Revising our dream: how to find work that can be done from anywhere in the US
July 13, 2012 6:11 AM   Subscribe

Work to live. How to find jobs we can do from anywhere in the US (or ideally anywhere in the world). Bonus for attorney jobs.

My husband and I are hoping to move to a place where jobs are scarce and have been for a while, so now we're wondering about options for working at home. (Plus, now we have an adorable third family member and we'd like to see her more.) We're wondering how to find jobs we can do remotely. We don't really care what we do, though we are experienced attorneys so we can do legal work in the US and we also have writing and analytical skills we can apply to other work. We'd like to make at least 100,000 a year ideally per person, but we are flexible about that. Mind numbing work would be acceptable. I'm a manager in the federal government, he's a criminal defense attorney and we also have international development experience. We are quick studies and willing to learn new skills. We'd be willing to travel for that work, maybe 10-20% of the time.

My main question is where to search for portable telework type jobs. I know this is not going to be easy, but right now I don't even know where to start looking. For jobs, generally, we check, usajobs, pslawnet, and indeed. And we go on websites for employers themselves. I just don't know if there's another way to search for portable work, or if work like that could ever bring us to 75-150,000 a year.
posted by semacd to Work & Money (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I like LinkedIn and Simply Hired.

I'm also a big fan of going straight to the websites of companies.

For example, at my company, our lawyers pretty much work remotely and assess contracts. I believe that's the mind-numbing you had in mind.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:14 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

A buddy of mine is a lawyer and patent examiner for the USPTO and works out of his house. He says it's pretty mind-numbing, which suits your criteria, but they usually want you to put a couple years in in the office before they let you go remote. Worth investigating though.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:44 AM on July 13, 2012

Response by poster: Clarification - It doesn't *have* to be mind numbing (our current jobs are fascinating and we know how lucky we are to have them) we are just willing to do mind numbing work in order to be able to live wherever we want and spend more time at home with our daughter.
posted by semacd at 7:18 AM on July 13, 2012

For the criminal defense attorney - I knew a woman who worked remotely doing death penalty appeals for California courts. Not sure if she worked for the court itself, or as part of some nonprofit providing legal aid to indigent murderers. The pay was upwards of what you mentioned.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:25 AM on July 13, 2012

You do realize that you're trying to get a cushy law job in the face of the worst recession the legal profession has seen in generations, yes? When big firms are reorganizing and going bankrupt? When corporations are slashing their legal budgets?

And you're trying to not only get a well-paying job but one that permits telework?

No. Not gonna happen. Just... no. There are no jobs like that, as far as I'm aware. There are doc review jobs out there, but the pay is not awesome. $60k-80k would be on the high end, from what I've heard. $30k-40k is not unusual.

Now you can do plenty of private-practice stuff "remotely." I could do the vast majority of my job from home pretty easily. Partners wouldn't stand for it, but there's no technical reason it couldn't be done. Except for the fact that I do need to show up in court from time to time, and that's sometimes on short notice.

But you work for the federal government, yes? They have pretty awesome telecommuting options compared to most employers. Probably worth exploring.
posted by valkyryn at 7:31 AM on July 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

You have to be pretty darn senior in the federal government, or in a very high cost of living area, to make anywhere near 100k. And I'm guessing you're not in a high cost of living area.

If it were easy to make a big city salary outside the big city, everyone would do it!
posted by miyabo at 8:10 AM on July 13, 2012

I think the $100,000 for both of you is going to be the real deal-breaker. If you're living in an expensive city now, that might seem necessary, but it probably is not going to be in the new place, unless you have an insane debt load.

That said, I've worked for several national/international non-profits that employed people who worked from home.
posted by lunasol at 8:30 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm unaware of these jobs existing at the $100k range, aside from a few, very highly sought after positions. For example, a number of expert witnesses I've worked with can telecommute for the most part, attending in person only trials and depositions. But those types of practices are generally cultivated over time, starting as part-time work and growing to full-time.

If you drop your salary requirements to $50k, a bunch of jobs open up. Career clerkship on some state courts, document review, etc.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:59 AM on July 13, 2012

Are either of you fluent (or could conceivably become fluent) in a foreign language? There's definitely a market for legal translators, and as attorneys you could conceivably put yourselves at the top of that market. Professional translators typically work only into their native language, so you need to be reading fluent in the foreign language but it's not like you need to be able to write an air-tight contract in it.

With 5 years of experience, I make six figures as a freelance translator, although it took me a few years to get up to speed, literally. I'm making now about twice what I made my first year in the business. It is completely, 100% portable. However, that income comes at the price of no benefits, where I have the advantage of getting health insurance, etc. through my husband's regular job.
posted by drlith at 10:01 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Re 100,000k each, that's why I said we're flexible to around 75k. (But also FYI for anyone interested, the Feds pay attorneys really very well, even in low cost of living areas.)

And yes, I realize this is hard or I wouldn't be asking this question. We can be flexible about our criteria and we can be patient - even a few years from now would be ok. We're trying to make a dream happen. Potentially we could work two jobs each.

We're not fluent in anything these days, though years ago when I lived overseas I was very close, so maybe with a lot of work I could reclaim that. Would I go through Lionbridge or companies like that?

Law crossing is a good idea - I had forgotten about that.

Remote work - good idea. I've also heard there can be remote support to veterans with VA claims, though I don't know anything else about that.

What about web design? Does that take years to learn? Can that be done remotely?
posted by semacd at 12:23 PM on July 13, 2012

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