Virtual Law Office and Law Firm Coworking Spaces

Virtual Law Firm Suites & Coworking

If you're exploring virtual law firm office suites or planning to use a coworking space for your law firm, start your search with this handy guide!

If you’ve ever felt like you were paying too much rent for your law office, that signing a personal guaranty or a 5-year lease is gross, or that you’re focusing too much on administrative office management tasks, switching to a virtual law office suite or law firm coworking space may be a great option for you.

“Well, why don’t I just work in a coffee shop or bar instead of a coworking space?” You might be thinking, but the noise, the lack of privacy, the potentially awkward logistics for client meetings, and the persistent (but well-documented) security threats make it a bad idea. It also reflects poorly on your brand. Basically:

lawyerist virtual law office law firm suites and law firm coworking image about distractions everywhere

Virtual law office suites and coworking spaces are far better options. They offer on-demand offices, meeting rooms, and other business amenities at hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly rates. They give you the trappings of a “real” office by providing benefits like a legitimate business address, receptionist services, and sometimes even maker studios to help you film a video or record a podcast episode.

What is a Virtual Office?

A virtual office space, also called an executive office or serviced office, provides all the amenities and resources of a physical office, but “virtually.” That is to say, you could have, among other things, a live receptionist, a mailing address, a shared desk (or full-on private office), and meeting spaces on an as-needed basis. Think of it as working from home with an on-demand office. It helps to cut the expenses and commitment required for more traditional office arrangements, particularly as you’re just starting out building your law practice. It can also offer much-needed flexibility in your workspace and day.

Virtual office spaces offer amenities like:

  • Providing a business address for registration, a listing on building directories, a place to receive/pickup/hold mail, an address for your website and business cards, and a healthy dose of credibility while boosting your SEO (particularly the local search variety) and making good first impressions on your potential clients.
  • Providing on-demand working spaces, private offices, and conference rooms to hold meetings, take depositions, or conduct ADR, among other meetings.
  • Copiers, printers, scanners, and fax machines.
  • An on-site receptionist to answer phones and greet people, including you, which is really quite nice if you otherwise work alone.
  • Other phone, mail, and internet services, like a business phone number, voicemail, extensions, VOIP, web conferencing, virtual assistants, and cloud services.

While a private mailbox service—like a mailbox at USPS or at a mail and business center like FedEx or UPS—may provide some of the conveniences you need from a simple business address, it lacks the personal touch, SEO benefits, and client service element that a virtual office provides.

One potential downside to virtual office spaces is that you’ll have to work harder to network and get out of the house, which means being strategic about your networking and creating a community for yourself. You can always join us at Lawyerist, of course, where we have an active and energized Facebook group and meetups around the country.

You’ll also need to be more organized and mindful about your papers and filing system. You don’t really get an “office” in these places. You get access to sit in an office. So you better be portable, organized, and efficient. You’re essentially going without a traditional office and its related filing cabinets, credenzas, and old-file storage rooms. (You’ve already decided you’re going paperless, right?)

Virtual office space can be really useful if you work primarily from home or if you are actually running a virtual law firm and need a bona fide office. It will give you the legitimacy of a separate mailing address and the flexibility to use meeting rooms and an office on demand. And it is usually priced in a way that you don’t feel too rotten if you don’t go sit there every day. It’s also useful if you’re thinking about expanding your law practice into a different market but you want to test that market before committing to a more traditional office there.

What is a Law Firm Coworking Space?

Coworking spaces are what most of the cool kids are doing these days. Coworking spaces as we know them today first burst onto the scene in 2010, but have exploded in popularity in recent years. Startups like Spotify, Indiegogo, Instagram, and Ofo began in coworking spaces, and we know of plenty of up-and-coming law firms that have started there, too.

Coworking offices provide many of the same goodies as virtual office spaces, but are obviously preferable if you’re looking for regular access to a physical working space. And, probably most importantly, coworking spaces offer human connection, which will help you grow your business and keep your wits about you. They’re great for networking and meeting new people. Who knows, maybe that new startup needs an attorney, and you’re at the right place at the right time.

Coworking spaces can be more general, with people of different crafts and industries working in the same space, or more specific, like a coworking space exclusively for dancers, artists, real estate agents, or lawyers. Some coworking spaces also offer virtual office services. So while the two are separate things, they can be very much interconnected, too. Coworking spaces are shared and collaborative workspaces.

Coworking spaces usually package their offerings at hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly rates, and always offer tours of the space so you can be sure it’s the right fit for you. This last part is important because your coworking space will be your office. You want to be sure you’ll enjoy the atmosphere and get along with the other members. In lots of ways, they’ll be your new “coworkers.”

Considerations

Just a Note

The companies we list on Lawyerist have a nationwide presence. This is helpful if you travel a lot across the US or internationally for work, or if you’re looking for a membership with a company that could facilitate conference space when you take depositions or mediate in a different state. To be clear, there are also many local options for coworking spaces and virtual office spaces. Those offerings used to be confined to metropolitan areas, but the trend is definitely expanding more broadly. Make sure you explore your local options as you decide which one is right for you.

Details

So which law firm coworking or virtual office space is right for you? Your first consideration should be what you need and want for your practice. Research the amenities, features, and pricing for each. Do they have the printing, scanning, copying, mailroom, faxing, reception, conference rooms, kombucha bars, and doggie treats you need to feel good about running your practice?

If you want to start your practice working from home and eventually move to a physical location, maybe you’re best to start with a virtual office space that also offers coworking options. See if the company can scale with you. Does it have client service features and approaches that align with what you want to do? Do you want a space that offers 24/7 access? Do you need to take timezones into consideration? Is the coworking space in a location you can build a commute around?

With virtual offices, you’ll have a little more flexibility because you’ll use the actual space somewhat irregularly. But for coworking spaces, you’ll need to consider:

  • Do you like the location?
  • Do you like the people?
  • Is it the kind of community you want?
  • Are its seating options (assigned, hot desks, private offices, etc.) a good fit for you?
  • Does the working environment suit you? That is, does it pump EDM incessantly at max volume like an Abercrombie retail shop (ugh), offer decent air quality, workable ambient room noise, and sufficient options for private meetings and calls when necessary? This is an especially important consideration if you’re meeting clients in this space. The space will reflect your brand and impact your client’s experience.
  • Does it have the amenities you want, like free coffee and LaCroix, an onsite cafe and kombucha bar, a kitchen, group activities, brown-bag lunch-and-learns, or professional development opportunities?

You’ll also want to be vigilant about internet security. See if the space offers individualized private Wi-Fi networks or a VPN and what their digital security policies and practices look like. You may also want to invest in other additional security measures, like a password protector, laptop lock, your own VPN, and secure cloud storage. Digital security is, of course, critical regardless of where you office.

Most virtual office spaces and coworking spaces offer tours, a day pass, and a trial period. Go see what it’s like to work there (and to make sure the internet is fast enough for your needs). You may just stumble on a perfect fit for your law firm’s next office.

If you’re starting or growing a small or solo law firm, whether in a home, virtual, or coworking space, you absolutely must join Lawyerist Insider. And if you’re interested in getting a powerful snapshot of your firm’s strengths and weaknesses right now, take the Small Firm Scorecard right away!

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