More and more lawyers are choosing to work from home, here are some tips to make sure your practice appears professional to clients and colleagues.
You may choose to work from a home office simply because you can, or for other valid lifestyle reasons. After all, it is one of the perks of being your own boss.
However, as a home-based lawyer, you will encounter clients, colleagues or adversaries who assume that you are less professional (or less successful) because you work from a home office.
This may result in greater difficulty negotiating deals with adversaries, prospective clients not hiring you, or demanding that you lower your rate since it’s not going to the overhead of an office.
Do the work from home, but use a permanent commercial address for your practice.
Consider using a permanent, commercial address.
A commercial address is important because it gives the impression of being more professional and more permanent.
Consider sharing a commercial office address with a friend, or you can rent one through a virtual office provider such as Law Firm Suites. By renting virtual office space, you give the appearance that you operate from a commercial office building while avoiding the overhead of an actual office. You receive your mail and packages there and meet clients and colleagues there. A good office suite operator will never let on to your guests that you are anything other than a full-time office renter.
P.S. If you are an urban apartment dweller, changing your home address from “Apartment 17B” to “Suite 17B” fools no one.
Have a permanent business phone number.
Keep a separate landline for your practice, and never use your home phone for business calls. Clients and adversaries often redial from caller ID.
If you have an office line and call from your home phone, you risk a business call coming through to your home and your grade school aged child picking it up, or clients calling you at odd hours of the day thinking that they will just get voicemail.
Never meet with clients in your home.
Professionalism matters most when it comes to meeting clients face-to-face. This is one of the most important parts of practicing law, and how you build a connection with clients. Do not let your clients come to your home to meet you!
You must meet clients in a professional space. Your dining room should never be your conference room. You can rent a conference room or office each time you need to use it, or you can have an arrangement with an executive suite operator where you buy a package of time per month.
Just make sure that if you’re using a new space, you know how all the technology works in advance of your meeting, and where to find everything you’ll need before the clients arrive. For all they know, this space is the office where you work from every day. Don’t blow the illusion by being incapable of dialing the phone.
Leverage branding to enhance your business image.
Branding can also help you to overcome gaps with respect to professional appearance. Invest in a professional logo and graphical “look and feel” that can be used on all of your professional stationery and marketing materials, including your website.
All of your branded materials should be consistent in look and tone, so that the client knows it’s from you when they receive it.
Have a professional email and web presence.
Nothing says low-rent attorney more than an email address without a custom domain. For example, if your name is Alicia Fernandez, a good email address would be Alicia@FernandezLaw.com.
If you are using Gmail, Yahoo, Mac or, heaven forbid, AOL for your email, you are losing business and your adversaries are mocking you. Custom domains are inexpensive; there is no excuse to not have one for your email.
The same goes for websites. Now, you can publish your own website using a WordPress template practically for free, or you can have someone build it for you for under $500. A web presence is an easy way to inexpensively create a high dollar image on a limited budget.