Solo attorney, Joleena Louis, answers common questions about using a NYC workstation rental for your first law office.
If you’re a bootstrapping entrepreneurial lawyer like me who is thinking about starting a solo practice, what to do about your first office location is probably on your mind. It was for me.
Since I started my firm with no clients (and I mean not one), it didn’t really make any logical sense to pay rent for an office space when I could easily get a monthly virtual office rental for less than the cost of a decent meal out.
But I knew that wouldn’t work for me. I wanted to be in an office with other lawyers every day. Working from home, it would’ve been too tempting to get distracted with the things I like, rather than pushing myself outside of my comfort zone to build a business.
Ultimately, like many other attorneys starting firms, I started out in a NYC workstation rental that worked really well for me while I got myself established.
I have since upgraded to a private office in the same Manhattan law office sublet space, but if you like me and know in your heart that you would just end up being lazy working from a home office, I recommend the workstation route.
Here are some of my thoughts about the pros and cons:
1. Out of the other choices like a physical office or even a virtual office, why did you choose a workstation rental?
It really came down to the way I work. I need to physically go somewhere to work in order to focus. I chose a workstation over a private office due primarily to cost.
2. When you came to Law Firm Suites, you originally signed up for a “start-up” package. Was that helpful for your business?
[The Start-Up Package is a special rental program for lawyers starting new firms.]
The Start–up Package was extraordinarily helpful and one of the main reasons I chose Law Firm Suites.
The rent starts out very low, and then gradually escalates. This made it so much easier for me in the first few months when I wasn’t really making any money. My rent went up as my business started to grow.
The Start-Up Package definitely made renting an office space financially feasible for me.
3. Were there any hesitations you may have had about working from a workstation before signing up (noise, privacy, security, your image)?
My biggest concern was privacy and it initially felt weird to be so out in the open. I was a little worried about security too. Anybody could have access to whatever was on my desk; files, laptop, and so forth.
I did wonder what my clients would think but I wasn’t overly concerned about it.
4. What was the outcome for any of those initial fears? Did they end up being a problem or not?
My initial fears didn’t really end up being much of a problem. I got used to being “out in the open and I never had any security issues.
I kept my laptop secured and with me at all times and never left any sensitive files or information laying around. I always met clients in the conference rooms and I have never been asked about my actual office.
Even now that I have a private office I almost exclusively meet clients in a conference room and only meet them in my office if it’s a last minute emergency no conference rooms are available.
5. Did you ever think using a workstation rental was a “step down” or beneath you?
I never thought of using a workstation rental as a “step down” or beneath me. It was just an affordable way to get started and still gave me the option of being in-office.
6. What were some unexpected benefits or working from a NYC workstation rental?
The biggest unexpected benefit of the workstation rental was the amount of people I met. I got to meet a lot of the attorney’s around me and many of their clients, just due to being visible in my workstation.
I got consistent exposure which is essential to law practice success.
7. What were some unexpected drawbacks?
The only drawback for me was noise and privacy. It was sometimes hard to focus when I could hear everyone around me talking. This factor made sensitive phone calls almost impossible, so I used conference rooms for those calls.
I was also interrupted frequently by people passing by who stopped to chat. While this was usually good, it was disruptive when I really needed to get something done.
8. Was your experience positive or negative overall?
Overall the workstation was a great experience and I could honestly have used it long term if it wasn’t for the noise/privacy issue. It’s just more convenient to be in an office with a door that closes, especially when I need to make an important phone call or when I really need to focus.
Thankfully though, being in the workstation played a big part in me being able to afford the extra expense of the private office.
9. How did the workstation rental contribute to the success of your practice and how?
Choosing the workstation contributed to the success of my practice because I met a lot of my early referral sources just by chatting with them as they walked by my workstation.
If I had started in a private office, in all likelihood, my door would have been closed more often and I would have missed those connections.
10. How long do you think it would/should take to upgrade to a private office? Is it necessary?
The time it takes to upgrade really depends on the individual and in some cases may not even be necessary. It depends on your work style and need for privacy.
Within about a year from starting your firm, you should have enough stability to afford the upgrade to a small private office.
11. Would you would recommend a workstation rental to someone starting a firm?
I would recommend a workstation as the perfect balance between a virtual and private office. It is not only cost effective; but if you rent in a shared lawyer office space, it is a great way to get to know other attorneys around you. That will often lead to referrals which should easily cover your rent.
A workstation may be your route to law practice success.
Check out our Start-Up Package today!
Joleena Louis is a matrimonial and family law attorney at Joleena Louis Law, a ﬁrm she founded after leaving a boutique matrimonial ﬁrm in Brooklyn. Joleena is a client in Law Firm Suites’ start-up program in Downtown, New York. Her weekly blog series Things I Wish I Knew… explores her thought process and experiences in her transition from small law ﬁrm employee to successful solo practice entrepreneur.