Decide which startup law office space is right for you here in the second post in our Startup Questions series.
Many practitioners start out practicing in a home office to keep costs low. However, a home office has its drawbacks, including distractions, often a lack of professional conference space for client meetings, and you simply may not want to invite some clients into your home. On the other hand, a home office can be used effectively in certain circumstances, for example with a virtual practice, where you conduct much of your business online. Another popular option among practitioners is to share space with other attorneys or professionals. You can typically find arrangements with other attorneys by networking in bar associations. There are professional shared workspaces, including HQ, Regus, Workbar, Oficio, and WeWork, (and Dockit for those practicing in western Massachusetts!) that provide alternative options such as office or conference usage for a certain number of hours per month, secretarial services, and mail collection.
The benefits of a shared office must be balanced with the ethical and malpractice risks which arise.
With the advances in technology, a physical storefront is no longer the only option for startup law office space. Many solo and small firms begin practicing either at home, through a virtual office, or in a shared office arrangement. A number of considerations play into the decision, such as: What does your target market look like – do you expect walk-ins?; do your prospective clientele prefer face-to-face meetings? are they comfortable using technology? ; Can you find a location convenient for you and your clients?; Do you prefer to work alone or among others?; Do you plan to have staff? In office or virtual?; and most importantly, What is the cost of your office arrangement and will it fit within your budget? (recognize that office space typically consumes the vast portion of most attorney’s budgets).
VIRTUAL LAW OFFICE
A virtual office requires technology, such as an online client portal and web conferencing software (see Start-up Kit: Technology) to interact with clients. If you need it, there are services that will provide a physical mailing address, collect and process mail, provide reception service, and physical conference space.
Virtual Law Practice Webinar by Stephanie Kimbro
Virtual Staffing: Implementation and Management (Legal Toolkit Podcast)
Virtually There: Challenges and Advantages of the Sometime Office
Virtual Office Providers (non-exclusive listing)
HOME LAW OFFICE
The Home Office: Setting it Up, Making it Work, and Managing Work/Life Demands (Legal Toolkit Podcast)
PHYSICAL OFFICE SPACE
Physical office space might take the form of a leased building or floor, or a single rented office. Many attorneys start out in shared office arrangements either with other solo attorneys or within the space of a small firm. These opportunities are primarily discovered through word of mouth. Bar associations, law school alumni boards, and other listservs for attorneys are helpful resources for finding space. For temporary meeting or work space, check with your local bar association. Some bar associations, as well as the Social Law Library, provide office space for member attorneys to work on a temporary basis.
There are significant advantages of a shared office with other attorneys, but also significant ethical issues of which you must be aware.
Important Practical and Ethical Points in Sharing Space by Connie Rudnick, Esq.
Space Sharers Beware! (BBO)
FURTHER READING FROM OUR LENDING LIBRARY
Virtual Law Practice (Stephanie Kimbro, American Bar Association)