Solo attorneys and small firms choose a New York City virtual offices for three reasons.
Tell us about a New York City virtual office.
A virtual office rental is a financial arrangement where solo attorneys and small law firms 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 professional grade Internet, telephone, and office equipment.
What attorneys would use New York City virtual office rentals?
Attorneys typically fall into one of three categories when acquiring a virtual office rental:
- Solo attorneys who recently started their own law practice,
- Solo attorneys who primarily work from a home office, and
- Solo attorneys and small law firms whose primary office location is located in another city or another state.
A New York City virtual office would be best for what reasons?
While different types of attorneys use virtual offices, the reasoning behind it often falls into three of the most universal benefits:
- There’s a substantial cost saving as compared to traditional office rentals;
- They get access to a community of other lawyers who can help with practice issues or send referrals; and
- It gives the firm a professional image.
Why newly solo attorneys choose a virtual office rental.
Cost is primarily the guiding reason behind a solo lawyer’s choice to acquire a virtual office rental. A physical office is typically the most desirable option for any newly solo attorney, however, in a market such as New York City, costs prohibit such a desire. That extra expense may not even be manageable.
With a New York City virtual office, one can one day attain that much-desired office rental and work their way to it eventually.
A virtual office rental provides new solo attorneys with a premium commercial address for their firm, which gives the practice more credibility. Plus, if the virtual office provider is also an operator of an executive suite, the attorney will typically get access to a professional workspace to meet with clients when they require it. When the attorney is ready, they can then transition into a physical office space, usually in the same address as their virtual office rental, without the disruption that comes with changing the address of your law practice (their address would stay the same).
Appearances are everything in law and even just seemingly having a premium commercial office address holds a lot of power. The attorney can demand higher rates than an attorney who uses their home address.
Especially with someone using a home address, it is common for clients to believe they will get a lower rate, no matter how brilliant you are in practice. With a New York City virtual office, the appearance of renting a space in a commercial building allows the attorney to have the b\power instead of the client demanding the lowered rate outright.
In some cases, particularly in a lawyer-only office suite that offers virtual office rentals, newly solo attorneys will often find a community of like-minded, self-employed attorneys who can help them tackle practice issues, provide advice on areas of law they may be unfamiliar with and be a resource to exchange referrals. It’s similar to what the attorney would find in a bar association, but where attorneys are less transient because they share a commercial address, which is difficult to change and thus, result in greater “buy in” to the community.
Why do home-based attorneys choose a virtual office rental?
Sometimes working at home has become a commitment instead of working from a physical office. Not all solos are financially strapped and just want to experience the flexibility working from home provides. The most likely reasoning is lifestyle.
For example, think about an attorney who recently had a baby and doesn’t have access to childcare or doesn’t want to enlist the help of childcare. Being at home makes it easy and you can just take care of your child while working on legal documents in between.
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.
However, with the right virtual office program, the most significant benefit of a virtual office rental is the connection to other professionals.
At it’s finest, law is practiced in a collaborative manner. We as attorneys need to feel we can talk issues out so we ensure the best resources are acquired to do the job successfully. Collaboration leads to better results and reduces the risk of malpractice.
Even if you prefer to practice from home, isolation can really have a profound effect on your career as an attorney.
A well-chosen virtual office program can be the connection to other attorneys that the home-based lawyer needs to be successful. Home-based attorneys should look for a virtual office program that is lawyers only, or has a high concentration of attorneys, and where the management actively provides opportunities for virtual office attorney to connect with each other. When considering a virtual office provider, look for an operator that sponsors regular networking events, access to referral sharing programs or practice development coordination.
Why do out-of-town law firms choose a virtual office rental?
Beyond starting your practice or needing opportunities for collaboration, some firms just want to expand their presence for a very low cost. New York City is the epicenter for just about every money-making industry. Having a firm outside the city means little access to the local referral streams available. With a virtual office, one can get more for their money and acquire all the benefits over time with the huge overhead costs.
Additionally, for the law firm that already has some New York City clients, but does not have an 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.
Finally, 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 letterhead, out-of-town lawyers can often command higher billable rates than their local counterparts.
I live in Germany. In NY I´ve got a US corporation. The corporation is currently basically inactive. If I would rent a virtual office in Manhatten, would I need to file NY City Tax Returns? And NY State Tax Returns? Or would it be better to rent such a virtual office outside NY? Best regards, Thomas