The top 3 reasons solo attorneys prefer shared office space over any other type of office rental.
It’s no secret, solo lawyers have been sharing office space for decades. Whether it’s a sublet in another firm’s leased office space, a co-op style lease share or executive suite for law firms, small firm attorneys find considerable value in sharing space with their professional compatriots as opposed to leasing their own space directly from a landlord, or going to a multi-professional executive suite or coworking space.
If you’re thinking about starting a solo law practice, or are already practicing and in the market for different office space, here are the top 3 reasons solo attorneys prefer shared office space.
1. It’s the lowest cost option.
Shared office space is significantly less expensive for a solo attorney than a leased office space acquired directly from commercial landlord. With shared office space, there is a lower initial investment and shorter term period from the office space provider than required from a commercial landlord.
For example, an executive suite or your typical one office sublet generally only requires a one year commitment and minimal security deposit (typically one month’s rent). On the other hand, a direct from landlord lease will often require 4 to 6 months in security deposit and, frequently, a minimum term of 5 years.
Plus, a shared office space is often plug and play. In many cases you can bring your computer and client files and be billing in just a few minutes.
A direct from landlord lease can require construction and fitting out for telephones, internet, conference room and receptions furnishings and more. Even with a landlord work letter, there will be a significant initial expense that may be impractical for a solo law practice.
Finally, in shared office space, solo lawyers can get access to the office equipment and administrative staff necessary to run a law office, without the expense of carrying the cost for these items all on their own.
2. Collaborative Opportunities Add to the Bottom Line.
Lawyers in certain practice disciplines often need the advice of other attorneys in complementary practice disciplines to fully and competently service client matters.
In shared office space, attorneys have access to colleagues for quick answers to practice questions, or otherwise have them sit-in on meetings or co-counsel on on a case. In a shared office space with a robust community, by co-counseling with colleagues, solo attorneys in niche practice areas can offer clients a more “full service” style of representation should the need arise.
A number of attorneys have shared with us specific examples of how they have collaborated with other lawyers in shared office space. Here’s a sample:
- An attorney loaned a treatise (and gave and push in the right direction) that saves a colleague $10,000 in billable time.
- A group of attorneys helped test closing arguments on a Saturday…because it was fun for them. This gave the trial firm the confidence to demand a settlement that was 30% more than they originally thought the case was worth.
- A more experienced attorney helped a younger colleague practice client intake meetings that helped him land more clients.
- Two attorneys had an impromptu conversation about collecting from deadbeat clients that led to the immediate collection of $65k in outstanding bills.
- One attorney gave another a copy of that one form for Queens Supreme Court – Civil Term that you cannot find.
3. A Good Shared Office Space Generates Referrals.
Collaborative work environments, like those found in shared law office spaces, often result in client referrals. In fact, it’s entirely reasonable for an attorney to expect that a shared office space should generate enough client referrals to substantially subsidize, if not entirely pay for, the attorney’s rent.
For example in NYC, in a cheap shared office space rental, a lawyer can expect to pay, minimally, $1,000 per month. If that firm can transform their rent from a fixed expense to a profit center, the firm can add significant additional profit to the firm’s bottom line.
The key to making this happen is being selective about the other attorneys in the shared office space. This is a particular issue in spaces where there are few resident lawyers, like what you would find in your typical lawyer co-op or a subleased office from another law firm. (This is somewhat less of a concern in a bigger shared office space with many self-employed attorneys practicing in different areas of the law, like what you would find in an executive suite for law firms.)
An attorney would want to make sure that some of the other attorneys practice in complementary areas of the law that will have the most potential for referral exchange and that the culture of the office is reasonably social.
For example, while a construction law attorney can certainly co-exist with a bunch of immigration lawyers, the better fit from a business development perspective would be a shared office space with multiple real estate attorneys.
And just because there are attorneys in a shared office space that could send referrals does not mean that they will. If the office space has a culture where everyone sticks to themselves behind closed, locked doors, then you’ll never have an opportunity to build the relationships required to exchange referrals.
A space where the other tenants are friendly and outgoing should be a natural environment to build referral relationships. Most lawyers love to talk shop, so there will be plenty of opportunities to get to know your neighbors better.
Get Your Office to Produce Thousands in Referrals Every Year