6 things attorneys should consider when choosing a virtual office provider.
What is a virtual office?
A virtual office rental arrangement is a financial arrangement where solo and small firm attorneys pay a low monthly fee (typically starting at under $100 month) to rent the use of a premium commercial address in an executive office suite and the non-exclusive use of office space and amenities, such as conference room facilities, a staffed reception area and access to law firm grade telecommunications and office equipment.
Who provides virtual offices?
Nearly every executive office center offers virtual offices. There are office centers in every major (and secondary) business center around the globe.
Virtual offices are generally sold in packages. The least costly packages will allow you to use the center’s address and will collect and forward your incoming mail. The more expensive packages will include an allotment of conference room and day office time each month.
The centers are generally professionally operated and well-appointed. Take time to find a space that best suits your needs.
What should an attorney consider when choosing a virtual office provider?
The starting price for virtual office packages are reasonably consistent around the country, with packages starting at around $100/month. However, the main difference will be the cost for extra services, including conference room and day office usage. Rates can vary from as little as $10/hour for a regional business city, to $250/hour in London or Manhattan. Prices can vary substantially even in different centers located in the same city. Check a few places to get a feel for the local market before choosing a location.
Just because you need a virtual office in a particular city doesn’t mean that all locations in that city will be convenient for your needs or that of your clients. Pay careful attention to where you will be travelling in and out from, and also where your client will be coming from. A location close to a central transportation hub, where you can easily get to the airport and your clients can easily get to you, is ideal.
Make sure the center has space and amenities that adequately meet your needs. Office centers sometimes skimp on conference rooms, making it hard to get reservations when you need them. Also, bigger conference rooms will cost more than smaller rooms, so if the center only has a 30 person boardroom available for rent, consider renting elsewhere.
4. Onsite Staff.
When you inquire about renting a virtual office, be sure to assess the staff’s attentiveness and competence regarding any questions you may have.
The staff will be interacting with your clients and their behavior and professionalism will be directly attributable to you.
Always ask if there will be adequate staff on hand during business hours. You would be surprised at how many executive centers leave their reception areas unattended during certain portions of the day, or worse, leave the center in the hands of someone who is completely incompetent. Make sure you understand what type of staff will be in the center during business hours.
5. Check Testimonials & Case Studies.
Most executive office centers will provide testimonials from current virtual office clients on their website. The testimonials are voluntary statements from people who actually use the virtual office services you are researching.
In particular, look for testimonials from other attorneys. Specifically, look for testimonials from attorneys whose practices are most similar to yours. For example, if you are a DC firm looking to establish a satellite office in New York, look for testimonies from other out-of-town firms about how the staff’s local knowledge was helpful.
However, if you see testimonials from other professionals whose presence in the center may be disruptive to your meeting (like stock trading firms who scream at their computer monitors all day), consider a different space.
6. Environment and Business Culture.
Different virtual office providers have different business cultures and the working environment in any center will be dictated by center’s core clientele. For example, Law Firm Suites services attorneys exclusively. When you come into one of our suites it feels like a working law office. We have mostly closed door offices and the working environment is professional and subdued.
On the other hand, our colleagues at Sunshine Suites, another executive office center in downtown Manhattan, rent virtual offices and office space to start-up companies, mostly in technology. They rent open air, modular spaces that give their clients’ rapidly changing businesses the flexibility to easily grow and contract as needed. Without closed workspaces, there’s a noisy buzz in Sunshine Suites’ center that their core clientele finds inspiring and motivating.
Lawyers and technology start-up companies have different business cultures. Techie professionals would likely find a NYC shared law office space boring, and attorneys would likely be annoyed by a lack a lack of privacy found in technology specific coworking centers.
Your clients and colleagues have an expectation about what your office space will be like. They expect that they will be meeting you in a law office. Make sure the office center where you are renting your meeting space is consistent with your clients’ expectations. An office center with a high percentage of attorneys (or one that is exclusive to attorneys) is your best bet.