In a recent Above The Law article, solo law practice expert Carolyn Elefant addresses the subject of coworking space for lawyers as a viable office option for solos.
Updated for 2016.
Carolyn references a New York Times blog article written by Rebekah Campbell. In this article, the author complains about some things that made her coworking experience a little less pleasant than it is for some.
NY Times Paints an Unfair Picture of Coworking for Attorneys
Campbell (a non-lawyer) mentions that there was too much noise, even in so-called “quiet spaces,” to effectively work. Some coworkers didn’t even have business of their own; instead of working, they spent their time pitching ideas and partnerships with other tenants. Campbell also raises one major complaint: the open spaces in these co-working offices allowed for potential poaching of employees and clients.
No doubt, these are problems no one wants to deal with, especially attorneys. But does this perhaps paint an unfair picture of coworking spaces? This is why it is important for attorneys to shop around for NYC coworking space that suits your professional needs before taking the plunge.
Elefant, who was upbeat about lawyer-specific coworking spaces as a viable office option for lawyers, mentions the approach we at Law Firm Suites take to tailoring our offerings to a specific profession.
“Likewise, there are ample opportunities to create co-working spaces to serve the unique needs of attorneys. Currently, there are some private companies with lawyer-specific space offerings. For example, New-York based Law Firm Suites, which offers traditional office space for lawyers as well as networking and referral opportunities, comes to mind as one of the more established players in the office-space sector.”
Why Multi-Professional Coworking Doesn’t Work for Attorneys
Stephen Furnari, a self-employed corporate attorney and the founder of Law Firm Suites, weighed in on the issue of attorneys’ use of coworking spaces.
Speaking on why multi-professional coworking spaces are not ideal for attorneys, Furnari explains that it is “not the type of space, but the culture clash with non-attorneys” that ends up causing problems for attorneys. Furnari suggests that there is a common culture among attorneys that tends to clash with those working in different professional fields simply because of their different needs.
According to Furnari, no matter what practice discipline or firm an attorney comes from attorneys are able to work side by side simply because of the commonality of their methods of producing work product. That’s not the case when it comes to web designers, real estate brokers or PR professionals.
Lawyer Only Coworking Spaces are Fertile Grounds for Referrals
Consistent with Elefant’s position, Furnari suggests that coworking spaces that are designed to specifically meet the needs of attorneys are actually quite effective from a practice development, marketing, referrals and practice management perspective.
Says Furnari, “our experience tells us that when several self-employed attorneys share one office space, over time, hundreds of thousands of referrals get exchanged. If the operator of the space actively manages that community, those referrals turn into several million dollars in exchanged business every year. ”
Should Bar Associations Operate Coworking Spaces?
Elefant also discusses whether state and local bar associations should follow in the footsteps of the Denver Bar Association and create their own coworking spaces. She posits that creating coworking spaces specific to the needs of lawyers could be very expensive without a lot of benefit for private investors, but using the state and local bar association’s resources could help cut overhead.
However, according to Furnari, running a coworking space requires specific industry knowledge and best practices in order to be successful. Says Furnari, “it isn’t simply a matter of supplying a large room with Wi-Fi and some chairs.”
While a bar association may have the member base to market to, according to Furnari, they might not have the necessary competencies (or bandwidth) to run a coworking space effectively.
Furnari suggests that bar associations would be well-served to partner with a private coworking operator, such as Law Firm Suites, and outsource the management of the space to a professional. This would be a winning scenario for both sides since neither party would be operating outside of their core competencies.