Learn the pros and cons of choosing a NYC coworking space as your law firm’s office.
One of the major questions solo attorneys must ask themselves before starting their own firm is what type of office they’ll get. Leasing a private office or running a law practice out of a home office might not be the ideal fit for you.
Luckily, there is another option that will provide you with everything you need to get your practice off the ground and could also help you bring in new clients: coworking.
Here are just some of the pros and cons of choosing NYC coworking space exclusively for lawyers:
You’re saving money
Most solo attorneys can’t afford to rent their own private office when they first open their practice. Even if you do have room in your budget, you might want to wait until your practice is off the ground to rent a private office.
You never know when you might experience a lull in new business during the first year of your law practice and you don’t want to be strapped for cash because you invested too much in a private office.
You get access to a fully functioning office
Choosing NYC coworking space will provide you with everything a private office does, but at a lower price. You’ll still have access to the works, including conference rooms, mail services, reception and everything else you need to run a law practice.
It’s low maintenance
Managing your own space can be a hassle and many solo attorneys will often move to a coworking space in order to avoid handling the day-to-day obligations that come with running an office.
Your coworking space will be an affordable way to gain access to a professional office space run by a highly-skilled staff that still feels like your own. The staff at your coworking space will take care of everything for you so you can avoid any added stress.
You’ll prevent isolation
Always working from home as a solo attorney can often create a sense of isolation. It’s human nature to seek out social situations and feel a desire for human contact.
Operating in a coworking space with other attorneys will provide you with opportunities to build relationships that not only benefit you professionally, but also improve your work environment. The sense of camaraderie you’ll experience with other attorneys will make your workday more pleasant as well as give you the support system you need for your law practice.
The people you meet could be referral sources
Coworking centers promote networking and collaboration. Collaborative work environments often result in client referrals.
Additionally, sitting at a workstation will increase your visibility to suitemates, which will allow you to quickly develop referral relationships with other attorneys. Conversations are easy because you have the same educational and professional background as your peers.
“I met a lot of my early referral sources just by chatting with them as they walked by my workstation,” Louis said.
You could find co-counsel opportunities
When an attorney has a case that requires legal work in an area outside of their expertise, they will often seek out a colleague they trust to co-counsel on a case. The more time you spend around other attorneys in a coworking space, the more likely it is you’ll be asked to work on a case with another colleague.
Choosing NYC coworking space will provide you with the type of collaborative environment where co-counsel opportunities are common and you’ll bring in new revenue simply by being around your peers.
You’ll gain easy access to advice from other solos
Your suitemates can be valuable sources of information and guidance when it comes to the ins and outs of small firm practice.
If you need tips for running a successful practice or if you need advice on a case, then your best resources will be the attorneys in your coworking space. Being around other solo attorneys will make you a better lawyer and more successful business owner because you’ll be able to rely on their experience.
You can easily meet clients in an appropriate setting
It’s always better to meet clients at a professional office space because that is what they expect from an attorney. Meeting them anywhere else could damage your reputation and put your relationship with them at risk. For example, solo attorney Cari Rincker once had someone refuse to pay her consultation fee because she met them at a noisy coffee shop.
Your clients will never know the difference
Clients want to meet you at a professional office that feels like a law practice, but they don’t care if you bring them into a private office or a conference room. You could have a client meeting in a conference room every time and they’ll continue to assume the whole space is your law practice.
You’ll be able to impress clients and boost the credibility of your law firm without spending a lot of money on a private office. Joleena Louis was never asked about her private 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 and no conference rooms are available,” Louis said.
You’ll avoid the distraction of working at home
Sometimes you need to physically go somewhere outside of your home in order to focus. Maybe your spouse or kids won’t leave you alone while you’re working at your home office. Perhaps you can’t stop yourself from doing one more load of laundry or turning on the television. Going to an office environment will save you from these distractions.
An office environment could make you more productive
Some people actually find working from home to be too quiet and they prefer hearing the sounds of an office when they work.
In a comment on a LifeHacker article about coworking, user @nwilliams, said “I think the biggest thing that I miss when I’m working from home is the noise of the office. I have gone to great lengths to extend access to office chatter to employees I work with who work from home, but there is really no substitute for being in the office.”
Additionally, your choosing NYC coworking space will force you to be around other working professionals, which will inspire you to be productive.
You might be able to transition to a private office within a year
If you realize coworking doesn’t work for you or if you just have your heart set on a private office, then a coworking arrangement doesn’t have to last very long. It can be a tool that helps you build your firm until you have the financial means to make the transition to a private office.
Ultimately, your ability to move from a coworking space to a private office will depend on the profitability of your practice; however, many solos have reported being able to afford a private office soon after the first year of solo practice.
Noise is a possibility
The noise level in any coworking space will depend on where the workstation is located and your sensitivity to noise. If you need complete silence to get your work done, you may want to be very selective about where your workstation is located, or just spend the additional money on a small private office.
It will also depend on who is in the space with you and what their work habits are. Luckily, most lawyers seem to enjoy a similar work environment as their peers. You will be more likely to find an appropriate noise level in an all-lawyer space than a multiprofessional space full of noisy technology startups.
You’ll have to plan for privacy
You will need to have a confidential phone conversation from time-to-time, which you can’t have in an open coworking environment. Resolving this issue will require a little advance planning.
If you know you have a confidential call scheduled, you can easily book a conference room or phone room. But even with the best planning, it’s inevitable that you get an unexpected call that requires privacy. Sometimes conference rooms won’t be available and the phone rooms will be full.
In this case, you’ll need ask your coworking colleagues who have private offices if you can use their office for emergency private calls. Or, you can speak with the staff and they’ll allow workstation rental clients to use unrented office space to make private calls.
You’ll have to step outside of your comfort zone
Working in some coworking spaces may require you to get used to being “out in the open,” where other attorneys can walk by and see you.
Joleena Louis had similar concerns when she started her law practice in a coworking deskspace in NYC’s Financial District.
“It initially felt weird to be so out in the open,” said Louis, but she eventually got used to it.
You’ll need to commit to using it
A coworking membership can sometimes turn into a neglected gym membership. No one is going to force you to go, but you’re going to be paying for it either way. If you don’t go, then you might not see the results you originally hoped for.
Once you choose to sign up for a coworking membership, you’ll have to make an effort to actually go to the office often enough to experience all the benefits of it. It’s fine if you genuinely don’t want to use it often, but don’t expect to develop as many relationships or get as many referrals. It’s easier to meet people if you physically come in.
Leaving your home office to work at your coworking office space will require facing the dreaded busy commute into the city. Many would say it’s a small price to pay to boost your productivity and bring in new business for your firm; however, it can be annoying. Commuting to an office will never be as pleasant or convenient as walking down the hall from your bedroom to your home office.
Luckily, one of the benefits of being your own boss is you get to decide how often you come in and what time. You can split your time between your coworking space and your home office if the commute is too much. If you plan ahead, can use the commute time to do marketing tasks, like update your social profiles.
Socializing in the office can be a distraction so you’ll have to find a balance between being productive and taking a moment to chat with someone who could be an important professional connection. If you find yourself getting too caught up in talking to your suitemates, then try coming in for only a few hours a day or finding a period of time when the office is empty to get most of your work done.
Now that you understand the pros and cons of choosing NYC coworking space, you can make an informed decision about your law firm’s office arrangement. Essentially, coworking is an affordable alternative to a private office, yet it’s more social than a home office and can often result in new clients for solo attorneys. Whatever you choose, make sure you’re using your office space as a tool to find new opportunities for your firm.