Virtual Office In NYC: An Adequate Choice For Small Firms and Solo Attorneys

By Stephen Furnari - December 1, 2014
Virtual Office In NYC: An Adequate Choice For Small Firms and Solo Attorneys

An NYC virtual office rental may sound peculiar, but for some, it is the most adequate option to do business.

How does one define a virtual office?

Virtual offices are characterized as a financial agreement in which a low monthly fee is paid by the tenant primarily for use of the commercial address. Fees can begin as low as $100 a month depending on if one has non-exclusive use of office space or the amenities that come with the space such as conference room time, professional grade Internet, or even office equipment that is a necessary resources for any small firm or solo attorney.

When it comes to attorneys, those using virtual office rentals fall into three groups:

1.  An attorney in the process of going solo or started his or her own small firm.

2.  The at-home attorney is in need of some type of commercial address.

3.  Out-of-town attorneys or firms in need of a regional office address to do business.

Why do solo attorneys and small law firms use a virtual office rental?

Every attorney is different in his or her needs to construct a virtual office arrangement. Although reasoning may be different for each individual case, three reasons stand out as the most prominent purposes an attorney may find a virtual office as a valid arrangement:

1.  Virtual offices prove to be incredibly cost effective as opposed to the traditional office rental agreement;

2.  Virtual offices give light to referrals, which are an invaluable resource to any solo attorney; and

3.  From a marketing perspective, it boosts the firm’s image indefinitely.

Why newly solo attorneys choose a virtual office rental.

Virtual Office Stress on one’s wallet is a guiding factor in the decisions made in choosing an office arrangement. A physical office is typically the preferred method of work, however, that may not always be an option for a newly solo attorney. Virtual office provide a minimal expense in obtaining the resources that are provided by a traditional office rental. One may not be able to attain the physical office in the beginning, but virtual offices allow one to use it as a stepping stone to attaining a space eventually.

Credibility is the name of the game in the practice of law and one’s image is directly linked to this important marketing tool. A commercial office address sounds very basic enough, but it is one of the most crucial elements in building an image for the firm at hand. A virtual office agreement in an executive suite typically allows clients to use space when needed without the hassle of costs for renting a traditional office. No address change is necessary in this instance.

Having the appearance that a law office is located in a premium commercial location enables lawyers to command higher rates than if they used an office address that was clearly their home. In the latter case, clients may expect that the attorney charge less since the attorney isn’t paying for office space; whereas, with a virtual office rental, since it appears the attorney’s office is located in a commercial building, the attorney would have the choice to discount their rates (and the ability to do so since they are not paying rent for physical office space) without the client demanding it simply because of where the lawyer works from.

It doesn’t always happen, but some virtual office arrangements provide a community of like-minded professionals who can help in benefiting one’s practice. These like-minded individuals can act as a source of referrals which means a potential revenue source.  It is incredibly similar to a bar association referral but the office address is shared, meaning “buy-in” to the community is greater.

Why do home-based attorneys choose a virtual office rental?

Virtual OfficeUnlike the newly solo attorney who wants a physical office rental but can’t afford it right away, some solo attorneys have made a commitment to working from a home office on a permanent basis.  Often this decision is made for lifestyle reasons, for example, if the attorney has children and wants to be close to home to assist with childcare, or simply, if the attorney wants a commute that’s as simple as rolling out of bed to their dining room table.

Home-based attorneys rent virtual office space largely for the same reasons as the newly solo attorney: it’s an inexpensive way to get a premium commercial address; and they get a consistent, professional place to meet with clients, host depositions or closings.

The right virtual office program can do wonders for the solo attorney as such an arrangement gives one connections to other professionals.

Law is a profession that tends to be best practiced collaboratively.  Being able to talk through practice issues with another attorney is critical for the successful practice of law: you tend to get better results for clients and reduce malpractice risk.

Many issues can arise for the attorney with a long-term at-home set up. The most major issue is isolation from other attorneys which can have a profound effect on one’s career.

The right virtual office arrangement can mean the difference between success or failure in the profession of law. An attorney based from home should seek a virtual office environment that is lawyer specific or at least caters to those in law and where networking opportunities are encouraged among those lawyers. When seeking out a virtual office, it is important to gauge whether such a provider has regular networking events, referral programs, or some type of perk that helps to further develop your practice.

Why do out-of-town law firms choose a virtual office rental?

virtual officeVirtual office arrangements are a good choice for out-of-town firms as well, especially for those looking to expand while keeping the bottom line in mind. New York is the epicenter for many industries from fashion to finance. It only makes sense to expand in this region because of the high potential for a new clientele. Virtual offices provide a cost effective approach as opposed to an actual physical office.

Additionally, for the law firm that already has some New York City clients, but does not have a NYC office address, other attorneys may be reluctant to refer cases because the firm does not have a “local enough” presence.  This is often the case for firms in Long Island, New Jersey, or even in boroughs other than Manhattan.

This scenario came up recently at Law Firm Suites.  An attorney needed to refer a client to a sales tax attorney. Another lawyer in the LFS community had recommended a firm that was based in Philly. The Philly firm was perfectly capable of handling the matter and does so for other NYC clients, the referring attorney would not recommend the Philly firm to his client because they did not have a Manhattan office address. Had the firm maintained a cheap virtual office address and 212 phone number, this lucrative case would have been theirs.

From time-to-time, out-of-town firms may also need first-hand advice from a local attorney about the nuances of local practice. Inside information about a judge or adversary can be invaluable. A virtual office rental, particularly one with a heavy concentration of attorneys, gets the out-of-town law firm access to local knowledge.

virtual officeFinally, a Manhattan office presence may enable the out-of-town firm to charge higher rates, even in the local area.  In a recent study, the National Consumer Law Center discovered that New York small firm lawyers with 3 to 5 years of experience, on average, charge $59.00 an hour more than their New Jersey counterparts.

By merely renting a virtual office and including a New York City office address on a law firm’s website, business card, and firm letter head, out-of-town lawyers can often command higher billable rates than their local counterparts.

Get our eBook: “How an out-of-state virtual office can help your firm.”


About Stephen Furnari

Stephen Furnari is a self-employed corporate attorney and the founder of Law Firm Suites, the operator of coworking spaces for law firms. Through Law Firm Suites, Furnari has helped hundreds of attorneys launch and grow successful law practices. He is the author of several eBooks, including “7 Deadly Mistakes that Prevent Law Practice Success” and “An Insider’s Guide to Renting the Perfect Law Office”. Stephen has been featured in the ABA Journal, Entrepreneur, New York Daily News and Crain’s New York. Connect with Stephen on Twitter (@stephenfurnari).

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