How MyShingle.com blogger and solo practice expert, Carolyn Elefant, inspired us to offer shared law office space rentals in NYC for $450/month.
In a 2013 article, MyShingle.com blogger and solo attorney Carolyn Elefant challenged the profession when she asked: “Would you rent office space if it only cost $500/month, and what can we do to make it happen?”
In her article, Ms. Elefant made a case for attorneys renting office space in lieu of working from home. Citing several studies and the opinion of practitioners (including her own), Ms. Elefant concluded that attorneys who rent office space are generally more successful and create more sustainable practices than those who work from home offices.
Over the past eight years I have rented office space (and virtual office services) to hundreds of attorneys. Based on my observations and personal experience with my own firm, I strongly agree with Ms. Elefant, but for slightly different reasons.
The most compelling benefit of renting office space may not be what you think.
According to Ms. Elefant, the benefits seem to be more rooted in the space itself, including additional productivity that comes from the discipline of going there every day, the presence the office space creates in the local business community, and feeling more like a business owner by virtue of having an office space.
These, of course, are real benefits of having traditional office space; however, based on my experience neither of those things are the most compelling reason to get traditional office space.
For small firm lawyers, especially those starting new practices, the true benefit comes instead from the interactions between the attorneys in the office.
It’s the by-product of multiple attorneys sharing an office space, including the constant flow of referrals, abundant co-counsel opportunities, off-the-cuff brainstorming sessions, “got-a-minute” hallway conversations, that creates efficiencies, increases revenue and contributes to the long-term sustainability of a small firm practice.
The challenge of making low cost office space available in high rent areas.
But as Ms. Elefant acknowledges, in metropolitan areas like in New York or DC where underlying lease costs are sky high, it takes a lot of creativity to offer office space at $500 per month.
For small firm attorneys who can’t justify the expense of a long-term lease, subletting empty offices in another firm’s suite is typically the most affordable option.
However, there’s little incentive for law firms who rent extra offices to offer cheap office space. There are plenty of subtenants available who will pay higher rates. Plus, cheap rent means smaller workspaces and a higher number of subtenants. Law firms do not have the infrastructure needed to manage the number of lawyers cheap space would create.
Cheap office rentals are sometimes available with multi-professional shared space providers in NYC, or at coworking spaces, but many times the working environment just isn’t suitable for the practice of law.
How we came up with (and tested) our offer.
Today we are answering Ms. Elefant’s call-to-action (albeit two years later).
For a long time there has been a gap between our virtual office packages and the lowest price workstation, which starts at about $750/month.
A few months ago we began reaching out to our community to see how we could bridge this gap while still covering underlying costs. We asked these attorneys what they thought would be a reasonable price to pay for a small workstation space if it:
- was assigned to them permanently,
- had all the privileges that come with being an office rental client in our professionally managed shared law office suite (24/7 access, guest reception, conference room & phone system access, free internet),
- came with file room storage, and
- included a few free hours of conference room time.
We received a lot of feedback and most agreed that Ms. Elefant’s $500 number was fair.
But we decided to take it one step further.
We wanted to set a price that was affordable enough to get an attorney out of their home office, but where they have the flexibility to work a day or two from home and not feel guilty about it.
So we reduced the price to $450/month, which should be less than two billable hours of work for nearly all our clients.
The workspaces are small. After all, this is New York.
However, we wanted to make sure an attorney can actually get work done.
Earlier this Summer we gave a free trial run to one of our virtual office clients.
He’s now been using the workspace for several months and, from all accounts, has been working productively and developed meaningful relationships with suitemates that he didn’t previously have. Exactly what we had hoped for.
Since then a couple of other attorneys have started to use these workspaces as part of our “soft launch”. So far, so good.
$450/month workspace rentals are available in both our locations, but space is limited.
Given the high cost of our underlying leases, we only made a few of these workspaces available to test demand. If my (and Ms. Elefant’s) assumptions are wrong about the need for inexpensive office rentals, we’ll be promptly converting this space back to higher priced offices!
In our Midtown office suite, which is mostly populated by B-to-B law firms (corporate, commercial litigation), we have eight (8) of these workspaces available.
In our Financial District location, which is more commonly rented by lawyers with consumer based practices (matrimonial, immigration, personal injury), we have only two (2) of these workspaces available.