Though a home office is probably the cheapest option for a solo, nothing blows a negotiation worse than a barking pet. And if the thought of seeing only your family and the person delivering your takeout food sounds isolating, you might want to consider an alternative working arrangement.
One option is a coworking space.
Coworking spaces have traditionally been marketed to creatives and tech startups, but they can also be an affordable option for solo attorneys.
What is a Coworking Space?
Coworking spaces usually have an open layout, lower rent than a regular office, perks like free coffee and meeting-room time, and cool marketing.
For your monthly rent, you get access to a communal table or dedicated desk, WiFi, a power outlet, document shredding, and a break room with complimentary coffee and tea. Coworking spaces also hold events like happy hours or educational seminars.
Typical premium upgrades for coworking spaces include a dedicated desk or office, and conference room time. Some of the fancier coworking spaces even offer free beer and game rooms.
Because of the amenities and marketing, the demographics of coworking spaces compared to law office suites skew a bit younger. Like, under-thirty young. You might feel like a narc if you are over forty.
The main difference between a coworking space and a law office suite is the ambiance and culture. Coworking spaces are filled with young web designers, press reps, app developers, and tech startups. People are constantly moving around, chatting, collaborating, and distracting themselves from work.
If you are bored holed up in your office suite, a coworking space is the more interactive option. But a coworking space lends itself to distraction. Many opt to go in a few days per week, in part to allow for some focused time at home. Others get a dedicated office with a door.
One reason solos like working in suites with other lawyers is for business development. Some suites accept only one firm in a particular practice area so other members can freely refer cases.
In a coworking space, business development isn’t as easy for lawyers.
“Going into it, I thought people would need lawyers,” said Daniel Gershburg, a real estate and bankruptcy attorney with offices at WeWork. “I’ve found it’s the lowest common denominator. People are looking for free advice.” When a startup or freelancer is looking for a lawyer, “thirty lawyers respond immediately and cut prices.”
Many of the pre-funded startups and freelancers don’t have money to spend on legal services, and they’re only looking for small jobs like business formation. You are also competing with BigLaw firms that offer pro bono services to startups. And if a startup does get funding, VCs often require they use a preferred firm.
Can law firms get business from coworking space users? Yes.
Is it going to cover your rent? Probably not.
No matter where you are working, keeping client confidentiality is a huge concern. Just like you should not conduct client meetings in a Starbucks, you should not speak with clients about confidential matters in a public space.
If you are working on an open floor with other businesses, keeping client confidentiality can be difficult. At coworking spaces, you can take calls in a conference room. But if your practice has a lot of unscheduled calls, a dedicated office may be the only way to protect confidentiality. And that comes at a big premium. If you are seeking out a dedicated office at a coworking space, you should price it out against a law office suite.
The Perception and Professionalism of Coworking
Depending on your practice and your typical clients, you might be concerned about the impression your office gives. Are you working at a law office or a playground?
“I thought investor clients would think I was eleven years old,” Mr. Gershburg said. “But, they love the concept and idea. A few of them have said ‘I couldn’t care less where you practice. I know that the fees I pay go to your office space.’ Clients want the work done, they don’t care about the space.”
But, before making a judgment, consider how often you will have clients at your office and if they are just going to see a lobby and the inside of a conference room.
How much you need to care about perception and professionalism will definitely depend on the type of clients you want to attract.
Featured image: “Business People Working Office Corporate Team Concept” from Shutterstock.