12 Mar Office Confessions
I have a confession to make — as a lawyer I hate most law offices. I don’t at all like the cold and corporate faux decor that you find at big law firms, lacking in soul because there are so many people working there it is impossible to make the decor reflect who works there. At the other end of the spectrum, too many small firms or solo practices lack personal feeling because they rent the space and the lease often limits what they can do to personalize the space. So most law offices are not a comfortable place for me and I find I can’t get any feel for a person in the same manner that I can get a sense of a person from their home.
Given that most lawyers spend a lot of time in their office, you would think it would be more of an effort to be comfortable.
I have another confession to make — I don’t have my own office and I am comfortable in it. I base my practice at a co-working space called Cowork Frederick.
Cowork Frederick is in a historic row house in Downtown Frederick. The above picture is the living room, great for relaxed working, informal meetings, or just relaxing a bit.
This is the community work room with space for up to 20 or so people to work. In the background is a current client of mine.
I don’t work well at home on a regular basis (although currently both my wife and I work from home on Mondays-a perk we have never had in the past). If I work at home, I find myself doing things like laundry or watching replays of soccer games or other things instead of working. So I needed a place to work that was comfortable but not home. I needed a space with access to printing, faxing, scanning, and other technology so I didn’t need to pay for that technology for home and office. I needed a place that would accept my mail, offered conference space when I needed it, and could expand and contract to meet changing needs.
Also, when starting out, I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on office rental. Cowork Frederick gave me all that I needed along with flexibility. I can could work one or three days a week, or cut back to an absolute minimum payment when I was out on a contract job. I could work here five days a week and it would cost far less than a traditional office.
I believe more lawyers, particularly solo attorneys, should consider a coworking space as their main or a supplemental office. On any given day, there are between 3 and 10 people working here. There are informal opportunities to meet and talk to potential clients or referral sources. In fact, I have two clients that came directly from simply working at Cowork Frederick. Even outside of potential clients, the mere fact of having human contact not related to work has been helpful for my own sanity.
But solo lawyers should consider a coworking environment because the way the practice of law is changing. I have very, very few paper files, so I don’t need lots of storage for files. There are mechanisms at most coworking spaces to have private conversations and maintain confidentiality. And, at least in my case, I am closer to my desired clientele as a result of my joining a coworking space.
Coworking spaces, often a haven for what I call “creative professionals” such as web designers, writers, graphic designers/artists, social media experts, are fantastic for lawyers who might need those services. But they offer also an insight into how other businesses operate. If you are a lawyer representing businesses, you need to know how they operate and thus how you can help them. I love working with small businesses and business owners, and being at Cowork Frederick has given me an opportunity to do that.
There is one final reason I love working at Cowork Frederick and that is the impression it gives my clients. Because my office overhead is very small, my fees are lower which in turn appeals to my clients. My clients know that the fees they pay are for my services and not for my office space. I demonstrate my concern for their bottom line by charging only for my services and not a premium for a fancy office. When I walk in to law offices (or my doctor’s office or other professional service office), I often wonder “how much of my fees are going to pay for this ostentatious space?”
I am a big believer in coworking for attorneys. If a newly solo attorney is looking for office space, I would quickly tell them to find a coworking space.