When I first opened my practice, pretty much all of my clients were in the same geographic area as me. As a result, I rarely needed to consider time zone differences. As my practice expanded, I started serving clients in different time zones and dealing with counterparts and stakeholders who were located all over the world. Although this initially presented my firm with some challenges, I now understand that dealing with counterparts and clients in different time zones can be an advantage in many situations.
The first time I had a situation in which I had to deal with a client in a vastly different time zone occurred a year or two after I opened my practice when I had to communicate with a counterpart who was located about 10,000 miles from me. I am super bad at math, so it was hard to calculate what time it was in the client’s area at any given point, especially since we often were not even in the same day, and propose a good time for everyone to speak. Usually when we would communicate, it would involve conversations at night on the East Coast which would be conversations in the morning in my client’s time zone. By timing it right, the conversations were not so difficult to organize and occurred pretty close to working hours for everyone involved.
Another time, we needed to organize a deposition for a deponent in Asia. This also posed some problems since it was difficult for everyone to arrange an appropriate time. We eventually settled on early evening on the East Coast, which was early morning where the deponent was located. I prayed that the deposition would not last too long since this would mean burning the midnight oil for my colleagues and me. Thankfully, the deposition only lasted a few hours and we were able to complete the examination without too much of an imposition for all of the people involved.
As my practice grows, I am actually happy to deal with counterparts and clients in different time zones since my ordinary working hours are packed with clients in my own time zone. During the typical 9-to-5 working day, I hardly get a break since I continuously have clients and counterparts call or email me asking for updates on the matters which we are handling. Clients and counterparts usually prefer to be contacted during working hours, and it is difficult to pack all of the necessary work tasks into those typical working hours.
After 5 p.m. or so, the din of work begins to die down, and I can start catching up on some of the things that might still be outstanding from the day. During this period, I can also still work on matters that involve clients and counterparts on the West Coast. Folks on the West Coast are still at their desks after 5 p.m. in my time zone, so I usually wait for this time to reach out to people I need to contact on the West Coast so I can prioritize the people in my time zone who might sign off around 5 p.m.
As a result, having clients and counterparts on the West Coast essentially gives me an extra chance to be productive during my workdays. It also enables me to organize my work so I am not so overloaded during working hours on the East Coast by spreading out some of the tasks that can wait until later for people located on the West Coast. As a result, having clients and counterparts in different time zones can be a substantial advantage and can make individuals more productive in how they stack their work.
Of course, having clients in different time zones can definitely lead to some work-life balance issues. In order to maintain a solid personal life, individuals should rarely work more than 40 hours a week, and this is more difficult if lawyers have clients and counterparts in different time zones. Dealing with people in different locations might mean that lawyers need to be at work before or after normal working hours to accommodate the time difference among parties. Nevertheless, it is usually easy enough for people to find an appropriate time that works for everyone in different time zones to communicate. In addition, for lawyers who are trying to maximize their productivity, having clients and counterparts in different time zones can enable attorneys to more efficiently handle their work and extend their useful work periods.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at [email protected].