work anywhere in the world for a week.

The only caveats were that any expenses over and above the $2k would be the responsibility of the employee, lawyers would have to choose their destination as a group (and work together as a group once they got there), all travel would have to take place at the weekends, and all lawyers would have to be contactable 24/7 (and working the same hours as they would be if they were at home).

Here at the epilogue, we’ve spent many an hour gazing out at the wet, windy, wintery weather wishing we were somewhere, anywhere, else. So it seemed only fitting for us to put ourselves in the London associates’ shoes (or flip-flops, which happen to be acceptable footwear at QE), and to imagine where in the world would be a good place to go to get a productive week’s work done.

As much as we’d love to head off to a remote desert island with no broadband, mobile reception or communication networks of any kind other than a good old-fashioned letter in a bottle, we were very careful to abide by the rules. We’re good like that.

Our top five places for lawyers to work from for a week:

The QE lawyers probably won’t see much of wherever they head off to anyway, and this way they get to pocket the $2k. Plus, they won’t have to spend the two weekends before and after travelling, leaving those two weekends free for them to splash the cash.

What do you mean that’s not in the spirit of the thing? Of course, this cunning plan is probably prohibited in the small print, but then, who reads the small print?

Las Vegas
$2k isn’t actually that much to cover the costs of working somewhere exotic for a week – not when you include flights, accommodation, food and copious rum cocktails at the pool bar. But the braver associates will head off to Vegas, put the lot of it on red number 7 at the casino (or whatever’s left of it after their flights), win big, and then check themselves into the penthouse suite for a week.

If they’re really brave, they’ll put their first lot of winnings on black number 13, win big, and then live the rest of their lives anywhere they want in the world, never to return to the office again.

The Hague
It’s the legal capital of the world. It even has its own International Law Prize. It’s chockablock with law firms. And courts. And lawyers. So even if a QE lawyer did try to sneak off for quick open top bus tour of the city, the sight of all those legal types bustling about the place looking like they have important matters to attend to would soon put paid to any plans for a little skiving. The guilt would be too much.

In fact, never mind working their normal office hours, those who opt for The Hague will no doubt end up putting in a week of all nighters, just to keep up. For productivity, this has to be the top spot.

San Jose
This is our top choice for litigation lawyers who think a week in warmer climes might not be quite enough – the ones who think several years at least might be more to their liking.

San Jose doesn’t just offer the chance to soak up some California sunshine (it was 21 degrees over there, last time we checked), it’s also a hotbed of legal activity. This is where the massive battle between Apple and Samsung is being played out. And because it’s the biggest city in the Silicon Valley and home to 6,600 technology companies, it’s probably a pretty good bet that there’ll be plenty more work where that came from.

This is one of Asia’s fastest-growing markets with lawyers aplenty to due to the similarly fast-growing demand for legal services. But although that means it will be a veritable home from home for busy lawyers, that’s not the real reason why Seoul has made it on to our list.

No, Seoul has one very big advantage: it’s widely reported to be the world’s most connected city. It even has WiFi across its subway. Not just at the stations, but everywhere you go. This makes it the perfect choice for lawyers who want to do some exploring without incurring the wrath of the bosses back home.


During our research, we came across some less suitable destinations. Here’s our pick of the world’s worst places for lawyers to work from for a week:

On paper, this should be up there.

It’s a cool city. There’d be no language barriers. It’s summer over there. Everyone’s out on the beach.

But that’s part of the problem. We’ve yet to find a laptop with a screen that’s even vaguely legible in the full glare of the sun, and we’ve yet to find a lawyer who can tackle litigation matters with their usual gusto when they’re dripping with sweat and worrying about the likelihood of a shark pouncing on them if they try to cool off in the sea.

A hostel in a village in the mountains of Columbia
This is one of the suggestions put forward in the email sent to QE lawyers announcing the scheme. But we think it may have been aimed at the lawyers they’re keen to get rid of. Not in that way – although the Columbian mountains were once the murder capital, as it were, of the world.

It’s just that we’re not convinced that the WiFi connection’s going to be that great in a hostel in a village in the mountains of Columbia. And there’s probably limited 4G, 3G or any G. And no reception. Which means anyone opting for this destination is going to be in big trouble when they get back.

Then again, it’s probably a better bet than another suggested destination – this is Trip Advisor’s latest review of Freak Street in Kathmandu: ‘May have once been a place to visit, nothing there now, no reason to go there at all. Quite near Durbar Square but shouldn’t even be on any list of places to visit, Nothing there.’

We get the impression from this, that there’s nothing there.

Palmerston, in the Cook Islands
In many ways it’s the perfect tropical island, with white sand, turquoise seas, blue skies and, as you’d expect from the name, lots of palm trees.

But as it takes several days just to get there (if you’re lucky) most of which is by boat, in rough and remote seas, it’s probably slightly optimistic to think that all travel could be completed at the weekends.

And then, even if you made it there in one piece, you’d have to settle for a couple of hours of power and internet usage a day. Not ideal for the 24/7 connectivity demanded by QE.

Santo Domingo
It’s in the Caribbean, but that doesn’t mean it’s a tropical paradise. In fact, it had the dubious honour of making it into a ‘world’s worst places to work’ list a few years ago.

According to the researchers behind that list, ‘hurricanes, power failures, poor roads, crime and the threat of disease are drawbacks to this location’. Quite significant drawbacks if the important papers you’re scrutinising get swept away by a 90 mile an hour gust of wind, or you lose three hours of your best work thanks to a power cut.

Meanwhile, Wikitravel offers this advice for travellers to Santo Domingo: ‘Be yourself but if yourself is flashing Gucci and Prada wherever you go, maybe you need to dress down a bit.’ Making it a particularly bad choice for any high-flying, sharp-suited lawyer.

Costa Del Sol
It ticks a lot of boxes. Warm climate. Plenty of beaches. Big pitchers of sangria readily available.

But the problem with this location is that, according to a convicted armed robber based on the Costa Del Crime, there’s a major shortage of good lawyers.

According to The Telegraph, Jason Coghlan now acts as a ‘legal “Mr Fixit” to the British criminal fraternity, who complain that a decent Spanish lawyer is as hard to find as a decent Spanish plumber. So no matter that the associates from QE are litigators – when these criminal types hear that there’s a group of British lawyers in town for a week, they’re unlikely to give them a moment’s peace until they agree to take on their cases and get them off the hook.

And we suspect most of them know how to be very persuasive. SC

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