Volume 11, no. 4
Microfirm Office Options: Home Field Advantage or Away Game?
By David J. Abeshouse
Solos and small firm lawyers can work from a lockable space at home (basement, study, extra bedroom, outbuilding, Manhattan apartment closet); lease office space in a downtown or suburban office building; lease a small office/storefront; share space with an existing professional services firm; or rent space and services from an executive suite, such as HQ Global Workplaces, BusinessSuites, The Intelligent Office, and Office Suites Plus.
When making the choice, ask yourself these questions: Do you want to be near clients and the courthouse, or far from the madding crowd? Are you in it for the long haul (a multi-year lease) or is it a temporary arrangement? Are you able to work alone, handle tech and other office issues, or do you prefer the company and assistance of others? Must you meet clients at your office, or can you meet off-site? What kinds of clients do you want to attract? Do you need private parking or accessible public transportation?
Pros & Cons: What Matters Most to You?
Working from home: The pros are convenience and no commute; cost savings; control over the office layout; availability to your family; freedom to do legal work or “home work” when you want; less need for business attire. The cons include family distractions and non-work interruptions; unexpected client drop-ins; concerns about security and privacy; space limits; a less “professional” office appearance; employees in your home; zoning issues; isolation; others’ perception of the home-based lawyer; inconvenience of using a post office box; and the fact that some bar association referral services won’t let home-based lawyers participate.
Leasing “corporate” office space: The pros include substantial control over the space; building security; a “professional” appearance; and building services such as gyms, cafeterias, and delivery service drop-boxes. The cons include substantial cost; reliance on a landlord; inflexibility in duration of lease; and impersonal office decor.
Leasing small office/storefront: The pros include walk-in traffic and easy access; lower cost than “corporate” spaces; more control. Cons include walk-ins; isolation from colleagues; reliance on landlord; and perception by some that a small space is sub-par.
Sharing/leasing from a professional services firm: The pros include lower costs; camaraderie; use of staff and equipment; and potential for mutual business referrals and office coverage. The cons include no control over office appearance; dealing with officemates; concerns over confidentiality, security, and privacy; and reliance on the firm’s relationship with its landlord.
Leasing from an independent executive suite company: Pros include choice of the amount of space and time usage; reciprocity in other cities; use of suite’s employees on as-needed basis; access to new clientele; convenience; and ample conference rooms. The cons include higher rent and a per-item charge for service; no control over office appearance; and dealing with office neighbors.
In the final analysis, the choice comes down to balance and compromise among competing concerns.
David J. Abeshouse practices business litigation and alternative dispute resolution in Uniondale, Long Island, New York. His Web site is www.BizLawNY.com, and he can be reached at DavidLaw@OptOnLine.net.