Avoiding these attorney office sublet dangers can help you find the right space for your firm.
Subleasing empty office space from another law firm is the most common office solution for solos in major cities like NYC or LA. This is because subletting from other attorneys means you don’t have to make a long term commitment and the office will already have all the necessary things required to run a law firm, such as furniture, conference rooms, internet, copy machines and phones.
But unlike a commercial landlord or executive suite operator, a law firm is not “in the business” of managing professional office space. They are only doing it to make a few bucks on an otherwise unused or wasted space. Thus, it can be challenging to get into an attorney office sublet that is a perfect, long-lasting relationship for both parties.
There are several things that you need to be aware of when it comes to attorney office sublets. Now we are not saying all sublets from an existing law office are dangerous, but before you sign up, these are some of the things you need to ask about or be on the lookout for.
Ask About Additional Expenses
Figuring out what the all-in expenses are for a law firm sublet can be challenging. Often that super cheap rent that looked so great on the listing goes away once you factor in all the extras or other hidden costs
When it comes to all the hidden costs, they aren’t devised for the firm to make a quick buck or bait-and-switch leads so that they will come in and tour. More often than not these extra expenses are an afterthought to the firm and they just forget. This is particularly true if the firm is subletting a space for the very first time.
Unless you go prepared to ask all the right questions during your tour, it’s unlikely that you will know your total cost. And we know this is true because it is exactly what happened to us on one of our recent secret shopping expeditions!
Here are a few costs you should ask about during a viewing:
- Fees for reception services.
- Do you have to purchase specific office furniture?
- Fixed fees to use a copy machine.
- Fees for phone services.
- Mark-up on postage.
- Fees for offices services, like the water cooler or cleaning.
- Additional cost to use the conference room.
Keep Scalability in Mind
If you are looking to remain a solo lawyer then a sublet can be a slightly better option. But if you have plans or goals to expand your practice, hire more staff and take on even more work, then the lack of flexibility can limit that growth.
You have to remember that the law firm is most likely renting out that space to cover their own expenses for their firm, so they are most likely not going to have space coming available all the time, so if you need room for a new paralegal or student law clerk, then you might not have room for them.
Also, at the same time, you need to consider the subleasing firm’s plans to grow.
If the firm starts to grow and continue to do better, they might look to hire more staff and expand their practice. And when this happens you can expect that you will be the first person who is asked to leave in order to make room for their new lawyer.
Consider your Client’s Experience
Your law office space reflects your firm’s brand. So one of the most important things to consider is what your clients’ experience will be like in an attorney office sublet.
Some law office spaces are set up so any firm in the space appears to be the main tenant. In other office suites, it will be clear that you’re just renting a room from a larger practice.
Think about the smaller details. Is there availability to have door or building signage. Will you be listed in the building directory? Will you be able to display your firm’s logo and name as large and definitely as the other firm? And most importantly, will your client be confused when they arrive at the building or suite?
For some law practices, these things affect a potential client’s experience and the likelihood of them becoming a paying client. For others, it may not matter.
Also, a sublessor firm sometimes provides services that will be performed by their staff. This may include reception services, IT, or the help of an office manager.
Pay careful attention to the way the staff treats you when touring the space. If they are unfriendly, rude or unprofessional to you, they will not do any better with your clients. In this situation, your client’s first impression of your firm will be made by the landlord’s staff. Make sure your clients will have a positive experience.
Ask About Office Rules
With shared office providers, you have common sense rules based on what is best for the community. Especially if that shared office space is built out with the considerations of lawyers specifically in mind.
But attorneys who sublet space are not in the business of renting office space. And as a result, it’s not uncommon to have to deal with quirky rules set by the sublet landlord. Here are a few that we have come across:
- You must have cherry wood furnishings purchased from this specific store.
- The cost of paper is split between all lawyers whether you use the copy machine or not.
- The landlords firm gets conference room priority, always.
Some rules are annoying, but you know what is even worse? No rules. When you work in an office devoid of rules, it will become a problem for you. Imagine your suitemate is disruptive, annoying, and as a result, your firm is losing business. When there are no rules, then there is nothing that can be done to prevent this from continuing to happen.
Using an attorney office sublet from a law firm can be a great experience that is mutually beneficial for you and your landlord. Avoiding these dangers can help you find the right space.