Following these 5 suggestions will help solo attorneys choose the best New York virtual office for their practice.
What is a New York Virtual Office?
A New York virtual office is a financial arrangement where solo and small firm attorneys pay a low monthly fee (typically starting at $149/month) to rent the use of a premium commercial business address in an executive office center and gain access to the non-exclusive use of office space and amenities, such as conference room facilities, telecommunications packages, a staffed reception area and mail services.
Not all New York virtual offices are created equally. In fact, solo attorneys and small law firms have different needs than many other small businesses.
5 Things a Solo Attorney Should Consider When Choosing a New York Virtual Office
1. Does the New York Virtual Office Meet Ethical Requirements?
If you are a New York state resident, you can skip this part. Just by virtue of full-time residency, you are exempt from the bona-fide office requirement.
Under New York Judiciary Law (“NYJL”) s. 470, an out-of-state attorney who is licensed to practice in New York can do so if they maintain an “office for the transaction of law business” within the State of New York.
Under prevailing case law, an office can be defined to include the availability of non-exclusive desk space with access to a telephone, availability of conference rooms to meet clients, and a designated agent to accept service of process on your behalf. You also have to be available to make last minute-court appearances (or choose a New York virtual office exclusively for attorneys, so you can always line up substitute counsel for a last minute appearance.
Many New York virtual office providers do not meet the stringent ethical standards that New York State licensed attorneys are subject to.
2. Environment and Business Culture.
Different New York 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. This being said, lawyers should consider coworking exclusive for attorneys.
3. New York Virtual Office Term Length.
When examining your virtual office contract or license agreement, pay special attention the term duration. Many providers will attempt to “lock-you-in” for a year commitment. While this may be standard for a New York sublet office rental, it is not for virtual offices.
Your agreement should be drafted around a month-to-month subscription model. The most important benefit of a month-to-month relationship is the flexibility to upgrade or downgrade your package as your practice expands and contracts.
Also, look for hidden fees. Many virtual office providers charge a large credit card processing fee. The rub being that they only accept credit cards as a form of payment. In the end, the yearly processing fee can be the equivalent of an additional month of your virtual office pack.
The starting price for virtual office packages are reasonably consistent around the country, with packages starting at around $149/month. However, the main difference will be the cost for extra services, including conference room and day office usage.
Conference room rates are specifically important for solo attorneys, as client meetings are inevitable. Conference room 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, depending on what part the center is located. 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 does not 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.