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August 27 2020

A transatlantic remote working adventure!

Flex Lawyers

Ben Harris

Ben Harris

A transatlantic remote working adventure!

I started my legal career as an oil and gas lawyer at a small law firm in Pittsburgh, PA. While I excelled as an oil and gas lawyer, the industry was (still is) quite volatile. In 2016, the oil and gas industry crashed, and by the time we entered 2017, my employer advised that she was closing the office and needed me to work remotely. I was elated. No more 40 minute drives each way to complete work that could be done at home! 

I decided to ask my employer how she felt if I worked anywhere in the US and potentially abroad. She didn’t see any reason why that couldn’t work so long as I could overlap 4-5 hours EST. I was lucky to have a great relationship with my employer at the time. I was producing great work and she trusted me to complete everything in a timely manner. So, when I finally asked if I could work remotely from London, her only additional request was that I send pictures of my adventure.

I packed up my belongings and just like that, I started over in a new place with no connections except a distant cousin. I started researching places where I could work remotely and  found the Hoxton in Shoreditch, which ended up being exactly what I needed. It was only a 20 minute walk from my apartment, had massive tables, coffee, and reliable wifi. 

I decided to take my remote working a step further and essentially country hopped for several weeks. I would stay in cities like Budapest and Vienna for a week – work during the week, explore the cities over the weekend, and venture off to a new city. Eventually, I ended up in Berlin for nearly 8 weeks before heading back to the US.

At the time, I got a lot of incredulous faces and many questions – “What do you mean you work remotely?” or “Your employer is comfortable with you being in another country?” or “Isn’t it lonely?” While it may not have been “normal” or “acceptable” at the time, it worked for the type of work I was doing. Now, I’m seeing so many colleagues and friends embracing working remotely as a result of Covid-19 and it’s fascinating to see this change! It’s definitely not for everyone or for every company - a lot of people need the social interactions that you would typically get in an office - coffee and lunch breaks with colleagues, collaborating with other people on projects and assignments. But, if you are working remotely full-time, take advantage of it and travel. You won’t find another opportunity to travel and work simultaneously. 

I decided to make a permanent move to London and six months after my move, I decided to change my specialty. Both decisions were drastic changes and I knew it was going to require a lot of work starting over in a new jurisdiction and in an entirely different legal field. I have been focusing on commercial in-house roles and have had a mix of office-based and remote work. While I miss traveling, I do enjoy the mix of working in an office and getting to know and work with colleagues and working remotely. I think it helps to have that flexibility and helps maintain a healthy work-life balance. That’s one of the reasons why I chose to work with F-LEX. The entire F-LEX team values performance and the unique ways each person achieves their results. They are focused on the outcomes and ensuring that each lawyer gets the most out of his/her role or engagement. I have a great sense of autonomy in my role which keeps me motivated and striving for my best.

Catherine, F-LEX Lawyer